While the quick inventory turns, responsive supply chains and customer oriented nature of “fast fashion” Zara, H&M, and many others are admired, Amazon has been awarded a patent for “On Demand Apparel Manufacturing” (US Patent 9623578). The patent describes a system to create on-demand, custom fit apparel. Part of the innovation appears to be the grouping of orders and cuts to be done to optimize the utilization of fabric.
Manufacturing and supply chain continues to be a rich area for innovation in all industries. Instead of asking the question “how do we compress our cycle time”, Amazon asked the question “how do we eliminate cycle time completely”. The other benefit of this model may be in elimination of the huge inefficiency of the apparel ecommerce business model — returns due to poor fit. My guess is that Amazon will innovate the returns policy to this on-demand custom fit apparel manufacturing capability.
Although the patent does not contemplate it, i could see a marketplace for custom designed and fitted clothes allowing others to design clothes, customers to buy and custom fit, Amazon does the on-demand manufacturing. As stated in Forbes “But what sets him apart is that he isn’t captive by fashion industry’s inbred culture and beholden to its established rules and protocols. Bezos dreams big dreams. He looks at the fashion world from an outsiders’ perspective with a holistic view, not through the narrow lens of just a retailer.” (read HERE)
Here’s an key image of process defined by Amazon. Innovate On!