MAS’s Runway Kit offers low MOQs for fashion start-ups | Apparel Industry Analysis | just-style

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Through Runway Kit, MAS is able to service low minimum order quantities

Sri Lankan apparel manufacturing giant MAS Holdings has launched a new solution called Runway Kit for fashion start-ups and medium scale swimwear/activewear brands seeking custom clothing design, prototyping and low minimum order quantities (MOQs) with a focus on sustainability.

Runway Kit is the brainchild of MAS Pixel, the digital arm of MAS Holdings headed by its chief digital officer, Jehan Mutaliph. “As part of MAS Pixel’s digital strategy, one of the key areas we wanted to focus on was strategies that would empower MAS to win with the growing startup community. As a result Runway Kit was set up, democratising MAS’ core capabilities to best serve the small-medium scale apparel brands.”

The co-founders of the project, Kunal Amalean and Iranda Hewavitharane, initiated this project as a solution to a growing need in the apparel industry. “The ever-evolving dynamics of the consumer and fashion industry made us realise the need for MAS to stay ahead of the curve,” Amalean told just-style.

Hewavitharane, adds: “Runway Kit is a go-to platform for startups and medium scale brands to experiment ideas prior to launch. This would also open doors for MAS to identify the upcoming growing brands in the market.”

Launched five months ago, Runway Kit offers three packages for swimwear and activewear.

“Through Runway Kit, MAS is able to service low MOQ orders, which is an upcoming trend right now. Runway Kit ensures high-quality samples and bulk manufacturing for small and medium scale customers, much as we would do for an established brand,” says Nethmi Wickramasuriya, digital entrepreneur for the platform.

“Leveraging 18 years of experience in swimwear to come up with magical solutions to support start-ups is an excellent stepping stone to take the apparel industry to the next level” – Inoka Liyanagama, marketing director, Linea Aqua

Runway Kit uses 3D virtual prototyping technology to make the design and manufacturing process smoother, with designers employed on prototyping in-house. It also has a pay-as-you-go business model, which breaks down the manufacturing process into its key stages and the costs associated with it.

“We want to be ready for the digital wave where all customers would be looking for online solutions and so we want to make it convenient for them to get things done as opposed to the traditional models of traditional manufacturers,” Wickramasuriya says.

Conglomerate support

As a new entity of MAS, it makes sense that the business leans on the extensive manufacturing capabilities of its parent, certainly in the initial stages.

The new business model of Runway Kit was first piloted with Linea Aqua; the Swimwear division of MAS. As of now, Runway Kit is operating out of two MAS factories – Linea Aqua and MAS Active– where a number of production lines have been allocated specifically for small order quantities. A dedicated team is located at each plant.

The platform is also utilising MAS’s expertise and experience to identify the next big brand, explains Keshan Dissanayake, digital catalyst at Runway Kit.

“A lot of new brands are coming up, very special ones, very specific ones and Runway Kit will be able to nurture them and help them take the next step. That is part of the larger vision in terms of how we are using the knowledge we have gathered over 30 years” Dissanayake adds.

A sustainable promise

For the team behind Runway Kit, ensuring the companies they work with have the option of a sustainable product, and the knowledge the items are manufactured in a sustainable and ethical manner, is key to the proposition.

“Our factories consistently aim for fair work methods, water neutrality, and having a greater dependency on renewable energy,” explains Wickramasuriya. “Even if the customer doesn’t use a sustainable fabric for their garments, we ensure that the process the garment has gone through is sustainable.

“Sustainability is big. Most customers want to work with us because there aren’t many manufacturers that offer low MOQs and sustainable options.”

Both the swimwear and activewear packages available from Runway Kit are water-neutral and are conscious towards zero waste. The customer can be assured of other sustainability initiatives implemented at each of the plants such as, Linea Aqua – ISO 14001, ISO 14064, Recycled Claimed Standard (RCS) and Carbon and Biodiversity conscious. And Active is a zero waste to landfill facility, is ZDHC (chemical) compliant, is 70% powered by solar energy and a gold winner at the Apparel Sector 2018 Presidential Environmental Awards.

Viable enterprise?

Currently, Runway Kit is servicing orders and queries from customers in North America, Europe and Australia. “We’ve got really positive feedback from customers and they are planning their bulk orders with us,” says Dissanayake.

Still in its early days, the big question is whether there is enough profit in the MOQ model to make Runway Kit a viable business. Indeed, one of the main challenges identified by the start-up is “operationalising the low MOQ orders and maintaining efficiency at a factory level,” something the company is working to improve,” Wickramasuriya says.

In order to reduce risk in the initial stages, the platform charges for samples, unlike the traditional model. But where it differs is that the platform gives its customers all the technical details of the product, and the flexibility to manufacture with whoever they want.

“Runway Kit has a pay-as-you-go business model, which breaks down the manufacturing process into its key stages and the costs associated with it” – Ravinda Gunawardena, financial entrepreneur of Runway Kit

“It could be us, it could be someone else,” Wickramasuriya says. “We are changing how things were done traditionally. Whether we like it or not, that is where the industry is moving, so we are exploring our options in this space.”

Currently, two of MAS’ factories are used for Runway Kit production, but as the business grows the team intends to on-board other MAS and non-MAS manufacturers through a thorough vetting process. “Our idea is to be a service-provider intermediary in connecting new entrepreneurs and start-ups with the manufacturers seamlessly,” says co-founder Amalean.

Runway Kit’s messaging board is also a key element of the platform, with Runway Kit keen to offer a unique take on the traditional methods of communication between a brand and its supplier.

“The messaging board came about because in a traditional business model there are lots of emails going back and forth. Here we have a messaging board for the customer and designer; it’s like a group chat essentially. Everything is there, all the documents are shared there,” Wickramasuriya says.

The team is also planning to add lingerie and impact protection as a product category for next year, as well as offer more variety to the existing Ready Styles range, such as plus-size, men’s and kid’s garments.

MAS Holdings

Founded as a Sri Lanka lingerie manufacturer in 1987, MAS Holdings today encompasses a portfolio of businesses with a revenue of US$1.8bn and over 99,000 employees. It is the largest apparel and textile manufacturer in South Asia, with 53 manufacturing facilities across 16 countries including Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico and Honduras; and design locations placed in key style centres. Its integrated supply chain offers a design to delivery solution encompassing intimate wear, activewear and swimwear, fabrics and trims (elastic, lace, hook & eye tape, moulded bra cups). The business is also globally recognised for its ethical standards and sustainable working environment.