Factory45 and Market45: A New Look for the Fashion Supply Chain

Multicolored clothing on hangers

When Shannon Lohr was working to develop a sustainable and ethical clothing company, {r}evolution, with her business partner in 2011, she realized that finding sustainable suppliers in the fashion industry was a lot harder than it should be.

After wild success in fundraising on Kickstarter allowed the brand to get off the ground, Lohr sold her share to her partner and set out on a new adventure. She began consulting on a project-by-project basis, helping new sustainable fashion companies find their way. In 2014, she started Factory45 with the intent of making it easier to launch sustainable brands on a larger scale and helping those brands find ethical and sustainable suppliers that could help in producing eco-friendly products that were still affordable enough to sell.

Sustainability in Fashion, According to Lohr

Fashion is an industry surrounded by ecological and ethical concerns. “Fast fashion” is still largely the norm, in which low prices are far more important than the effect of clothing production on the world around us. But there is a steadily growing market for sustainable apparel.

Lohr does note that sustainability doesn’t necessarily translate to no environmental impact, as producing something new always has some kind of effect on the environment. The goal is to reduce that impact as much as possible. Tapping into sustainable supply chains is the main way to do so.

What Is Factory45?

Factory45 is an accelerator consulting program that helps up-and-coming sustainable fashion companies find their way in a tricky marketplace. Think of it as a sustainable fashion business school that helps brands every step of the way. It addresses everything from developing products, producing samples, fundraising, designing patterns, sourcing materials and producers, distribution, marketing, and sales for fashion entrepreneurs who aren’t lacking in ideas but may be lacking in the business acumen necessary to get their product to market and successfully sell it.

The program takes six months to complete and costs $500 per month. Lohr says it’s marketed mainly to small companies since larger companies generally aren’t interested in paying more for the sake of sustainability. And many customers of major brands simply don’t care enough about sustainability to pay more.

One of the main benefits of using Factory45 is the ability to capitalize on the network of reliable, sustainable suppliers Lohr has built. She has carefully vetted the companies involved in the supply chains she puts together for Factory45 users, giving them accessibility to sustainable supply chains that were very hard to come by just a few years ago.

Lohr maintains that simply vetting these factories on the basis of their eco-friendliness and ethics has a positive impact on the fashion industry’s social and ecological nature, since suppliers have so rarely been considered chiefly with these concerns in mind.

What Is Market45?

Market45 is a platform that Lohr has created, wherein companies that have gone through the Factory45 program can sell their products. Essentially, Market45 has become part of the supply chain for the eco-friendly brands that Factory45 set out to help, providing an end market platform. It provides sustainable fashion companies direct access to consumers who are specifically shopping for products that are sustainable. Launched on November 1, 2018, Market45 allows customers to shop by designer or category with the assurance that all products listed on the site are sustainably made. The actual purchases take place on each individual company’s site rather than directly over the Market45 site.

While Lohr does pocket 5% of sales made on the platform, she maintains that Market45’s intent isn’t to be a cash cow, but instead to help Fashion45 companies set themselves up for long-term success.

 

Image credit: Maridav / Shutterstock.com

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