One of the questions we get asked most often at Gallagher is about our unique business model: what exactly does “made-to-order” mean? I will admit that, up until a few years ago, I wasn’t quite sure myself! I want to lay out what made-to-order means in our own terms, some of the false assumptions that are often made about this model, and why we operate this way.
First off, what is a made-to-order business?
I did a quick Google search to see what populated for “made-to-order,” and it turns out the world wide web is also confused about the term! So I’m going to describe it as best I can in our own terms:
A product that is made-to-order is simply a product whose material supplies are readily available but whose actual assembly does not occur until an order is placed.
At Gallagher HQ, which used to be our home, we stock a variety of fabrics, thread, zippers, buttons, etc. for each of our designs, but we have not held any specific product inventory— until recently that is! With our shop opening in Selden Market, we wanted to offer a variety of styles and sizes that were able to be tried on and purchased off the rack. For this reason, understanding our made-to-order model gets a bit confusing for our retail shoppers. More on that soon…
And what isn’t made-to-order?
A big part of why I wanted to address this topic is that we are often approached by customers both in our shop and online who ask if we can take their own design ideas (whether from a sketch or a picture) and create completely bespoke garments, or custom pieces tailored just for them. And while it would be incredibly rewarding to help customers realize their own design dreams, this is not a part of our business model and would be virtually impossible for us to execute at our size and scale.
While we don’t offer completely custom design services, we do offer tailoring and minor alterations to our own styles on a case-by-case basis. For those shopping online, always feel free to send us an email or DM with any questions on fit, length, etc. In our shop, I try to make sure every customer understands that as a designer and a manufacturer, I do have the flexibility to make some changes to my designs, albeit these are limited to simple tailoring adjustments, like length and pocket placement. We want to make sure each and every customer feels their Gallagher piece fits them just right!
So, why is Gallagher a made-to-order business?
There are several reasons why we’ve chosen to operate our business in this unique way. In no particular order, here are a few of them:
- Cost: It’s not hard to understand that launching any business, especially a clothing line, requires a decent amount of capital at the start. After months of researching and contacting small factories in the US and abroad, our budget and target price point was not able to align with the minimums and cost of having a factory produce our designs for us.
- Sustainability: With the desire to grow our business ethically and sustainably, carrying inventory from the beginning felt risky and potentially wasteful. It’s hard to gauge what the demand will be for each product we design— especially in the early days— and therefore committing to 100 pieces per style (the average factory minimum in the U.S.) felt like a huge burden to bear. By cutting our pieces one at a time, we’re able to control how much waste we’re producing. And thanks to our fabulous and sustainable fabric partners, we have the flexibility to order very small quantities up front and restock them quickly as demand requires.
- Novelty: There is also a sentimental aspect to owning and operating a made-to-order business. For the past two years I have personally cut and sewn each and every order that comes through our website and is placed in our shop. Very few clothing lines in the U.S. or abroad operate this way and the novelty of this model is something I’m really proud of. As we continue to grow our production team, we hope to stick to our roots: producing pieces one at a time while carrying only the inventory required for our retail shop and other retail partners.