Our Future of Industry pod looks for the pioneers who are creating the tools and technologies that will power the next industrial revolution. Unmade is one company that is not just changing the face of fashion, but is redesigning the very mechanism of mass production.
Fashion has always been a tough business: regardless of size or segment, retailers and brands have to be lean, think digital-first and pull off ever faster speeds to market. Omni-channel, zero friction shopping is the norm and the likes of Amazon and ASOS have driven customers to expect an on-demand experience every time they shop.
With the massive shifts in the retail sector and the rise of online shopping, we were looking for an investment opportunity where the entrepreneurs were tackling a hard problem in areas within this sector that have to date, remained unchanged.
“The bold vision here is to end mass production, mass consumption and mass wastage”
Unmade, our latest investment, is a startup that is turning the retail supply chain on its head. It has built an end-to-end software platform that will connect consumer demand directly to industrial manufacturing production. Unmade’s software platform allows consumers to customise and design products offered by the brands but also allows the brands themselves to stock (and restock) products just-in-time. Unmade’s premise is simple, shifting the old model of ‘design, make and sell’ to one of ‘design, sell and make’. The bold vision here is to end mass production, mass consumption and mass wastage by empowering brands to deliver demand-driven manufacturing.
For us, the fact that Unmade can drive sustainability and transparency in the supply-chain is hugely appealing. We recognize that in its existing form, this supply chain is broken. It is set up for standard designs at massive scale where consumer demand is forecast twelve months ahead, with new apparel collections are simultaneously ordered for production to fit that timescale. Excess inventory is the inevitable problem: a total of $475bn of loss retail revenue in 2015 was attributed to overstock. Warehousing costs aren’t the only knock-on effect – serial discounting damages brand equity in the longer term. At the same time, we are in an era where all brands need to work harder to delight and retain loyal customers and Unmade has empowered them to do this by inviting consumers to become co-creators and co-designers of their apparel and footwear. Team sportswear brands are leading from the front: look no further than NikeID to see how popular ‘design-your-own’ can be.
Unmade can enhance a brand’s customer experience, increase its own margins and reduce its impact on the planet – it’s a compelling narrative for any fashion company.
Unmade’s three co-founders, Hal Watts, Ben Alun-Jones and Kirsty Emery-Laws are a truly interdisciplinary team, complementing each other through their raw engineering tech talent, pioneering product vision and in-depth industry knowledge. Having started life as a direct to consumer customised fashion offering, they understand the pain their brand customers can face. Together, they’ve brought together a fantastic team that is now placed to enact the company’s unashamedly ambitious vision.
We are delighted to have the opportunity to lead the £5m Series A investment into Unmade alongside a group of investors we respect highly: most notably MMC Ventures, Felix Capital and Connect Ventures. Good luck to Hal, Ben, Kirsty and the team at Unmade in what we have no doubt will be an exciting 2019.