Do you believe in fate? A very spiritual question to start a blog post, I know. I believe in fate because many things in my life have worked out the way I wanted them to. Many wishes did not come true as well, but in those cases I tell myself that it’s also fate!
When l’amour est bleu was still an idea in my head, I wanted to found a sustainable fashion label that sells fashion made to order. Since I have always lived by the motto “at all or not at all”, this was the most sustainable way for me to make fashion. My idea was to design collections, set up an order phase and then only order as much fabric and have garments sewn as they were ordered. But this way of making fashion was extremely revolutionary, if not utopian, for others.
Nobody will wait two weeks for fashion
Everyone advised me against “Made to order”, from friends to business consultants. “No customer will wait two weeks for fashion” or “this business model is not scalable”, were the comments. Nevertheless, I remained true to my vision, but the biggest hurdle was the fashion industry itself. It wasn’t made for this kind of supply chain. The sustainable fashion industry was then (two years ago!) much smaller than it is today and introducing a new supply chain in this industry was impossible. Well, it would have worked out with a lot of money and time, which I didn’t have either. The conventional fashion industry works like this: long lead times, high quantities, high investment, high risk. We are working on a summer collection with a lead time of one year and should decide which fabrics and styles will be combined to a collection for next year. We estimate how many pieces in which sizes will be produced and the collection is ready. Then we close our eyes and keep our fingers crossed. This system works so well that companies like H&M or Burberry burn millions of clothes every year. I spent a lot of time explaining my concept to fabric suppliers and producers and although they were in favour of the sustainable approach, they did not want to or could not realize made to order.
You have to pander to the powerful fashion industry
In the end I gave up and had my first collection pre-produced conventionally – four styles with 50 pieces per style each, divided into the sizes S, M and L. The bank that financed my idea liked this method better, too. The second and third collections I realized in the same way, only with smaller quantities. The same thing happened that happened with all fashion brands: I couldn’t sell some styles. From years of experience I put the size emphasis of l’amour est bleu on the size M and had to find out that my customers mainly buy size S. Then of course there are styles that are sold more slowly than others. In the German fashion industry these are affectionately called “Penner” which means bums. That worried me a lot, because the unsold clothes were tied money, which I needed as an investment for the next collections. What should I do now? Sell the leftovers in SALE below value? Give it away to influencers? I did nothing of the kind, but kept a long breath. After all, my designs are timeless and seasonless, i.e. I didn’t have to sell the spring-summer collection in one season. So the cash register fills up more slowly, but I don’t devalue my fashion and the work behind it.
Fate led me to Made to order
Nevertheless the idea of making high investments for each collection and having too many clothes made that can’t be sold annoyed me. Last year, the means were no longer sufficient to pre-finance the next collection. When the bank refused another loan, I panicked. Was it the end now? I can’t just skip a collection, can I? And then my old vision came back into my head: Why not try out Made to order? Theoretically, I still had enough clothes to sell, but a new collection should bring a breath of fresh air. After all, what did I have to lose? In the worst case I wouldn’t have sold one piece of the Made to order collection and would have only invested the costs for the fabrics and my time. Since this idea occurred to me at very short notice, unfortunately there was no time to have the samples made by my pattern maker and factory in Jahnsdorf.
Now I walk to Karen at least once a week to pick up my finished orders…I think it couldn’t have been better. You won’t believe it but it gets even better: The Made to order collection is currently the most successful collection of l’amour est bleu!
Even the highest hurdle can be overcome
The sample collection was the simpler challenge in the implementation of Made to order. The much bigger challenge was to find tailors who sew the orders for me. The U&N studio was not able to do this project because the factory was not made for such flexible orders. In the end it was my friend Jovan from j.jackman who gave me a hand. She read about my Made to order project on Instagram and suggested I try it with her dressmaker. j.jackman offers modern business fashion, which is also made to order in Berlin. Thanks to Jovan my orders are sewn by Karen now. She is a freelance tailor and has her own studio, which is a ten minutes walk away from me. Now I walk to Karen at least once a week to pick up my finished orders…I think it couldn’t have been better. You won’t believe it but it gets even better: The Made to order collection is currently the most successful collection of l’amour est bleu! That makes me so incredibly proud that my vision has come true. It makes me all the more proud that there are so many women who are willing to wait two to three weeks for a garment. This gives me hope that all my efforts to make the fashion world more sustainable are not in vain. To return to my introductory question. Yes, I believe in fate and that your dreams can come true. And if one or the other dream doesn’t come true, something much better is waiting for you.