What do you think of when you hear about the fashion industry today? Large box retailers? Huge ecommerce platforms? Big brands? Local boutiques? Until the late-19th century, fashion was largely a designer-centered, custom-made business. By the end of the 20th century, new technologies and mass manufacturing led to the rise of large media and holding-company monopolies as well as outsourced production. The designer-led, creative component of fashion became another cog in the wheel. In an industry stacked against designers, thereā€™s a 60% dropout rate amongst trained graduates. What consumers see as industry success from shows likeĀ Project RunwayĀ rarely equate to financial prosperity.

Not many people are bold enough to reinventĀ an industry whose business models and process have largely gone unchanged for hundreds of years. Nineteenth Amendment, anĀ EbayĀ PayPal StartTankĀ company, is bringing Bostonā€™s tech and startup savvy to the largely antiquated fashion industry. Hereā€™s whatā€™s ugly about fashion and howĀ Nineteenth AmendmentĀ is giving the industry a much needed makeover:

1. Fashion is capital intensiveā€¦but doesnā€™t have to be

It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch a fashion line ā€“ a sum that includes fronting manufacturing costs and staging large fashion shows. Big brands have big budgets and, on average, it takes about $300,000 to start a label. Nineteenth Amendment helps designers to ā€œstiletto-strap,ā€ or fashionably bootstrap, a collection. Shoppers support designers by pre-purchasing designs before inventory is produced, which allows for Nineteenth Amendment to oversee ā€˜just-in-timeā€™ manufacturing with partner US manufacturers. Flipping the traditional retail model upside down eliminates the need for designers to pay up front for production, while also keeping margins high.

2. The industry is stagnantā€¦but new blood is out there

Most of the big names in fashion are big for a reason, but there is nothing worse than wearing the same dress to an event as another guest. On Nineteenth Amendment, fashion savvy consumers get first access to emerging designer talent found only on NineteenthAmendment.com. Shoppers can engage directly with designers by critiquing their work and reviewing design inspiration. They have the opportunity to own a garment by the next big name in fashion before they hit it big, supporting designers and growing US manufacturing directly. Shoppers diversify fashion and determine which designers will be successful by voting with their wallets.

3. US manufacturing is at a lowā€¦but there are ways to grow the economy

Fast fashion, or throwaway products produced cheaply and unethically, have put a black cloud over the fashion industry. But alternative movements like Slow fashion and the Maker Movement has brought back to the forefront the individual artisans behind the product we hold close, even put on, everyday. Give these artisans the tools they need to operate and small businesses will be born. Nineteenth Amendment has streamlined the manufacturing process by making production accessible to independent designers and manageable for US manufacturing facilities. By leveraging off-season production and collective purchasing power, Nineteenth Amendment is able to keep margins high and minimums low. All garments are made ā€œjust in timeā€ for you at our partner manufacturing facilities.

Nineteenth Amendment is here to help. Co-foundersĀ Gemma SoleĀ andĀ Amanda CurtisĀ have set out to lower the financial bar of entry and let talent and drive be the determining factors of success in the fashion industry. Fashionable consumers can sign up for early access onĀ NineteenthAmendment.com, which will launch this spring with 100 emerging fashion designers from around the globe, including local Boston designers.

Originally printed in the Boston.comĀ ā€œ3 Reasons Why the Fashion Industry Needs a Makeoverā€Ā on March 24, 2014.

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