Behind-the-Scenes of On-Demand Manufacturing: Sherri Barry
Please share with us why you founded Arizona Fashion Source.
I had passion to support designers and brands based on my experience in trying to get my own designs manufactured…and do it in a sustainable way. It was near impossible. So, I wanted to create a better easier path for others like me.
Did you ever have a lightbulb moment that made you prioritize sustainability?
It’s been a growing priority for me for decades. I started my career in retail. Inventory was always a problem..too much of some stuff and not enough of others. When I went back to grad school, I wrote a paper on fast fashion. In my supply chain class, I learned about the horrible labor and environmental outcomes. When I went to manufacture my brand my only choice at the time was to meet minimums. I was forced into wasteful over production. To create a better choice for myself and other like me, I built my own sustainable solution.
One of our key tenets is on-demand manufacturing to minimize waste. How did you begin using this model of manufacturing?
We were already doing no MOQ manufacturing to support emerging designers in the incubator. It was costly to do with traditional manufacturing practices. So, I started researching technology solutions to make apparel manufacturing more efficient. I attended a technology conference in NY and met Kirby Best. He had built an advanced on-demand manufacturing plant. I immediately wanted in.
What are the challenges of on-demand or small production batch manufacturing and what can be done to mitigate them?
Problems: It's so complicated and so much can go wrong. It takes a huge capital investment in advanced equipment, software and process training. Almost no one understands why it costs so much more to make just one. And not enough people are willing to pay for it.
Solution: more sustainable brands that are willing to pay the higher unit cost and more consumers who are willing pay more for high-quality, sustainably made clothing. Capital funding support for manufacturers wanting to produce sustainably.
Do you believe more retailers and brands will follow suit? If not, what can be done to convince them that this is the new industry standard?
I do. Sustainability is going to become increasingly regulated, if changes aren't made voluntarily.
What eco-friendly materials have you come across recently that you love?
We are working with ASU in attempt to create the most sustainable t-shirt in the world. There are multi-disciplinary experts weighing in on this. Its an eye-opening and exciting project. We have dozens of samples we are tracing back to raw material origin to determine the most sustainable fabrics. The winner is still TBD, but it has shown me that the textile industry has a long way to go.
As a design entrepreneur yourself, what are your tips for anyone interested in beginning the entrepreneurial journey?
Follow your passions, help others with the same passion and don’t be afraid to take risks to do it.