Made to Order Fashion

Image: Mother of Pearl

In recent years, the realisation that fast fashion is the second biggest polluter of our planet has shocked many fashion brands into action. So we decided to investigate the newly revived process of made to order fashion. Is it better than buying off the peg? And if so, is it really worth the money? After speaking to London based brands who have adopted the model, we are convinced it is.

Have you ever had something made specially for you? There’s nothing quite like that feeling that one piece was made for you, to your measurements and requirements. With so much fashion bought cheaply and off the peg, it’s an extraordinary thing in this day and age to say that your clothes were made just for you. Well thanks to the ‘fast fashion’ backlash, this is no longer an exclusive shopping experience. More and more brands are turning to ‘made to order’ services in a bid to simplify their collections and offer customers the very best. Another benefit of this new model is that brands can dramatically decrease the amount of waste they produce. Leftover unsold stock isn’t left languishing. Therefore every single piece fits and is worn and loved.

When looking for the service, we don’t have to look far for some amazing made to order options. Jet Shenkman founded Eponine London in 2012. Working from her stylish Knightsbridge atelier, she offers unique designs for women who want something unique. To achieve this, she sources her fabrics from all over the world. ‘I love finding small businesses that create special pieces or small shops that curate a selection of one off hand embroidered vintage fabrics. For example in Japan I buy from dealers that specialise in particular kimonos.’

These sumptuous, one of a kind fabrics are then crafted into Eponine’s signature 50’s and 60’s style pieces. Jet’s trained eye means that you won’t find anyone else wearing your outfit! Fans include the Duchess of Cambridge and Cressida Bonas.

Fabric sourcing is often a very important part of the made to order process. Mother of Pearl is a London based women’s label that regularly shows at London Fashion Week. As well as RTW, they offer a ‘made to order’ capsule called ‘Studio Exclusives’. Made to order via the website in the London Atelier, it’s a quick service, pieces are shipped within 10-15 working days. Expect fashion forward styles and Mother of Pearl’s signature quirkiness. 

Image: Eponine London

However it’s the ethical fabric offering that makes it a truly special experience. Creative Director Amy Powney is proud to say that the fabrics she uses are traced ‘from field to final’. Ranging from organic cotton, mulesing free wool and organic silk, the selection is incredible. Just as important in this process is limiting waste.

Anna Mason, who began her eponymous label as exclusively made to order in 2013 spends time sourcing fabrics herself. ‘We order fabric specifically for each customer so we limit our waste,’ she tells us. ‘Each piece is unique in this way.’ Her studio doesn’t hold fabric so each piece takes a little longer to create. Nonetheless Anna is proud that the studio isn’t left with leftover bolts of fabric they won’t use again. Jet has a similar method at Eponine London. ‘We have become such a throw away society but by offering a bespoke service women have a great deal of input at every stage of the process,’ she explains. ‘By using the best fabrics only, the piece that our client ends up with will be a timeless item, with a perfect fit, that will last a lifetime.’

‘If things fit, it makes a huge difference to how things look on you.’ – Anna Mason

Image: Mother of Pearl

The perfect fit is another essential arm of ‘made to order’. ‘If things fit, it makes a huge difference to how things look on you,’ explains Anna Mason. Having worked as a designer for brands such as Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino, and later as a stylist, she knows a thing or two about good fit. ‘ Women walk out of our studio with a dress that really fits well,’ that’s what makes the pieces so timeless. ‘My approach every season I think to myself, how do we make this item have the most longevity’. Using vintage silhouettes and practical fabrics, Anna’s unique approach to creating ‘classics’ mean her pieces are loved for longer.

Mother of Pearl are also minful of the longevitiy of their pieces. ‘We need to shift our view of fashion back to a time when we loved and cherished each piece in our wardrobe.’ they told us. A regular fixture on the London Fashion Week schedule, the brand’s approach to womenswear is a breath of fresh air. Whilst they still offer an off the peg range, including a sustainable collection called ‘No Frills’, they are fully embracing a made to order service.

‘Fast fashion is a real problem in society today. Knowing that the item you buy is being made especially for you will make you appreciate the craftsmanship value of it.’ – Mother of Pearl

The brand are especially proud of the service they offer their loyal customer base. ‘Customers can order pieces exclusively on our website, which are then made at our East London studio. The best part is they are all fully returnable.’ Recently Mother of Pearl have added eveningwear to their offereing. As well as a contemporary collection of sustainable bridal wear. ‘Our made-to-order bridal collection is fully sustainable, it was important for us to source organic silk and bamboo linings.’

Having previously provided off the peg options, Misha Nonoo, founder of her namesake label, made the switch to made to order in 2017. She wanted to directly address her growing concerns over the state of the fashion industry. According to Misha, ‘it’s no longer about over-produced product that is found everywhere. It’s instead about nimble and sustainable manufacturing methods to create product as and when the customer wants it.’ Additionally her collection acts as an easy to wear capsule wardrobe for the working woman. Exquisitely made wardrobe staples such as white shirts, LBD’s and blazers are created to work with together. The brand motto is, ‘Simplify your wardrobe, simplify your life.’ To do this, Misha has also made the pieces available as combined Kits. This allows her customers to buy entire outfits that will work with other items in their wardrobes for a reduced price. By doing is she is increasing the wearability and longevitiy of the pieces. 

All in all, the process of making and wearing something to order is an incredible step forward in terms of sustainability in fashion. The entire processes is far more streamlined that a normal fashion production model. Waste is limited and pieces are made by teams of professionals and artisans.

Additionally there’s no denying that when a piece is made specially for you. It brings a new appreciation of the skill involved. ‘I think consumers are starting to appreciate things a bit more,’ Anna Mason explains. ‘When we tell people it will take four weeks to receive their piece, they don’t understand why. But we order the fabric specifically for that customer. The cutting sometimes takes around a day, then we actually make it. When people know this it’s amazing for them.’ Making to order is an important process that Mother of Pearl are hoping will make a positive impact. ‘Fast fashion is a real problem in society today. Knowing that the item you buy is being made especially for you will make you appreciate the craftsmanship value of it.’

Image: Eponine

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