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What Does Made-to-Order Mean? - Sotela

What Does Made-to-Order Mean?

Originally posted January 30, 2020.

We aren’t your conventional fashion brand. For starters, we only make what you order right here in our studio.

Everything is designed, cut, sewn, ironed, and packaged under one roof.

Once your order goes through our system, we write it in our cut list (google sheet), which helps us see if any orders can be batched. If there are two orders in the same size/style, we can cut both at the same time.

Our pattern cutter, comes in 4 times a week to cut all your orders. She gets the roll of fabric from our heavy duty shelves and carefully places it on our cutting table over kraft paper. We use kraft paper while cutting to ensure the fabric doesn’t move during the process. Once the fabric is laid out, we place pattern pieces on top and start cutting. Our cutter uses both scissors and electric scissors to cut each order, which is then bundled with its order form. Once the order is cut and bundled, it’s placed on another shelf with a size and care label.

Sonia, our dressmaker, gets each bundle and starts the process of creating garments with pieces of fabric. She uses two sewing machines to get the job done, which leaves each garment double sewn for added security. Once a garment is made, we hang it up on our ‘outgoing’ rack to be ironed and packaged. We have a part-time employee that spends 3 days a week ironing and packaging you order.

A made-to-order model allows us flexibility in everything we do. We can offer simple alterations and customizations for customers at no added cost. We are able to offer inclusive sizing because we don’t have to guess how many garments to cut in each size. We are able to minimize waste because we don’t have leftover inventory that needs to sell.

However, the costs are a lot higher. We don’t have a factory that cuts hundreds of garments in an hour or a team of dressmakers that divides the labor. Sonia sews a garment from start to finish while switching between machines. After a garment is sewn, she changes the thread in both machines to sew the next garment. It takes more time to cut and sew in the made-to-order model because all that time and effort is placed into creating a single garment.

I’m sure you are wondering — then why do it?

At times, it feels the odds are stacked against made-to-order garment manufacturing. The margins are exceptionally low even though we hear complaints our garments are too expensive. We are in a constant battle of remaining accessible while also paying everyone fairly.

However, I believe there is a real need for our clothing. We design, cut, and sew garments that are tailor made without the custom price tag. Our styles and sizing are flexible and range multiple conventional sizes to allow for the natural ebb and flow our bodies go through. There are very few brands that create inclusive clothing that is also forgiving, comfortable, and chic.

Even though at times it feels like we are swimming upstream, I believe Sotela creates clothing that is necessary.

And that’s why we choose to be here.

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