The manufacturing of apparel has always been a labour intensive activity. As the making of clothing developed into an industry and the concepts of work-study were applied to the sewing process, the differences between a basic and a “skilled and motivated” sewing machinist were quantified. This month’s briefing takes a reflective look at the effects of manufacturing technology on the apparel industry in the past three decades, speculating what technology will do to this global manufacturing activity in the next 25 years. The study discusses what lessons can be learned from the past, including apparel manufacturing techniques and de-massification. The effect of the textile quota abolition is also considered. So what do these lessons mean for the future? We look at sewing scale, time and flexibility and the financial and technological effect. It looks like the era of supply driven developments is well and truly over and, for the next decade at least, the demands of the market will determine what technology is asked to provide.

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