Runway Kit is a digital manufacturing platform that eases the cost and effort of apparel production to make it easier for fashion entrepreneurs to realize their designs.
Runway Kit is part of the apparel industry giant known as MAS Holdings who have partnered with global brands like Lululemon, Nike, Victoria’s Secret, and more for over thirty years. According to the official press release:
Newer fashion brands often struggle to establish themselves in the marketplace due to steep competition with big players, and many factories will only work with companies ordering 100,000 pieces or more. Runway Kit levels the playing field by delivering world-class, sustainable manufacturing at low Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs), helping startups fast-track their designs to market and grow their business from scratch.
Recently, one of the Digital & Marketing Entrepreneurs of Runway Kit, Nethmi, discussed the organization via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in fashion and how did you break into this competitive field?
Nethmi: MAS Holdings is arguably the largest apparel and textile manufacturer in South Asia with a revenue of over USD 2bn. Positioned as one of the world’s most recognized design to delivery solution providers in the sphere of apparel and textiles and being in operation for over 30 years, MAS has built a strong reputation as a thought leader in the industry with over 11% of the Company’s Revenue being generated from innovative products in 2020. Over the last few years, the fashion industry has seen a seismic shift in the form of digital brands that have grown to large businesses in a very short span of time. Since MAS Holdings is a business that operates at scale, Runway Kit was introduced as a sub-entity which was able to directly service aspiring fashion entrepreneurs and early staged startups that have the potential to grow into large scale brands. Working with small — medium scale emerging brands in small order quantities brings about unique challenges that we had to understand and cater to from scratch. Runway Kit was built to provide a seamless, user friendly platform that offers services such as sample development and manufacturing as a pay-as-you-go service with continuous technical manufacturing support and updates via an in-built messaging board. Runway Kit has democratized world class manufacturing to these early staged fashion entrepreneurs. Our customers rely on us to co-create their product with them and deliver an output that they can take to market with pride.
MM: How did you come to develop the Runway Kit software and how long did it take to complete?
Nethmi: When the Co-Founders of Runway Kit first saw the unresolved gap in the market, they thought it would be best to present the solution as a digital platform, connecting all relevant parties of the supply chain in the sample making and manufacturing processes seamless between the budding fashion designers/entrepreneurs and the apparel manufacturers. The services offered and the user flows were mapped and then translated to code for Runway Kit to become what you see today at www.runwaykit.com Extensive research and user interviews were conducted within the target market to ensure that Runway Kit was built to solve their pain points. It took the team about a year and a half to complete the platform and launch it
MM: Which Runway Kit services do clients typically need most?
Nethmi: Runway Kit offers sample development services and bulk manufacturing services in Activewear and Swimwear. We have two packages for sample development. Ready Styles and Custom Styles. Through our Ready Styles package customers are able to pick and choose from a variety of silhouettes and customize them to design their desired range. In the case of which a customer needs a unique style developed from scratch, the Custom Styles route enables them to create what they envisioned. Customers share their tech packs with us and our manufacturing team sets out to create the customers product. We use virtual prototyping technology to minimize the number of approval samples developed and cut down on lead time. Runway Kit also provides continuous manufacturing support via the inbuilt messaging board on the platform to customers. In terms of popularity, both packages have great traction. Our ratio of Ready Styles to Custom Styles Development is about 55% to 45%. We believe Ready Styles is gaining popularity among our customers as they gain the opportunity of developing their fashion line with ease supported by a library that has been developed for them by our team with extensive experience and insight. The important thing with Ready Styles is that our customers can go to market faster while building in their originality into styles that have proven to be successful in the market.
MM: Were you planning this before Covid or did the pandemic truly kickstart the whole
Nethmi: Runway Kit was launched in mid-2019 a few months before the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was challenging to see the impact of the pandemic across growing businesses in our industry. However, the fashion industry proved its resilience yet again through adversity. We realized the full relevance and potential of Runway Kit as we understood how much our tool helped our clients manage their inventories, manage their working capital and streamline their operations. After a year in which the fashion industry posted record-low economic profits in 2020, entrepreneurs were seeking to mitigate risk, while companies ramped up omnichannel services. They were faced with the tough task of recovering their investment at a store or at a platform level. Runway Kit helps their customers minimize overstocking and get full price for their products by giving them access to world class manufacturing at low MOQ’s. Businesses have been forced to restructure their teams and minimize their overheads in order to build sustainable cost models during these challenging times. Runway Kit supports these businesses by providing them with one-on-one support in developing their products. The project management tool in Runway Kit also helps CEO’s and Supply Chain heads of businesses have visibility of the products in terms of costs, technical details and expected delivery dates. Virtual Prototyping technology greatly enables faster approval of samples and thereby shorten lead times amidst the Pandemic when supply chain challenges heightened.
MM: What features of the program are you most impressed with and/or proud of?
Nethmi: 1) Our Ready Styles Range. Our customers find it to be a faster and more affordable way to market where they are able to customize the designs by picking and choosing fabrics, colours, prints and have your own brand logo on the garments as well. Our goal is to power anyone to develop their own fashion label.
2) Sustainability. We are continuously in pursuit of ambitious environmental and social sustainability goals to improve the everyday lives of our people and community.
3) Democratizing Access to World Class Manufacturing. With the expertise of our parent company, Runway Kit is able to deliver premier manufacturing tailored to the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses. We are able to democratize access to resources and production standards usually reserved for larger, established brands to emerging brands. We take the full journey with the startups guiding and nurturing them through the process.
MM: What were some of the coolest types of brands Runway Kit has worked with?
Nethmi: Runway Kit has been out there for nearly two years now and we’ve had the privilege of working with unique and purposeful brands. Our memorable products range from creating swimwear with cultural prints designed by South Asian artisans to developing functional swimwear for senior citizens to creating adaptable activewear for cancer patients. Each project is diverse and has its own set of unique scope. That’s what keeps us excited and, on our toes, to deliver the best to our clients.
MM: Are you currently working on any new programs or initiatives to help designers during this tough time for the fashion industry?
Nethmi: Yes, we are! We’ve launched a free Consultation program where we help designers and entrepreneurs understand how they could best align their business strategies and collections to current market conditions and thrive. We utilize our experience and expertise to help them figure out their business plans, raw material selection and sourcing, style and range planning, manufacturing, shipping to all of it! We also work with esteemed apparel consultants in the US and Europe to help bring about the best services for our clients. Moreover, we recently wrapped up our Swimwear Competition — “Runway Kit’s Next Top Swimwear Label” which was executed with the intention of identifying brands with sound business and design potential and helping them grow through a Runway Kit manufacturing partnership.
MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like
Nethmi: Our ultimate goal is to scale Runway Kit to a level where any ambitious fashion designer and fashion entrepreneur is able make their dream of having an apparel brand a reality through our platform and services. We are already scouting for more reliable, small order quantity manufacturers with a sustainability focus to join Runway Kit so that we can offer sample making and manufacturing services for more apparel categories. We envision that startups and early-stage brands meet their potential and grow into large scale brands that positively impact the fashion industry while contributing to the global economy.
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