Why Manufacturing Your Custom Clothes Takes So Long

CEO Rae Hill in the Origami Customs Clothing Studio, with a title: "Why Do Your Custom Clothes Take So Long?"

In this age of Amazon and fast fashion, we’re so used to having everything we want at the click of a button. We know that as a fashion company, we’re competing in a world that moves at record speeds. And we’re aware that one of the main reasons people say they don’t purchase from us is that our orders take too long to receive. 

So we wanted to take a minute to talk about WHY creating your clothing takes so long because the reality is that our timeline will never speed up by very much. Origami Customs is quite literally a slow fashion brand. So here are some of the reasons why it takes so long to create your ethical clothing.

Two Origami Customs employees at sewing machines in the clothing studio

Your Clothing Takes Longer Because We’re Small

The biggest reason our clothing takes so long to produce is that it’s made by an extremely small team. Many of you may not know this, but every single item we sell is handmade by a team of only 9 people in our 750-square-foot studio in Montreal!

We do not outsource a single stitch, even though we know that would make our production faster. We’re committed to keeping our team small and local for several reasons.

1. The Truth About "Made In America"

We keep our team small because we don’t want to outsource. We know that just because fashion is “Made in America,” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s ethical. The most recent study by the US Department of Labour found that in more than 50% of studied cases, garment manufacturers were participating in illegal and unethical employment practices. 

The study found that on average, contractors were paying $2.75 below the amount needed per garment to ensure basic minimum wage standards. The study found that in some cases garment workers were being paid as little as $1.58 an hour! Many companies were paying people off book, lying about their taxes, illegally withholding wages, and several other unethical practices that are outlawed in North America.

The unfortunate truth is that companies based around profit can and do lie in the interest of greed. So even if we were to outsource to a North American company that says they treat their employees well, there’s no guarantee. We are not interested in anyone suffering so we can make a profit. So we would rather employ a small team of people in Montreal than run the risk of outsourcing to an unethical company.

2. Ethical Manufacturing at Origami Customs

We keep our team small so that we can treat them well. By “well,” we mean that our staff is a community, and we do everything possible to make sure they’re cared for. We don’t just offer minimum wages, we pay wages above living wage rates. Everyone at each level of skill is paid the same without prejudges. In fact, Rae, our CEO, and founder is actually paid less than some of the staff members and doesn’t keep the company profits!

We have the best healthcare benefits we could get, and that includes the most cutting-edge gender-affirming health benefits on the market. While it’s more common for some health care to cover things like hormone replacement therapy, our extra-special package even covers gender-confirming surgeries, which is very new, even for regular benefits packages. 

We give lots of days off and prioritize our team’s happiness. We have extra paid days off for sick days, which include mental health days and menstrual days. Our studio also focuses on staff mental health and neurodivergent needs with tailored support. The reason we keep our team small and local is so that we can offer things like this that improve their quality of life.

CEO of Origami Customs Rae Hill with two trans models in the clothing studio

3. Directly Supporting Queer and Trans Employment

We always say that supporting our Queer community has to start at home. One of the reasons our team is small is that we actively seek to hire Trans and Queer individuals who might not otherwise have access to a well-paid career. 

Transgender people in North America make as little as 60% of the average salary, while often having higher uncovered health expenses for their gender-affirming care. Historically trans and queer people have had limited access to high-level positions and are kept from career advancement because of prejudice. 

At Origami Customs, every single staff member is Trans and/or Queer, a fact we’re so happy about! This not only means that they’re coming from a place of individual understanding when making your clothing, but it also means that we’re directly supporting our community. We train our staff with individualized attention in specialized skills they can make a career out of. And we focus on upward mobility and career advancement.

Two Origami Customs Employees working in the clothing studio

4. Running A Business In The Era Of Covid

The pandemic threw a wrench in all of our lives, and there are so many more problems that we have to account for because of it. Over the pandemic, and even now, supply chain issues and rising cost of goods means our bottom line increased significantly. Hiring became increasingly difficult, as more people needed time off work or reduced hours to cope with pandemic burnout and ongoing health issues.

Keeping our team small helps us mitigate delays from supply chain and staffing issues. It helps decrease the number of balls we need to keep in the air during these uncertain times. Keeping things small without outsourcing or rapidly hiring means we can stay on top of these delays and deal with them in-house instead of being at the whim of the chaos of our world. 

Trans model laying on a worktable in the Origami Customs clothing studio while clothes are cut

Your Clothing Takes Longer Because It’s High-Quality

The next biggest reason that your clothes take longer than other companies directly relates to the quality and functionality of the final product. We want to make gender-affirming gear that will last you a long time and keep you healthy in the process. And that type of quality takes time.

1. Custom Sizing

We’re currently the only company on the market that does free custom sizing for every piece of gender-affirming gear that we sell. This means that the products aren’t made until we get your order, because we’re making it according to the measurements you provide. We make items in the order they come in, so sometimes it takes a while to get through those projects.

It also takes a lot more time to tailor each piece to an individual’s measurements, because we can’t just use the same pattern for everyone. Our highly trained staff have to be skilled at tailoring and pattern making. They’re not workers in a garment factory! They carefully and lovingly make each order so that it will fit your body perfectly, which takes time. We’re so committed to having garments fit perfectly, that if it doesn’t you can send it back in and we’ll alter it for free. 

We’re committed to tailoring every item to each person because we know that all bodies are unique and different. We want to include people who are often left out of the sizing spectrum because they’re too small or too large, people who don’t have bodies that fit the “traditional” proportions, and trans people who don’t fit into the binary of men and women sizing charts. As a company, we would rather have longer wait times than send you a product that doesn’t fit you perfectly.

An Origami Customs employee at a sewing machine sewing custom clothing in the clothing studio

2. Quality Control

Staying small and moving a little slower than other companies also means that we can make sure every item is high quality. We’ve seen lots of other fashion companies our size take on partners or get their products into big box stores, and the result always seems to be a drop in quality.

Scaling too quickly means cutting corners, a route we’re not interested in taking. Even the couple of times we’ve tried to work with other small co-ops and boutique manufacturers in Quebec, it ended up not being up to our quality standard. We even had one disastrous incident where we were forced to throw out hundreds of gaffs because a co-op sewed the stretch fabric in the wrong direction, ruining the compression. 

It’s not that we don’t want to grow, it’s just that we want to make sure we do it at a rate that doesn’t affect the quality of the product. We would rather keep an eye on all the quality control ourselves and manage issues as a team, instead of relying on outsourced orders which might have problems, increasing the delays in wait time.

CEO Rae Hill making custom gender affirming clothing at a sewing machine in the studio

Other Factors That Make Your Clothing Take Longer

1. Unexpected Setbacks

At the end of the day, you can’t account for luck, and for any of you following our mailer, you know that we’ve experienced some bad luck the last couple of years! Every time we think that we’re getting ahead in processing orders, something has happened to set us back.

From contracts that weren’t fulfilled, quality control issues from our partnership attempts, machines breaking down, supply chain issues, staff getting sick more frequently, one employee breaking her arm, and more, we had to put out so many fires.  

The fact is Origami Customs is a small team of real people. When even one person gets sick or is struggling, that affects a large portion of the work that can be produced. When one bolt of fabric doesn’t arrive on time, or a machine breaks down, we can’t produce as fast. Any even small issue can affect how long it takes your order to be produced. 

Origami Customs team photo of the 8 people who sew your custom clothing

Thanks for Being Here

Can it be frustrating that our orders take so long? Yes, honestly, sometimes we’re frustrated by it too. But as much as the small size of our business might affect our order output, we believe that keeping our business small with high-quality standards is also what makes us great.

We’re committed to being a values-driven company, rather than a profit-driven one. We are committed to being for and by trans people with a team that’s highly cared for. We want every item to be of the highest quality and tailored to fit you perfectly. 

So thank you for being here and committing to buying our slow fashion items even when it’s sometimes, well, slow. We’re so grateful to have such a strong community that believes in our values enough to support us.



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