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Fashion-focused Amazon wins patent for ‘on-demand apparel manufacturing’

Amazon has a snazzy new idea for cutting the cost of making clothes.

The Seattle e-commerce juggernaut just won a patent for “on-demand apparel manufacturing,” in which machines only start snipping and stitching once an order has been placed. The patent describes a system in which computer software collects clothing orders from all over the world and comes up with an efficient plan for fulfilling them.

Orders “can be organized by the computing environment into one or more groups of orders based on one or more productivity factors, such as size, shape, fabric type, or delivery location for the textile products,” the patent says.


This figure depicts an example of the textile production line of garments to fulfill already placed orders.

The patent also alludes to plans to expand on-demand manufacturing beyond just clothing. It says the technology can be applied to a broad range of items, “including clothing or fabric products, accessories (e.g., scarves, gloves, hats, bags, belts, etc.), footwear, bedding, curtains, towels, etc., in a wide variety of materials including, but not limited to paper, plastic, leather, rubber, and other materials.”

On-demand fashion makes a lot of sense for the company. Amazon is the Oscar de la Renta of supply chain efficiency and it has been investing heavily in its myriad apparel programs.

Last year, Amazon rolled out seven in-house fashion brands and some analysts estimate it is the biggest clothing retailer in the U.S. In September, Amazon ran a $15 million on TV ad campaign, featuring fall fashions from Amazon.com. And last month, Amazon debuted “Outfit Picker” a tool that helps Prime members chose what to wear.

Amazon doesn’t comment on patents and it’s not clear how the company plans to use on-demand manufacturing, if at all. But it does seem like a natural next step as the e-commerce giant seeks to dominate fashion retail.

“By aggregating orders from various geographic locations and coordinating apparel assembly processes on a large scale, the embodiments provide new ways to increase efficiency in apparel manufacturing,” the patent says.

News of the patent was first reported by Recode.

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