What if manufacturers could poll their consumers before making a product to see if people would want to buy it? It would cut down on surplus supply and the energy and materials needed to produce and ship it. That’s what one company, Fashion4Home.com, thinks, and they’ve implemented just such a voting system on their new website which launched today! We asked Fashion4Home’s co-founder and managing director, Just Beyer, about how the company is building eco-consciousness and waste reduction right into its supply chain and got some pics of their gorgeous and modern bamboo furniture line.
Inhabitat: Fashion4Home is unique in that you let your customers vote on designs. How does that translate into something that is good for the Earth?
JB: Voting provides a stage for new ideas – customers vote on what they like independent of whether it is the norm. This provides a way for innovative products, new materials and techniques to get support and not be blocked by traditional thinking. In our case, executives don’t guess what people want and make it in advance to see if it will sell, based on the previous year’s demand. We believe that disruptive new ideas, especially in terms of smart/ecological design and better materials, are more likely to get into market when the consumer has a voice in the process.
By letting shoppers vote, we can test whether there is a market for any given design. That lets us make sure we are not wasting resources manufacturing products that might only sit in a warehouse and ultimately end up in the land fill.
Inhabitat: Another interesting distinction between Fashion4Home and other furniture retailers and manufacturers is that you only produce a piece once it has been ordered. How is that more eco-friendly than the mass-produced furniture that we’re used to?
JB: On-demand production is a core part of our business. By manufacturing only what has been purchased, we can make sure we have no waste in our supply chain. We use resources are only if they are needed, eliminating both the need to create extra inventory as a safety margin.
All of the products we ship have already been purchased and are going straight to the consumer without any stops. That means there is no unnecessary shuffling of inventory from warehouse to warehouse or storefront to storefront – saving milage and the fuel that would be burned to haul the stock around.
Because or process doesn’t require any big warehouses, we don’t have wasted energy or materials building, heating or maintaining them.
Inhabitat: Sustainable furniture (especially when the pieces are made one at a time as opposed to en masse) is typically very expensive. How does Fashion4Home plan to keep costs down and build business that is both profitable and eco-concsious?
JB: First, our cost savings are purely based on supply chain organization, not on production – production is sometimes more expensive due to technology used, but money is saved down the track due to no double margins and no stock keeping cost/overstock.
Second, our products aren’t typically going to be made one at a time, but rather in batches. Each product will have a minimum order quantity that makes sense, according to a number of variables such as cost and availability of materials, availability of supplier resources, etc.
Another way we keep our process sustainable is by working with innovative manufacturers that use new furniture materials such as bamboo, a fast growing renewable resource.
We also conduct regular audits that include an ecological aspect – helping companies learn manufacturing best practices in terms of efficiency and waste elimination.
Inhabitat: What are your future plans to make your furniture even more sustainable?
JB: We are looking into a few areas where we can make continual improvement, including efficient designs that create minimal waste during production, the use of new materials and the optimization of our logistics routes to minimize total milage.
Fashion4Home will also be offering Inhabitat readers a 10% discount good on all furnishings through the end of February: INHABITAT-F4H
Follow Fashion4Home on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Fashion4Home