Unmade is a hybrid company that spans the spheres of tech, fashion and sustainability. This week I went to visit their studio to learn more about their mission, their processes and, of course, their clothes.
You’ll find Unmade in an airy studio in the heart of Somerset house, London. Founded by Royal College of Art alum Ben Alun-Jones, Hal Watts and Kirsty Emery, Unmade is a unique fusion informed by fashion, engineering and technology, and their studio houses designers, knitwear experts and developers all under one roof.
As Ben explained to me: ‘a shift in manufacturing is coming and has been coming for fifteen years, and it’s now becoming viable because of improvements in manufacturing tech.’ It was whilst studying that the company founders first became acquainted with industrial knitting machines; they realised that in order to create an innovative business for the fashion industry they didn’t need to build a whole new machine, they just needed to add a layer of software. This way they could use technology to unlock the potential of a connected supply chain whilst also upping quality, improving sustainability and dramatically reducing waste.
That software idea became the basis of Unmade as we know it today. Essentially, they’re an on demand service. Their technology can be added to any industrial knitting machine and connects the machine to both the internet and the customer. In simple terms: the customer creates and places an order online, it comes through to the machines and is only manufactured at that point, creating a zero waste production process. The machine makes the pieces to the exact size and requirements needed, meaning there’s no offcuts or wasted resources, and then the clothes are finished by hand by experts. These machines sit in the room adjacent to the Unmade office space, so every order is created by machines before being finished by experts under ethical conditions in London. The video below explains their process:
One of Unmade’s strongest points is their completely customisable designs. Their business combines old and new, harking back to the days of traditional tailoring with every item of clothing being made and customised specially for the purchaser, but being implemented now due to new developments of technology. Customers can change colours, patterns and styles to design a product that’s completely unique to them, but still affordable because of the use of technology and the longevity of resources thanks to reduced waste. Products start at £60 on the Unmade website, which isn’t a huge leap from the cost of many fast fashion stores, but for that price you get an investment piece. Handmade, zero waste and completely personal to you.
Whilst their products are available online, Unmade have also done real life pop up stores over the years, to show people just how easy it is. At these pop ups in the likes of Selfridges people could create and customise a design on an iPad, for it then to be sent to the machine and made right in front of them. Products take varying amounts of time depending on their size, with some taking a few hours but, considering each product is an entirely unique design, Unmade prove that slow fashion doesn’t actually have to be that slow.
This isn’t all for Unmade however. While they continue to sell their products, there are much bigger dreams on the horizon. Because their technology is an add on to a machine that is already widely used across the knitwear industry, global implementation of that technology into production processes is not too difficult. As they move forward Unmade want to help more companies improve their sustainability whilst also manufacturing a more relevant, demand-based product. As Ben told me, ‘industrial methods have the potential to be sustainable if we just implement the correct methods. In recent times theres been a global slow down in retail across the board, our technology gives an opportunity for brands to be differentiated and competitive whilst also improving their supply chain.’
The aim with Unmade is to make something better in every category, with sustainability as an underlying theme. So their technology doesn’t just improve sustainability but also the supply chain, customer relationship and the ability to provide unique products, meaning there’s something for everyone: ‘While the idea may seem niche, knitwear makes up 20% of the worlds clothing, so even that is a serious impact. However this is also a broad approach to how the industry needs to transform.’ Unmade hope to partner with a variety of companies that really want to improve in all areas of their production processes, both in terms of environmental impact but also labour conditions, and Unmade believe their technology can be a key part of this process.
With one third of fabric currently going to waste from production and 10 – 25% of clothing currently going to landfill (no one is sure of the exact amount but its in this range), Unmade is showing that there is a true alternative to the norm. The increase in technology and communication in our daily lives has made us more aware than ever of environmental and ethical issues surrounding our clothes, but Unmade proves that technology also provides solutions. Moving forward they aim to become providers for other companies with their industrial tech, in the hope that fast fashion will catch on and start changing too. People want more from their brands and their clothes these days, and Unmade is here to provide modern day answers to these demands.
If you want to get an Unmade product for yourself you can shop/customise here.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.