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Flat-pack fashion: pre-cut clothing kits let sewers skip the patterns

It wasn't that long ago that everyone stitched together their own clothes, or had them made by a family member or local seamstress. A UK start-up aims to rekindle that practice by making it easier for less-experienced sewers to fashion their own wardrobe.

Much like IKEA delivers exactly what's needed to build a bookcase, every piece sawn to size, pre-drilled and complete with screws, Pattern Project takes care of sewing prep, with customers handling assembly. Each clothing kit includes pre-cut fabric panels with pre-marked seams, matching thread and instructions. Buyers need access to a sewing machine, iron and ironing board, and should know how to sew basic straight stitches and backstitches. All kits are produced on demand in the start-up's micro-factory in South London, so there's no overstock.

Pattern Project is currently running a pilot and will be launching on Kickstarter in May 2021, where one of the first kits will be a pair of boxer shorts. Its beta product is a short-sleeved shirt made of an organic cotton/linen blend woven in Lancashire and finished in Yorkshire, selling for GBP 45.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and human cost of fast fashion. But the pandemic also ignited a sewing surge, with machines selling out and consumers discovering the pleasure and satisfaction of creating wearable items. What started out as face masks for friends or for a new Etsy shop, might well grow out to a countertrend to high-speed, mass-produced fashion.

Imagine micro-factories on main streets where people could walk in, choose a design, pick a fabric, make a few customizations — a different collar or bigger pockets — and come back an hour or a day later to pick up their ready-to-sew shirt or dress. By removing pain points like measuring and cutting, home-made clothing could return to its commonplace status, with a new sheen of sustainability and responsible consumption.

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