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Made to Order Is the Future, for Small Fashion Businesses

LONDON — In an oversaturated fashion market, smaller brands are repositioning themselves to better suit their customers and to keep their brands alive.

Silk fashion brand Worme, founded by sisters Melissa and Hannah Collett, is introducing made to order as a new model to their business.

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“It’s the future for small businesses just in terms of being conscious about what you’re manufacturing and how you’re producing, especially in fashion. It’s so important to be mindful of overproducing,” Hannah said in an interview with Melissa.

Worme silk fashion brand
Worme silk fashion brand

The brand was previously stocked in Selfridges and Matches, which helped introduce it to a bigger market, but has since been operating direct-to-consumer. The turning point was the pandemic, where they were selling a lot of masks and subtly introduced made to order as a test run.

Melissa and Hannah studied the sales reports from the wholesale side of the business to devise a profitable business model.

Worme is now producing to a need rather than playing a guessing game of supply and demand.

The made-to-order model allows them to keep everything sourced within the U.K. including the fabrics, pattern cutters and seamstresses.

Worme silk fashion brand
Worme silk fashion brand

The turnaround of orders varies between seven and 21 days.

“When people hear about made to order, they think it’s a much more complicated way of shopping, but actually, it’s just a more conscious way of shopping. As soon as an order comes in, we produce it rather than having a million dresses on the rack hoping they might sell,” Hannah said.

Since launching six years ago, Worme has built a strong customer base that always returns to buy more items. Their demographic is anywhere from young women in their 20s looking to buy sexy silk dresses and two pieces in bright hues to a mature audience that’s building a luxury wardrobe made of silk that can be worn from beach to wedding.

Worme doesn’t follow a fashion calendar of seasons; there’s no beginning or end to their collections — it’s a buildup of pieces.

“Everyone is changing, especially small brands. Look at Phoebe Philo’s brand; there’s no specific season with the drops,” said Melissa, adding that it’s inspiring to see fashion veterans take this stance.

“In the early days of the brand we would go to Paris with the collections to show them and it cost a fortune for a brand of our size. Now we have creative freedom. If we want to design a dress, we can put it on the website and if it doesn’t sell then you’re not at risk of having all of this stuff made [for no reason],” she added.

Worme’s prices start at 25 British pounds for a hair scrunchie to 550 British pounds for a maxi gown.

Worme silk fashion brand
Worme silk fashion brand

A lesser-known aspect of the brand is its bridal offering that’s done through one-to-one appointments — many of the brides coming in are asking for nontraditional pieces, but there has been a demand for more structured styles recently.

“We started the brand through a need for luxury dresses without lots of embellishment and now it’s changed because people are buying into quiet luxury,” Hannah said.

The sisters have really taken the steering wheel of the brand with two hands. Melissa, a former photographer’s agent, now shoots Worme’s campaign imagery and Hannah, a former makeup artist in film and TV, is currently taking a pattern-cutting course.

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