Japanese sewing techniques are one of the things that may be considered to be world-class. While Japanese garment factories support top global apparel brands behind the scenes, many of these factories are faced with financial woes due to cost reductions. Furthermore, Japanese garment factories are facing recruitment difficulties for engineering positions due to the lack of opportunity to promote high-quality manufacturing prowess.
On the other hand, many individuals and small businesses have recently launched their independent fashion brands, selling their items over instant online storefronts like Base and Stores.jp. These businesses are always looking to outsource production of fashion items. In order to meet such needs, the Japanese firm Sitateru launched a crowdsourced platform under the same name last March, looking to link independent fashion brands/retailers with garment factories.
Sitateru is based out of Kumamoto, a prefecture located in the center of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island. Kumamoto traditionally had many garment factories, but have faced many challenges in recent years. Sitateru CEO Hidekazu Kono says that his team has been building a business network based upon a vision to expand opportunities for highly-skilled workers there.
First, independent fashion brands/retailers upload their sample images of the intended outsource item using the service; these images need not be clear, rough designs or image collages are enough, with even just conceptual ideas being acceptable. Using uploaded base designs, Sitateru’s designers and pattern makers decide which garment factory is relevant and matchmake them with received orders. If there is no problem with a sample product from the test production, both sides will enter into a mass production agreement. Acceptable minimum production volume starts with 10 pieces for one size pattern, 20 pieces for one production lot. Leveraging the platform with a capability of receiving these orders, garment factories can reduce their downtime and work their way out of financial woes.
Sitateru CEO Hidekazu Kawano explained:
Our main target is multi-brand store owners and online-only fashion retailers typically wanting to produce unique products despite the small production lot. We help them leverage highly-skilled manufacturing forces. We have now partnered with a dozen factories across the country, planning to acquire 1,000 fashion retailers as our users.
He also added that the company wants to partner with over 50 companies and to grow a user base to more than 10,000 retailers by 2016. Sitateru recently started working on a new feature called Premium Product Order, which allows independent brand owners to produce limited-edition items in the same quality level as top global fashion brands, by leveraging high sewing techniques that Japanese garment factories have acquired.
Sitateru secured funds from Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Nippon Venture Capital, and Japanese internet company Livesense (TSE:6054). Details of the investment have not been disclosed but the raised sum likely ranges around hundreds of thousand US dollars. The investment from Livesense is part of the Startup 50 incubation initiative, where entrepreneurs can receive mentorship from Livesense CEO Taichi Murakami and Japanese online recipe site Cookpad CEO Yoshiteru Akita.
In view of global fashion trends, starting with tailor-made production, we have experienced the era of mass production and mass consumption represented by the fast fashion industry, but I believe we are now in the era of optimized production and optimized consumption.
“Made by imagination” is our mission. These days people can create what they want to wear, to match their lifestyle. So my company wants to help sustain manufacturing capabilities for fashion items that people want.
Kawano noted that they can receive orders from the global market when they complete their network of garment factories, all across Japan. In addition, they aim to help increase “Made by Japan” brand (rather than “Made in Japan” brand) presence in the future.
Translated via Conyac crowdsourced translation service
Edited by Masaru Ikeda and “Tex” Pomeroy