How an On-Demand “Micro-Factory” Is Empowering Sustainable Manufacturing
Updated: Oct 5, 2022
London’s Fashtech Innovation Center is a partnership between print expert Kornit, digital cutting business Zund and manufacturer Fashion Enter that is helping brands and retailers to be more sustainable and more creative using technology, automation and collaboration.
Fabric print provider Kornit has teamed up with digital cutting business Zund and London-based manufacturer Fashion Enter to set up an innovative micro-factory concept that combines on-demand print, cut and sewing to supercharge fashion’s creativity and drive sustainable change.
“The aim is to show creators, retailers and buyers a new way forward in fashion today: minimal stocks, print to demand and allowing consumers to pull sales rather than the retailers push the sales on to the end user,” says Jenny Holloway, CEO of Fashion Enter.
Drapers meets Robert Zoch, global content manager of Kornit, Gaj Jeevanandan, marketing manager of Zund, and Holloway to find out how the concept is empowering the industry with its on-demand, streamlined automated end-to-end process.
How would you describe the partnership between Kornit, Zund and Fashion Enter?
Robert Zoch: At Kornit we offer world-class print capability. Zund offers world-class precision cutting. Fashion Enter offers a world-class production and education facility that demonstrates digital’s capabilities for revolutionising fashion with a fast, efficient, on-demand production strategy. Combined, this eliminates barriers between designers and fulfilment; eliminates waste; optimises profitability; generates more product with fewer resources; brings production nearer the end consumer; sidesteps supply chain disruptions; optimises process transparency and control; and otherwise proves that a print-cut-sew process need not be complicated, inflexible or limiting of the brilliant designs that may result of it. This partnership aims to give designers, brands and producers the tools, and the confidence, to answer the dynamic demands of an ecommerce marketplace with the digital capabilities to meet those challenges.
Jenny Holloway: I would describe the partnership as a meeting of minds. We all have that mindset whereby we are determined to be positive disrupters and constantly look to challenge the status quo.
Gaj Jeevanandan: Our collaboration is aimed at brands and retailers. We want to demonstrate to them how they can create a sustainable manufacturing facility in the UK. We believe on-shoring apparel manufacturing will support the growing trend for made-to-order, ethical production and significantly reduce landfill waste.
Tell us about the micro-factory concept.
RZ: It’s very simple really: we’re bringing the entire end-to-end production process, from ideation to shipment of a finished product, under one roof. Since we’re only making what we sell, this highly digitalised production model generates a healthy profit margin in any environment, including London, where real estate comes at a premium.
GJ: The micro-factory was introduced to showcase a new way forward in ethical garment manufacturing, with the use of the very latest technology in printing from Kornit, digital cutting from Zund and a team of skilled stitchers from Fashion Enter. The “micro” element refers to the highly flexible nature of the production facilities and relatively small footprint required, giving the retailer or brand the opportunity to seamlessly facilitate on-demand production once orders are received directly from customers.
Tell us about the Kornit’s Presto Max and direct-to-fabric printing approach.
RZ: The Kornit Presto Max is a system that provides single-step, digital direct-to-fabric decoration. It’s compatible with multiple fabric types, both natural and synthetic, using a single ink set, offering a low and consistent cost per print for profitability in any quantity. It’s the first roll-to-roll pigment print mechanism made to print white on dark fabrics, and print bright colours on dark fabrics using white as an underbase.
It uses less energy and less water, and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions than any comparable production mechanism, thereby offering a smaller carbon footprint.
As the core of a micro-factory production model, it provides push-button readiness for a fast, efficient print-cut-sew process that can replicate any digital image or pattern, match any colour, and provide wash, rub and light fastness to meet any brand’s durability needs.
London’s Fashtech Innovation Center
What are the differences between direct-to-fabric and direct-to-garment printing?
RZ: Direct-to-fabric is printing to whole-cloth fabrics, which will typically be cut, as with Zund cutting systems, afterwards to be sewn or otherwise fashioned into different garments. Direct-to-garment is the imprinting of a finished piece: you take a blank T-shirt, jacket, hoodie, pant or other piece of clothing and decorate it.
Automation is at the core of the Fashtech Innovation Center. Is this the future?
RZ: Absolutely. Automation means producing faster, with precision and a streamlined process that fulfils the needs of creators, brands and consumers as efficiently possible, making a superior experience for all parties throughout the value chain.
Similarly, on demand production is key to the project. Why is this growing in importance?
JH: Why would any retailer tie up much-needed cash on forecasting and predicting trends when they can literally trial trends on the web with prints and colour and make to demand? No waste and no excess stock, which, of course, is then going to reduce landfill and waste.
RZ: On demand eliminates so much waste from the fashion business because you’re removing overstock from the equation. It replaces long, prediction-based production cycles with quick, reactive, demand-based production agility. You’re replacing "what you think the market may want down the line” with “what the market is actually demanding right now”, in many cases allowing producers to create only what has already been sold. It’s a far better fit for today’s hyper-connected, web-driven economy whereby consumers expect instant gratification, customization, variety and, in many cases, personalisation.
London’s Fashtech Innovation Center
How is this working in reality?
JH: We have already worked with Asos on this model, and we successfully printed on a green waves viscose elastane top and dress. It sold out within three days and we honestly believe that was because the print was so right for that time. We were all totally aligned on the style, and, from garment concept to finished garment and delivery, the total lead time was 15 days.
How is the partnership between Kornit, Zund and Fashion Enter helping brands to be more sustainable?
RZ: In addition to using inks and consumables that meet the vigorous safety and eco-conscious standards of the world’s best-known brands, such as Nike and Adidas, it’s all about on-demand production. When you only make what you sell, you’re not making something that’ll end up in a landfill. You’re not predicting the market and then marking down product until it’s finally offloaded – you’re making exactly what the people want.
The micro-factory model and proximity production approaches eliminate logistical and transport waste. We’re giving creators and brands the opportunity to improve their sustainability practices without sacrificing on quality or creativity. As far as the role we play, Kornit systems provide the sustainable base from which Fashion Enter and Zund then benefit – if you’re only printing the materials that are needed, you’re only cutting those materials to spec, and you’re only processing and shipping orders for those materials. It’s a cost-effective, efficient fulfilment model that is inherently eco-friendly.