Fashion is the second most polluting industry after the oil industry. It is a complicated business involving varied supply chains, raw material, textile manufacturers, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the garment. But, in today’s world, no business - no matter how complicated - can ignore the environmental realities of their operations.
Within the fashion industry there are businesses that are leading the charge on sustainability. Sourcing Journal is bringing recognition to these pioneering companies through their Sustaining Voices award which celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.This award is given to brands within the apparel industry who are altering their processes with ingenuity for a more responsible environment. Existing members of Sustainable Voices include brands like Eileen Fisher, Nike, Patagonia and Stella McCartney.
In its inaugural year, Sourcing Journal has presented N.A.bld with the Sustaining Voices Award for Supply Chain Efficiency. Read more about the award and why now is the time in our interview below here:
The Fashion industry is tough. CEO Amanda Curtis grew up in it, graduated from the top fashion design school, worked for big brands, and designed for celebrities. When she was funded to start her own fashion line she had all the right tools in her belt. She still failed. She failed because the playing field was not level and the system was flawed. Amanda needed hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in inventory, connections to the top people in fashion, and an entire team to set up a functional supply chain, and even if she had those things, her odds of success would have been slim. Amanda wasn’t the only creative failing in the archaic system of fashion. All around her, her peers and fellow entrepreneurs struggled. Amanda decided that someone had to create a better business model that prioritized accessibility, sustainability, and efficiency alongside profit.
Technology is the equalizer that fashion was missing. Amanda’s cofounder Gemma Sole brings a deep knowledge of tech entrepreneurship, VC, and systems design. Together they share a vision of democratizing an elite industry and empowering creatives with the tools they need to succeed. Alongside talented developers, the co-founders created N.A.bld; a platform that gives brands of all sizes a way to design and sell in a transparent, financially responsible, & ethical way using quick-turn, low-minimum US manufacturers. Their goal is for N.A.bld to diversify the fashion industry by allowing for an amazing product, talent and drive - not privilege - to be the determining factors of success.
Fashion manufacturing is highly fragmented and not easily accessible, retail ties up vast capital and waste in inventory and the capital, and distribution barriers-to-entry in the fashion business make it impossible for most emerging brands to get to market and for established brands to sustainably grow — even with remarkable talent and funding.
N.A.bld is a tool for quick-turn production management to allow apparel brands of all sizes to do more with less and operate sustainably, both environmentally and financially. N.A.bld combines their production management technology with a network of tech-enabled, vetted domestic manufacturers to make no-minimum quick-turn production possible and allow brands to retail products with limited to no inventory - reducing their cash flow burden, environmental footprint, and inventory risk.
Unlike other platforms, N.A.bld allows for brands to operate without inventory if they choose, allowing them to manufacture only what sells, which we believe is the most sustainable way to operate a brand. Our design-to-delivery process connects a brand’s supply chain with their front end ecommerce so customers who pre-order products can be alerted, in real time, about their product being made just for them. There are a lot of PLMs talking about on-demand but very few go as far as the factory floor and connect the consumer to that experience. We believe consumers, now more than ever, want transparency and they want experience. N.A.bld makes it easy for brands to provide both.
Along with our technology we offer brands a network of pre-vetted USA based manufacturers who are already trained and operating on our technology, at no cost to them. We go through a production or sample run to fully vet their use, communication, and work product. We give manufacturers their own version of the N.A.bld platform to help support their business and remove the hassle of management so they can do what they do best - manufacture amazing products - in less time and for less cost. Since manufacturers are located in the United States, as are the end consumers, we can help brands cut down on shipping costs, carbon footprint, and time by allowing them to make locally to the end consumer.
As a technology platform we are inherently scalable. On the production side, we have a waitlist of manufacturers that we onboard as there is need based on volume or specialty. We are also\ launching a Shopify App so we can connect with Shopify brands’ stores and be a plug and play supply chain for launching apparel products.
Our process has been in use since 2014 via our pre-sale marketplace Nineteenth Amendment. In September of 2019 we made our technology and process accessible to all brands via N.A.bld. In 2014 our approach was novel and early to market but the benefit is that we’ve tested and validated our approach with over 1,000 brands worldwide. Through N.A.bld can now scale quickly at a time when the industry is being forced to rethink supply chains and sustainability.
As a female founded, high growth technology startup we have been underfunded. Building so much with so little capital was challenging but now the two co founders still maintain majority ownership and they do not have to compromise on aspects of the business that are important to them and the brands they work with, like keeping sustainability a top priority.
There’s a sea change happening in retail and we want to align with companies helping to shape its future, not running from the past. We want to onboard more brands to our model and platform and provide even more value on the sourcing and exposure sides of the platform where leveraging the economies of scale across brands can help more brands long term. Our plug-and-play design-to-delivery system provides a way for brands to do this with the least amount of stand up time and investment. In addition, the platform helps new brands reduce the barriers to entry and give brands a way to operate lean, without inventory.
Accountability. Due to the historic complex and opaque nature of supply chains brands have skirted accountability for all of the inequity, environmental pollution, and human rights violations buried in traditional supply chains. COVID19 and our current cultural climate is bringing about a new demand for accountability and transparency driven by consumers. Brands can no longer hide behind veils of ignorance. Technologies, like N.A.bld, can help brands gain and maintain supply chain clarity.
Interested in learning how your brand can operate a sustainable supply chain through N.A.bld? Learn more here!