Whether it's branded as the slow-fashion movement or the rise of made-to-order pieces, there's no denying that conscious fashion brands offering bespoke services have become more and more prominent over the last few years. "In terms of sustainability, it's the most responsible way of manufacturing," one designer told me this week. And it's true. Offering a made-to-order business model means that brands only create what they actually sell, minimising the possibility of waste and oversupply—one of the industry's biggest contributors when it comes to impacting the environment negatively.
Historically, the notion of made to order might've conjured up images of intricate wedding gowns or Savile Row–worthy suits. Recently, however, we've seen an ever-growing list of contemporary labels offering more bespoke services at a much more reasonable price, and they're creating the kind of items you'll want to wear every day, not just on special occasions.
This week, I spoke to nine UK-based designers behind this new guard of made-to-order brands and was delighted by how passionate each and every one of them was. Not only is each creative on this list constantly making decisions with sustainability front of mind, but they're also all driven to craft special pieces customers will cherish for years to come, offering the perfect antidote to the concept of wear-once fast fashion.
Whether you're a minimalist, a maximalist or somewhere in between, I've found a made-to-order label that will suit an array of aesthetics. So scroll on to discover a brand you will love. Don't forget to follow your favourites, and remember, before you get carried away, the brands below often release their collections in staged drops. This allows the designers and their teams time to hand-make the garments before reopening their stores to more purchases. This means that often you have to be quick to purchase a piece you love, so following the brand on IG is the best way to stay up to date.
1. We Are Kin
Photo:Courtesy of @wearekin.co
"As a woman, I know what it’s like to struggle to find pieces that work for you and your body," explains Ngoni Chikwenengere, founder of We Are Kin, when asked why she chose to add a made-to-order model to her business. "It’s never your body that’s wrong, it’s the clothing," she continued.
All of Ngoni's pieces are locally created at a factory in Bow, London and are made to last, becoming beloved staples for seasons to come. "I think it’s important to show something that is timeless and beautiful and fashion-forward but is also sustainable. We only have one planet."
2. Molby the Label
Photo:Courtesy of @molbythelabel
When creating her business, Karina Molby, of Molby the Label, knew fast fashion was never an avenue she wanted to go down. "I found the process of getting a garment to the market in the fast-fashion industry frustrating, and the amount of waste was astronomical," she says. "Something is designed, created in mass, and then, if the consumer doesn't like it, it's sold for a fraction of the price, probably worn once and then finds its way to the bottom of your wardrobe, never to be worn again."
Of course, it's for this reason that Molby finds the made-to-order model much more appealing. "The idea that I could design a dress, make it, style it and put it out to my followers to see their response is incredibly rewarding. If my followers like it, then I can make them to order. And if it's not so popular, I don't have a warehouse full of unsold dresses," she says.
Though, I doubt the designer would ever be stuck with a warehouse of unsold clothes. Molby's dresses—which are instantly recognisable due to their contrast check print and vibrant colours—have become extremely popular with the fashion set. In fact, recently, I've barely been able to scroll through Instagram without stumbling across one of her designs.
Each piece Molby the Label creates is made to be cherished. "My aim has always been to focus on a more ethical way of working, and I do this in a variety of ways, with the focus being on creating high-quality, timeless garments which can be worn again and again," Molby says.
Photo:Courtesy of @beforejuly_
"I started off my career designing for a fast-fashion company, which was really eye-opening," explains Elisa Jaycott, the designer behind Before July. "I soon realised just how unsustainable it is to mass-produce garments. This pushed me to look for an alternative."
Settling on a slow-fashion business model, Jaycott turned her focus to made-to-order garments. "Being a made-to-order brand means that I only order in as much fabric as there are orders. I never have wasted stock, and I can control the amount of waste created in production by donating offcuts to other small businesses or repurposing them into accessories," she says.
Inspired by street style and the 'Instagram generation,' Elisa's designs often feature bold colours, puff sleeve silhouettes and fun prints. They're the kind of inherently wearable designs you're likely to see in parks and pubs across London, just made for sunny spring days.
4. Olivia Rose the Label
Photo:Courtesy of @oliviarosethelabel
Founded in 2017, Olivia Rose the Label was originally created as a made-to-order business simply out of necessity. "In the beginning stages of my brand, it was essential to work on a made-to-order business, as I started with no money whatsoever and would only ever make what had actually sold," designer Olivia Rose Havelock tells me. "Now, I can't imagine running my business any other way."
"Each piece is handmade by me, so it really helps to only make what has actually sold in order to reduce waste and to keep my business as agile and flexible to change as possible," she adds.
Not only does this business model help to reduce waste, but it also means each customer can get the perfect fit. "The made-to-order model is really important to me, as it offers so much flexibility in terms of the made-to-measure sizing," explains Havelock. The designer even offers custom measurements at no extra cost if customers leave their sizing in the notes section upon checkout.
5. By Megan Crosby
By Megan Crosby's clothing is full of personality, much like the designer herself. Simply ask Crosby about her brand, and you'll be struck by how passionate she is about the entire made-to-order process.
"I think made to order makes your pieces so much more special," Crosby explains. "Not many pieces in your wardrobe have been made for you. If you don't place an order with us, the item isn't made."
Aside from the sustainability benefits, the designer also acknowledges that having a made-to-order model allows her to cater to a wider array of women. "It's also amazing because we're making pieces specific to individual real people—our pieces can be worn by anyone because of our made-to-order approach. It means we can cater for any and all sizes, anyone who loves By Megan Crosby and wants to wear it. If we worked with a factory, this would not be possible," she adds.
With technicolour prints and smile-inducing patterns, if you're looking to add an injection of fun into your wardrobe, Megan's designs are certainly for you.
Photo:Courtesy of @kitristudio
As a business, Kitri does not have an exclusive made-to-order model, but the brand does offer a pre-order system, meaning customers have an opportunity to access the brand's most popular styles after they've sold out the first time. And considering the brands is regularly seen on the chicest influencers and editors, this business model is quite the treat.
Kitri prides itself on creating limited quantities, but if a garment sells out on the brand's website, it will often be brought back for "pre-order." Once pre-order sales are confirmed, Kitri will only produce the number of items that actually get sold, thus resulting in less waste.
7. Benjamin Fox
Photo:Courtesy of @benjaminfox___
Sustainability and longevity were at the heart of Ciara Booyens's decision to create a made-to-order model within her business when she started Benjamin Fox. The brand's pieces are predominantly made from leftover fabrics and often feature on-trend ruffles, puff sleeves and intricate keyhole details.
"Having a piece that was made especially for you makes it that bit more special, which, in turn, means it's something you're likely to hold on to for longer," Booyens tells me. "It also just makes the whole process of investing in a piece so much more personal, which I love!"
From a quality-control angle, Booyens knew this model would work best for her, too. "The made-to-order model has allowed me to continue to work with really good quality fabrics, as it means I don't always have to invest in 100s of metres of fabric at a time," she explains. "If I'm lucky, sometimes I only order the exact amount of fabric I need when I myself receive an order. This has been a really cost-effective way for me to continue to work with high-end designer fabrics."
8. Valle & Vik
Photo:Courtesy of @valleandvik
Much like Kitri, Valle & Vik doesn't solely operate as a made-to-order business but does offer the option for special occasions and bespoke pieces. "Our made-to-order model grew organically on the back of an increased demand for special-occasion dressing," explains the brand's founder, Silje Vallevik. "By offering an additional bespoke element, our pieces become even more of a long-term investment and 'forever' piece." And forever pieces, they are. From simple silk slip dresses to printed summer maxis, Silje's creations are the kind of designs you'll want to keep for years to come.
"We make and tailor all of our made-to-order pieces here in London, as it is not only quicker, but it also ensures our production is kept as sustainably and ethically conscious as possible. It allows us more transparency on our supply chain and ensures tighter control of our carbon footprint," she adds.
Photo:Courtesy of @carnationslondon
"Made to order ensures there is never any leftover or unwanted stock," explains Sarah Bartlett, the designer behind Carnations. "In terms of sustainability, it's the most responsible way of manufacturing."
According to Bartlett, the made-to-order process also allows customers to gain a greater understanding for how their clothes are made. "Made-to-order brands help customers understand and appreciate where their garments came from," Bartlett tells me. "We love to share insights into our garment-making process. Each item is carefully constructed in a small North London production studio by a female-led team. This is something we are really proud of [and] so happy to share."
Collaboration is also an important part of the label's business model and the brand often collaborates with like-minded designers and artists, meaning each collection feels entirely unique.