By Digital Output Staff
Founded in 2014, Freedom Rave Wear (FRW) is a festival fashion company located out of San Diego, CA. When it started eight years ago, co-founders Alyssa Erickson and her husband Michael Hodgen handmade everything in their apartment. Fast forward to 2022, the company operates as an agile, made-to-order micro factory with ten employees out of a 4,500 square foot facility.
According to its website, FRW is a new breed of sustainable clothing company, where all styles are created in house. Each piece is completely exclusive and handcrafted with the highest quality standards. The company is known for its commitment to sustainability. Part of that methodology involves its manufacturing process. Operating automated print and finishing devices on site allows FRW to minimize inventory and eliminate unnecessary waste.
Starting Out to Today
The path to automation was filled with challenges. In the beginning, Erickson and Hodgen did not have enough capital to keep materials in stock, so they would get paid for an order before purchasing the fabric for a product. As the business progressed, the husband and wife team outsourced work to cut-and-sew companies for bulk production in Los Angeles, CA.
While this was beneficial, it also presented constraints, specifically with size ratio order requirements. “I had to make sure all the ratios were right across eight sizes,” explains Erickson. For example, FRW would order 17 smalls and one extra large in one color, and then 12 extra larges and five smalls in another color. With order volume restraints from contractors, FRW seemed to always have understock in some SKUs and overstock in others.
Fueling the company’s automation efforts today is the in-house operation of a TUKAcut laser cutting machine from Tukatech Inc. paired with a sublimation fabric printer. With the acquisitions, FRW meets customer demand no matter what sizes are purchased and eliminates any unnecessary inventory or over buying.
The TUKAcut is a high-speed, single/low-ply laser cutting machine engineered for sampling, product development, and on demand manufacturing. Requiring only one operator, it features a power supply of 220V 50Hz/60Hz, a laser power of 150 watts, a working area of 70×60 inches, and can cut at 50 meters per minute.
According to Hodgen, the company experienced a 50 percent reduction in inventory costs since transitioning to the laser cutter. “It wasn’t overnight that we got to realize those benefits,” he explains. “It took years to build up these inefficiencies and to deconstruct those takes time.”
The benefits of using this technology are not only seen in cost savings. Hodgen compares FRW’s creative capabilities before and after its machines to “a small bicycle and racing it against a performance Tesla.”
The sublimation fabric printer expanded creativity. Prior to owning the printer, FRW had the same fabric designs as other festival fashion companies. Now, keeping stock of only white fabric, it is able to print any design and collaborate with other designers.
Both the printer and laser cutter also allow the company to expand into additional revenue opportunities. When COVID-19 hit and festivals worldwide were cancelled, FRW pivoted to start Fabric Punch—a fabric printing service for other fashion businesses. Many of these businesses are one-person startups similar to how FRW began, so it’s a nice way to give back to the community through education.
FRW is an ideal example of how implementing automated cutting—in addition to digital printing capabilities—has changed their business model for the better.
Apr2022, Digital Output