Short run production can allow for local sourcing closer to market needs but also presents a number of challenges that can be addressed through TCBL. Short production runs for textiles and clothing materials can be divided into segments, e.g.

  • Short run: fast fashion for a volume market
  • Short run: artisan or bespoke orders
  • SMEs / Start ups / Buyers: testing the water

Items two and three are those most in keeping with the values of TCBL. They allow for experimentation between designers and manufacturers in a variety of settings. The second of these points provides an opportunity for a more individual or personal design style or made to order service and is likely to suit an affluent client base due to high material, production and service costs. It can be of particular relevance to the issues that SMEs / artisans and start-up brands face to get short runs produced.

As one example, the UK has a number of intermediaries offering support to find manufacturing expertise and capacity. Some of this support can be characterised as a knowledge and expertise offer (UKFT & Make it British); some via online directories of varying size and quality. Examples include:

The problem & the opportunity

Notwithstanding the availability of some avenues to aid the identification of appropriate manufacturers, short runs present a number of challenges that can be addressed through TCBL, many of which are associated with the organisation of production – and where to source it. All these issues have been identified as critical by businesses working in the textiles and clothing environment.

  1. Supplier minimum order quantities that are too large to be affordable for Short Run Producers (SRPs);
  2. Finding partners (particularly manufacturers),willing to work on low volume production runs;
  3. Cost increases for lower volume – Cut, Make & Trim (CMT) / fabric and components;
  4. Manufacturers insist upon payment or credit up-front from small companies
  5. Logistics of components and cost implications;
  6. Impact on development and production lead times due to large volume orders receiving priority;
  7. Holding sufficient buying power to warrant and maintain good quality.
  8. Specialisation of equipment and skills AND skills shortages;
  9. Increasing the visibility of SRPs.

None of the diverse range of options presented above is isolated from others; a practical approach can identify from them three key issues and work with the industry to create practical solutions. We can identify three groups:

  1. Textile manufacturers willing to produce short run capacity, e.g. during down time, or wish to broaden their offer or have leftover fabric to sell. This might include textile manufacturers which may “over-produce” on purpose with large orders in order to diversify their business positioning, something they are keen to do.
  2. Garment manufacturers who range from the at home sewer to the small CMT unit. This could include the larger scale garment manufacturers who need to down-scale because of pressures to reduce numbers and through skills shortages.
  3. For many designers, the importance for their work is the idea, concept and design pattern, not so much the type of fabric. Designers who want to design and sell small lots, potentially by grouping together to increase buying power. Others wish to collaborate (e.g. work space, machinery, business skills and manufacturing knowledge) whilst maintaining a more exclusive use of fabrics.

Short runs production can be promoted, facilitated and developed through TCBL in a variety of ways. For example, the development of new or innovative ways of working can incorporate the TCBL Labs network to facilitate any cultural or language barriers to cross-country business generation. In addition, TCBL Associates can create and take advantage of opportunities and provide case studies of collaboration where none existed.

Previous work by TCBL had suggested a number of partners (TCoE, UCV, ARCA, Prato, eZavod, Fashion Enter and Reginnova), information providers and textile and clothing organisations across four countries (England, Italy, Slovenia and Romania) who might wish to participate in one or more of these groups.  They include:


Trafi Creatività Tessile
Trafi gives the fashion world the opportunity to go beyond the old traditions of the textile industry by offering treatments that allow the creation of innovative textile products. Trafi works with recycled waste and offers dyeing and needle-punching expertise amongst other areas.

Lanificio Paoletti
Founded in 1795, this woolen mill produces high quality textiles for the most prestigious fashion brands in Europe, America and East Asia. The mill is seeking for innovative ideas on product, production and sustainability. It is also committed in the valorisation of the rough local wool and periodically encourages artists, designers and fashion students in reinventing the tradition and identifying innovative textiles solutions.

Tessitura La Colombina – Nicki Colombo
The company is a spinning and weaving mill founded in 1895. It produces high quality fashion accessories and products for Italian and foreign brands. Although having modern machineries, in recent years most of the silk and wool fabrics are handmade with looms dated from the 19th century.

A.MA – St.Georges
This knitwear factory was founded in 1955 and is actually run by a young woman, Mara Collodel.  St.Georges designs women’s clothes using wool and mohair for winter and elasticized viscose for the summer collections. The whole production is local and great attention is given to the quality of fabrics and the wearability of clothes.

Maison De Caro
This small atelier, run by two young brothers, Elena and Davide, has recently moved into an old abandoned printing company where the full production cycle is assured. Maison De Caro actually produces made to measure men’s shirts and children clothes. Elena and Davide are also willing to cooperate with designers and develop new products.


REGINNOVA NE is an Innovation, Technological Transfer, Human Resources and Community Support Association that invite all stakeholders in the Romanian North-East Region to create a structured environment for innovation and development in the field of textile and clothing.


Dolejsi fashion buttons
The company manufactures buttons made of plastic and natural materials and they make 97 % of their plastic button output. The entire process, from injection casting / preparation of materials to the end product, takes place at the company head office. Sales abroad (Croatia, Germany, Slovakia) reach up to 25 % of their annual turnover. The company also makes jewellery under the trademark Le Sasha (Lovely, Elegant, Stylish, Avant-garde, Handmade, Abstract) and there is a growing custom-made capability for decorative magnets, medals and key rings. Finally, laser cutting of plastic and wood is available.

Tatjana Kalamar Fashion
Tatjana is a textile design expert with special graphic skills (portraits) and interest to innovate new textile products.  She has more than 20 years of experiences in big textile industries and fashion, she has knowledge on textile materials and also works for medium sized Slovenian textile industry producers.

Titera d.o.o.
Titera is run by Dr. Daniela Zavec Pavlinic, president of Slovenian Textile Association and president of Quality association of Pomurje region. She also works in University as professor. Titera is specialized in the textile, especially application kinesiology – that can be important in the different textile uses (for protection, army, workers, firemen, outdoor…). She is also producing natural and health-friendly clothing from bamboo materials.

Komet d.d.
Komet d.d. is specialized in the production of women underwear. Komet is present in Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Germany and Israel. They have two subsidiaries in Croatia and Serbia, actively contributing to the success of the Komet brand. The company’s main activities are design and marketing of women’s underwear. They are up-to-date with the latest technological innovations when choosing and working with modern materials. Komet Underwear is designed in accordance with the latest trends and aims to please a wide range of customers. From those who believe in elegance and functionality to those who want to follow the latest trends. Today Komet is a synonym for high-quality, functional and fashionable women’s underwear, which tries to satisfy the demands of a woman who is confident, fashionable, elegant, and proud to express her femininity.

Dali sport d.o.o.
Dali sport is specialized in the custom-made textiles. Their services include but are not limited to: embroidery, t-shirt & textile printing,  sport suits (rowing, ski diving etc.), promotional apparel (earbands, rollis, hats etc.), flags, banners, and windsacks, hiking pants, jackets, and other apparel.  They produce FIS and non-FIS ski jumping suits as well as other ski jumping accessories including undersuits, gloves, and souvenirs.

Beti Metlika d.o.o.
Beti d.d is one of the leading European manufacturers of dyed polyamid yarns. More than 90% of sales created by exports on the markets of USA, EU Russia and the Middle East. The company employs more than 150 people and is among the largest employers in Bela krajina. Beti preja d.o.o. is the producer of polyamide, polyester raw and dyed textured yarns, and wrapped elastanes. The company has a long tradition in the production, in the past for the needs of hosier’s industry, fabrics.


Rita Britton / Nomad Atelier
Nomad manufactures and sells clothes and accessories for ladies. Rita’s store, The Tobacco Warehouse, has been fully restored as a 21st Century luxury emporium, showcasing the Nomad collection of cashmere, silk, and leather accessories. Sourcing fabric in small quantities is a barrier to production.

Stephanie Hoole
Stephanie is a start-up company of Performance sportswear for ladies to be sold online and as a concession to large stores. She needs to source technical sports fabrics and specialist sportswear manufacturers as well as technical trims and a manufacturer who can make functional bra tops. She would also benefit from support for fits-development stages.

Louise Stocks Young/ LYS Atelier
Louise would like to offer a unique denim smock dress to the 30-50+ woman. Initially in 3x silhouettes with various design details of 3x colour offers: Black/Indigo/Cool grey. Where possible she would like to source the fabric and trims from Europe and manufacture in the UK, she is keen to use organic and ethically sound fabrics and wash processes.

TCBL solutions

Business can be expected to come from both national and international opportunities and by creating links between buyers and sellers where few or none existed previously. The TCBL Labs network and TCBL Associates can assist here by developing collaborative links. Their expertise and networks will be vital as it is unlikely that each transaction process will be fulfilled by online electronic means alone; solutions need to encompass a variety of resources whilst utilising appropriate online services as a primary means of trade.

Partners have discussed issues surrounding the production of short runs with a range of businesses in the UK, Italy, Slovenia and Romania. The combined feedback from these and other related activities allows TCBL to identify match making opportunities and encourage cross-country collaboration through:

  • Offering Lab services and facilities to link local communities to others across Europe;
  • Developing or using existing online services to aggregate demand and reach minimum order thresholds;
  • Identifying manufacturers with capacity (seasonal or during low demand periods) and creating an active database with tools to matching unused capacity to SRPs;
  • Creating purchasing partnerships to take advantage of lower prices for larger orders;
  • Creating on-line space where SRPs can offer their work and CMT providers can pitch an offer;
  • Grouping short-run work together to increase buying power and influence;
  • Providing access to online design and business tools in order to improve communications and quality control between designers and manufacturers;
  • Ensure visibility to SRPs success stories through the TCBL partnership and social media.

Match making opportunities can be engineered via an online platform created or adapted for this purpose. Existing services such as those provided by pratoexpo, fcfabric and sqetch offer elements of the wider portfolio suggested and, as such, have been invited to participate in the project. A wider portfolio of networked services, perhaps cloud based, could allow for the development of two options:

  1. CMT manufacturers to bid for jobs posted by designers;
  2. Manufacturers to post any excess stock to sell. This option also offers opportunities for designers to aggregate demand.

In both instances users would need to be protected by a moderation element with a robust legal framework for protection of the parties, particularly where purchasing is an element. Quality standards and kite marks held by manufacturers could be included in an element of quality assurance but the process might be essentially self-moderating and could be achieved using TripAdvisor style feedback, for example. The basic model is shown under Appendix 2.

Finally, partners have identified five areas of support required if smaller designers and manufacturers are to minimise the risk of mistakes between order and fulfilment.

  1. Business skills
  2. Community development
  3. Education (via the production of technical packs)
  4. Access to finance
  5. Quality assurance and compliance

TCBL advice & support: actions

Generating real-life business transactions will be key to demonstrating credibility and value to the textile community. Each one shall aim to create new relationships and incremental business with TCBL playing a central role both as a knowledge contributor and a service facilitator. A number of example transactions are in development:

  • Nomad Atelier in Yorkshire is providing patterns to a short run producer in London with the transaction facilitated by the TCoE;
  • A British designer working with Trafi, a specialist dyer and textile recycling house in Prato, Italy. Facilitated by the TCoE (UK) and Prato (Italy);
  • A designer in Sicily working with a print producer in the Veneto, facilitated by UCV;
  • A group of British designers with individual portfolios aggregating demand in order to buy fabric from an Italian manufacturer – via pratoexpo –  in larger quantities than would be possible as individual clients. This will be facilitated by the TCoE (UK) and Prato (Italy);
  • A group of designers around the Prato region working and collaborating in a shared space with access to business and textile support through Lottozero. Assisted by Pratol;
  • DALi Sport is interested in producing textiles for helicopter pilots from material with fire-proof characteristics. Facilitated by eZavod in Slovenia;
  • Dusanka Herman is an artist and she produces small series of arts-fashion. She is willing to work with anyone who would provide silk in order to produce a short run from it. TCBL has organised the purchase of silk from a Greek supplier unknown to Dusanka. Facilitated by eZavod in Slovenia;
  • Stephanie Hoole is involved in a collaborative development with a short runs CMT unit in London. The initial work has been facilitated by the TCoE;
  • Collaborating with TCoE, Fashion Enter intends to expand the online fabric purchasing offer of 1 metre to 50 metres to encompass technical sports fabric;
  • Dolejsi fashion buttons will visit #TCBL_2017 in order to talk to other businesses and seek to fashion new business connections.

We’ll keep you posted with progress. In the meantime, contact us if you think we can help.

Please cite this article as: Richard Axe,Bill Macbeth,Ruth Farrell (2017): The Business Case for Short Runs, In: _zine, Vol. 2, Issue 2, online at:
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