Empowering designer / producers

Perhaps they consider it a temporary activity, waiting to be absorbed by a “Big brand”; perhaps they just escaped from a “Big brand”. Maybe some were simply homesick and prefer a familiar clientele in the same town where they were born.

The fact is that Europe is full of small workshops, run by young graduates from fashion schools, alone or in small groups. Each one carries out more or less each of the steps in clothing manufacturing: design, pattern making, prototyping, finding raw materials, manufacturing, and promotion.

Some feel they haven’t made it just because they wanted to walk in a catwalk, and maybe are struggling to survive. Others have found their niche and prefer to stay as they are.

In any event, the fashion world is currently not made for them, design tools aspire to be bought by big brands, fabrics are only available at a decent price in large lots, price competition is fierce, and the market seems to not take them seriously.

We, on the contrary, see a huge potential. If only they had access to frugal tools. If only they could manage their laboratory workflow better. If only they had access to e-commerce and logistics platforms. If only they could learn how to network and support each other.

Who's involved

This Business Case started with a census of the independent designers and producers among the 78 TCBL Associate Enterprises. These were contacted by their local Labs to understand their business development needs. A survey was then distributed asking to prioritize the most important areas for TCBL support (pattern making software, body scanner services, e-commerce platforms, promotion, quality certification, networking). Pattern making emerged as an important issue, so 4 webinars were held in both Italian and English to introduce digital pattern making and, in particular, the MacroGen-PatternMaker software suite.

An agreement was then reached with the software provider PatternMaker (a TCBL Associate Service Provider) to obtain four-month trial licenses for the entire suite for interested TCBL Design and Place Labs. Currently the software is installed at the Palermo Place Lab, FabLab Venezia, Lottozero Design Lab, and the in-itinere REDU Place Lab in Romania. TCBL Associate Advisor Eugenie Naber is providing further training and support.

Specific case studies are being developed with TCBL Associate Enterprises Simona La Torre and MAD to develop new business models (e.g. distributed production, made to measure, etc.) based on these tools.

Goals and targets

The Independent Designers Business Case is reaching out to identify needs and fill the gaps. The main areas of work include:

  • Accessible digital pattern making software, using platforms such as PatternMaker or Valentina Project, particularly helpful for made to measure.
  • Experimenting together with body scanners for capturing measurements or with VR/AR visualisation of new models
  • Using the Sqetch platform both to find manufacturers for designs as well as clients for production capabilities.
  • Using Thela, the supply chain platform of Cleviria, to help certify their adherence to environmental and social standards.
  • Assistance in learning to sell their products and services on ecommerce platforms such as Etsy or ASOS.
  • Helping to partner with other Enterprises or TCBL partners to expand their production capabilities.
  • Using the Zine or other TCBL communication tools to spotlight the work of our most promising members.

Further Reading

A special issue of the TCBL_zine of interest to the independent sector has been published. To read the special issue, click here.

Contact Info

For further information on the Independents Business pilot, contact Maria Adele Cipolla.