The kings of PR Amazon are at it again! It’s worthwhile noting before we get into this new patent they have submitted that Amazon are notorious for talking before doing – that is not to say they aren’t true to their word. They just must really love psyching everyone out (Genius really!).
Just look at what a former employee said:
I guess you could make an argument that their bias for launching early and iterating like mad is also something they do well, but you can argue it either way. They prioritize launching early over everything else, including retention and engineering discipline and a bunch of other stuff that turns out to matter in the long run. So even though it’s given them some competitive advantages in the marketplace, it’s created enough other problems to make it something less than a slam-dunk.
Ok, so now on with the patent they have submitted in the area of fashion.
Already a very mature market with little growth, that follows a highly commoditised way of working (depending on where you sit within the scale of high-end to discount fashion) but generally works so that there is a design, it is produced, it goes to stores, then it’s bought. Well Amazon being amazon (read more about that here) are shaking up the status quo. They submitted a patent in December 2015 to create a computing device that would make clothes only once they have been ordered.
We’ve seen similar models pop-up for the last few years, but none with scale.
In the patent they say that they are going to ‘aggregate orders from various geographic locations and coordinate apparel assembly processes on a large scale’. Based on the orders in this automated system the Amazon facility would then produce the clothes.  ‘A textile printer would create the various fabrics needed. The fabrics would then be automatically fed over to a textile cutter, which would cut out pattern pieces from the sheets of fabric to be assembled into the finished garments. Cameras would monitor the process and an image analyser would spot if something went wrong, such as the textiles bunching, stretching etc. The system would adjust itself to correct the issue, signal an attendant for assistance or flag the panel as a misprint to be discarded. The finished produce would then be checked, packed and shipped’.
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Before we get into the awesome implications of this patent, it’s worthwhile stating that we’ve seen nothing to indicate this project has a green light from Amazon. That said they are becoming increasingly dominant in fashion and buying up a multitude of brands in the space – so we wouldn’t be surprised. Just look at their succesess in the US they are due to surpass Macy’s this year as the country’s largest apparel retailer:
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Ok, we love this concept for a couple of reasons. Firstly it starts to rival Zara, who can go from design to manufacture in 14 days – that’s a level of tech unprecedented in the industry. This idea of on demand manufacturing could not only make Amazon faster than Zara but it fixes a fundamental issue in the Zara model – waste. There would be little to no waste (land fill) through this model. It could be the fast fashion killer – and hopefully force the likes of Zara and H&M to seriously look at the sustainability of their businesses models. Essentially what Amazon could do (if this patent becomes a reality) is take market leadership from the fast fashion set – through technology which is an order of magnitude better than anyone else. And that is the only way you can win in volume/scale fashion.
If you want to check out the patent it’s here: http://patents.justia.com/patent/9623578

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