| 13°C Dublin

With its image of dapper tailors wielding tape measures in Savile Row fitting rooms and seamstresses labouring over yards of expensive silk, bespoke fashion has long been the natural domain of country squires and the more monied followers of fashion.

With its image of dapper tailors wielding tape measures in Savile Row fitting rooms and seamstresses labouring over yards of expensive silk, bespoke fashion has long been the natural domain of country squires and the more monied followers of fashion.

But if a former computer hacker who counts Bill Gates among his clients, and once invented a machine for quelling hurricanes, gets his way, buying clothing that is made-to-measure - and also carries the design or image of your choice - will soon be routine and affordable to those who shop in Gap rather than Gucci.

Pablos Holman, a computer programmer turned would-be fashion mogul, has opened the world's first fully programmable clothes factory designed to deliver customised garments by return of post.

His Seattle-based company, Bombsheller, opened for business last month selling customisable leggings.

He believes it will allow more consumers to create their own clothing but will also return manufacturing in the €12 trillion global apparel industry from the Far East and the Indian sub-continent to Europe and North America.

retailers

The desire to place an individual mark on things to wear is being picked up increasingly by established brands and retailers. Burberry, the British designer brand, will offer a range of monogrammed ponchos - at €1,100 a pop - from September, while Jimmy Choo has begun offering customisable options for five of its shoe styles: heel height, material, and a monogram on the sole.

Market

Founder Pablos Holman Founder Pablos Holman At the high street end of the market, Adidas will soon allow customers to print an Instagram image on to the heel of its trainers.

But while established manufacturers are tweaking their processes, Mr Holman argues that the flexibility of computing has the potential to disrupt the current model of clothes manufacturing which is reliant on bulk ordering and sweatshop-style labour.

He said: "The cycle for fashion is too long and constrains creativity - it takes months from concept to product. Also, manufacturing costs heavily skew towards large runs - you have to make thousands of the same thing and clothes are made for lowest-common-denominator humans - small, medium, large.

"We have no inventory and we don't make anything until somebody clicks 'buy now'. Computers print the design, in your size, and it is sewn by seamstresses who are getting paid 100 times as much as a factory worker in Bangladesh," he added.

>Cahal Milmo


Privacy