Meet the Company That Will Help You Launch Your Ethical Fashion Brand
- by Alden Wicker
- Apr 23, 2018
This post is generously sponsored by Resonance. As always, EcoCult only works with brands we think are doing good things. Support EcoCult’s editorial by supporting them!
In the past five years, I’ve watched so many small ethical and sustainable designers and brands struggle. Every month, I find out that a small sustainable brand I love has quietly disappeared. It’s pretty heartbreaking.
It’s not because these designers aren’t talented, or don’t have the vision and passion. Their clothes are beautiful, and well made. But they didn’t get into this business because they love accounting or dealing with shady factories (nor did most of them go to business school). They end up getting mired in all the complexities and challenges of running a fashion business. They find themselves on a precarious edge, always one season away from bankruptcy. And they either depend on wholesaling to retailers, who are also failing, or struggle to compete in the vast wilds of the internet with a direct-to-consumer model.
With the internet and Instagram propagating trends within a few days, the old model of developing a collection, which can take half a year from idea to production, is completely outdated. Plus, large fast-fashion corporations seem to have built into their business plan the cost of lawsuits from indie designers over ripping off their designs that took them a year from concept to sales.
It might seem incredible that there is one business that offers a stylish silver bullet to all these problems. But it turns out, that business exists.
You’re an Artist, not a Businessperson
Resonance is not a venture capital firm, incubator, or accelerator, nor a shared services platform, a portfolio of companies, a consultancy, or a supply chain company. Honestly, it took me a bit to wrap my head around what Resonance does, because it does, well, almost everything.
Resonance is a platform that helps designers launch a sustainable collection in less than a week. It’s the expert in all the of the business-side parts of running a small fashion company. They’re the left-brain acumen to a creator’s right-brain genius.
You as the designer retain control of all the creative parts: the vision, the voice, product design, print design, product imagery, plus the first sample.
Resonance takes care of all of the dull, frustrating parts that normally weigh designers down: finance, accounting, brand strategy and positioning, execution, physical stores and events, wholesale, the ecommerce site, customer acquisition and retention, organizational structure, data and analytics, technology infrastructure, systems technology, workflow, metrics, administration, and — most importantly — all the material sourcing and creation, iterated samples, and manufacturing of the main collection.
They are the first company to bring all of this under one roof, as part of their proprietary technology, which they call “Full Stack Fashion.” By full stack they mean that everything from sourcing fiber to delivering the finished product to the customer’s doorstep is managed by them. And as they pull in more small designers, and their machine-learning software develops and improves, their acumen and efficiencies will only grow.
Don’t worry, you retain ownership of your name, designs, and website, while they make your product, invest capital, and run your online presence. If it works, you keep going. If you’re dissatisfied, you can go your separate ways.
Along with two investment and business types, one of the co-founders, Joseph Ferrara, has deep experience in the fashion industry as an angel investor, CEO/Founder of Apparel Group International and of Ferrara Manufacturing, producer of Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label Collection, and former advisor to the CFDA.
In two years, Resonance has launched five small brands. In 2017, brands on the Resonance platform produced over 2,000 styles and shipped 21,000 units to 15,000 happy customers, and in 2018, they expect to ship over 15,000 styles to over 100,000 customers.
“Sustainability is not a business strategy, it’s innate in who we are.”
Resonance is also the perfect choice for designers who want to ensure the ethics and sustainability of their supply chain and production. Here’s why:
- Resonance owns its own factory.
Customers often ask why brands seem so pitiful at preventing human rights abuses and labor violations in the factories that make their clothes. The answer is that fashion brands do not own their own factories. They contract with factories to make their clothing, and while brands can make factory owners sign contracts with clear rules, and theoretically ditch a factory that breaks one or more of these rules, a fashion brand’s legal control over a company’s operations is extremely limited.
Because Resonance owns its own 100,000 square foot facility in the Dominican Republic, it can ensure that the facility is safe and that the employees are paid well. Resonance pays workers on average two times the local minimum wage. Plus, Resonance has an innovative program where it provides employees with training garments that incorporate a range of stitching techniques and construction details, so that employees can develop skills necessary to produce some of the most demanding garments in the world. These children-sized practice garments are then donated to local schools.
- Resonance manufactures to-demand.
The single greatest source of waste in the apparel industry is over-manufacturing. Right now, the industry standard is to forecast demand several months out, invariably leading to over-supply. According to Resonance co-founder and co-CEO, Joe Ferrara, for every 100 garments produced in the conventional manufacturing process, nearly 20 are destined for liquidation channels. H&M, for example, has been in the news in the past few weeks for having a huge pile-up of unsold inventory… and that is a fast fashion brand. Legacy brands are even worse. Consumers have become used to the fact that clothing will always go on sale, leading them to devalue garments and refuse to pay full price, which hits small brands the hardest.
Resonance addresses this by using an approach they call, “Sustainable Demand Alignment.” They can operate on-demand producing solo items, or have unfinished garments in their various states use demand signals triggered from machine learning to move a garment through the supply chain as dictated by demand. It only takes them 30 minutes to switch the manufacturing process over to a different design. Because they can go from idea to selling in a week, they can test out products at a small scale, and quickly manufacture more of the items that are doing the best. And you never have to send out desperate sale emails with slashed prices in order to move a pile-up of inventory.
- Resonance doesn’t have minimums.
Traditional manufacturing dictates that clothes are made in batches, designed together as groups and then mass-produced in wasteful long runs to achieve efficiency. Resonance uses a digital infrastructure that begins with design, and carries all the way through to a customer purchasing a single item of clothing. Designers are given the tools to create prototypes with a click, so they can see new swatches or versions of their designs in new colorways. If they like what they see, they can make and sell all the versions they’ve designed in as little as one unit. If that unit doesn’t sell, no big deal. If it does sell, they can manufacture a few, or a lot, more. They call this: “Units Of One,” and it gives all parties the ability to design, produce and sell one item as efficiently as 1,000 items.
For example, in 2017, the average units per style for Resonance brands was just over 10 units, and designers created an average of seven new styles per day. By the end of 2018, Resonance will even begin to ship customized versions of styles.
- Resonance uses a fraction of ink and water normal fabric dying uses.
While conventional dyeing involves chemicals and wet process treatments that are often caustic, Resonance has invested millions of dollars in green digital printing machinery, which uses 50 to 70 percent less water than conventional dyeing and printing. On top of that, they use 25 percent less ink and 10 percent less water because of their low minimums. The combination of these two approaches results in water consumption that is up to 90% less than conventional manufacturing.
At the end of this year, Resonance plans to debut digitally-printed denim, which achieves the distress and wash effects that are normally achieved through stone wash and mechanical distressing, process that involve hundreds of gallons of water per garment. But they’re doing it with a printing process, which will use 90% less water.
- Resonance uses sustainable fabrics.
As a brand you can choose from 25 different materials (which will increase to 40 this year) that are best suited for digital printing applications, including organic and conventional cotton, bamboo, silk, Tencel, Lenzing rayon, and wool. They purchase fabrics in their raw state, without any dyeing or toxic finishing processes applied to them.
Shop Resonance Brands!
In honor of Earth Day, Resonance brands JCRT, Tucker, and THE KIT are running a special earth-focused promotion. Between April 22nd to April 30th, use the code COOLEFFECT and you will save 10% on your purchase, plus 10% of the proceeds will go directly to Cool Effect, a non-profit dedicated to reducing carbon emissions.
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