Forward, to Profitable Onshore Production (Through Digitization)

Robert Zoch
December 21, 2021

“The craziness is thinking that today we can predict what consumers will want in one year. That is craziness. It is not possible. I don’t think I can predict what consumers want next month.”

So says Carlos Arias, the visionary CEO behind Denim FWD, an organization that is today building a scalable, replicable model for bringing on-demand, localized production of denim nearer the end consumer. In addition to implementing Kornit Digital textile production technologies, Denim FWD is deploying innovative technologies such as virtual imaging and laser embellishment to create custom denim apparel to order, eliminating overproduction and transforming a dirty and wasteful denim production facility into a clean, efficient example of digitized production efficiency, demonstrating value regardless of location.

Carlos’s vision is now coming to life at a production facility on the outskirts of Los Angeles, which provided a showcase for attendees to Kornit Fashion Week Los Angeles + Industry 4.0 Event. The business’s prototype of lean, agile operation was built around Kornit’s state-of-the-art Atlas MAX and Presto MAX capabilities; both systems were demonstrated during the exhibition.

While financial necessity has long since driven most fashion and apparel production to far-flung locales where labor is cheap, recent supply chain difficulties, coupled with the realities of a web-based consumer market that expects rapid fulfillment and a high degree of customization, have strained the business of textiles. Furthermore, the growing call for responsible, sustainable production practices has increasingly clashed with the wasteful and polluting nature of textiles as we’ve known them. In short, consumers in the e-com age demand speed, variety, and a smaller carbon footprint.

One major takeaway from Kornit Fashion Week is that digital production technologies, such as those developed by Kornit Digital and its growing network of partners and customers, empower fulfillers, retailers, and creators worldwide to deliver on those demands, without sacrificing quality or creativity.

As people like Arias are proving, digital production means eliminating waste and ensuring a profitable operation—even in areas of North America, Europe, and elsewhere known for high labor and property costs, among other economic pressures.

“This type of model, having the ability to do short production runs close to home, will allow brands to make better decisions about inventory—how much do they buy at the beginning, when do they replenish, what to replenish,” he says. “It’s one thing to operate in the neighborhoods that are far away from the United States, but another thing to operate in California, where you have regulation, and systems that protect workers and the environment, and to be able to really be able to do all of those great products in this environment, for me, is fantastic. The equipment is now available; there’s no longer an excuse to allow for unethical or unsustainable manufacturing.”

For reference, Arias notes the denim industry is a high consumer of water and chemistry, with production of a single pair of jeans requiring 70 liters of water. He estimates implementation of Kornit’s technology will reduce that amount by 80%.

This effort aligns with the vision behind the KornitX fulfillment network, which seeks to transcend logistical concerns by matching demand for finished goods and customized textiles with nearby fulfillers, on a global scale—localized fulfillment, trading long shipping routes for quick speed to market. In addition to simplifying supply chains and enabling creators to access digital production capabilities without investing in the technology themselves, this network empowers print service providers to claim and capitalize on more orders from brands both small and internationally known.

“I really like the way Kornit is trying to create an ecosystem around the producers that use their equipment,” says Arias. “We’re excited to be partnering with Kornit because we believe we now have best-in-class technology.”

Denin FWD’s operation exemplifies Kornit’s “EcoFactory” production model, which enables them to gain ownership of their entire production line and turn their creative and business vision into a perfectly finished product.

Regarding the actual implementation of Denim FWD’s EcoFactory, which they’ve branded an “urban factory,” the company’s director, Jadel Lam, adds, “Kornit’s support team has been amazing with us, from minute number one, from logistics to the team that came on board to help us setting up. They’ve been amazing, working very closely with us, involved in every detail.”

The aim of Denim FWD’s facility is to provide a model that demonstrates how digitized, on-demand fulfillment works in the real world, allowing brands to replenish their stores and provide direct-to-consumer deliveries, with optimal cost efficiency.

“A production center that is close to the consumer will allow brands to more quickly test new product, react to product that is selling well, and even serve consumers directly, so the concept of the urban factory is bringing significant manufacturing capacity back to the United States, close to the consumers,” says Arias. “So the purpose of Denim FWD is to establish these models of small urban factories across the United States.”

Arias noted Kornit’s MAX print technology will enable his business to print multiple layers to create unlimited 3D effects, such as threadless embroidery, high-density, vinyl, screen transfer, and other innovative effects. These effects have long been difficult to provide via large production runs, and consolidating them to a single digital production mechanism gives designers the tools they need to liberate their creativity and bring their visions to market quickly.

In total, Carlos believes his partnership with Kornit Digital stands to transform a great deal of understanding of what’s possible for creating expressive, high-quality apparel nearer the consumer, answering the heightened demands of a digitized age.

“I think the great thing about buying from Kornit now is that the understanding about the digital ecosystem Kornit has will help anybody really improve their business,” he says. “Understanding that environment, understanding what the product can go, and understanding where the market is going—all of it adds up to a really good investment with Kornit.”

Hear Carlos Arias speak at our event in Los Angeles:

Are you ready to eliminate supply chain headaches, create new business channels, and deliver unlimited applications that are profitable in any quantity? Contact Kornit today and future-proof your print operations with efficiency, speed, sustainability, and versatility.