Profitability in the upscale apparel market depends greatly on production meeting rapidly changing demand for new fashions and styles. But fabric producers impose long lead times and large minimum orders on their customers, making it difficult to respond to changes in fashion. The textile industry produces fabric through a weaving process that has evolved over hundreds of years. Preparation of yarns and setup of looms is expensive and labor-intensive, so manufacturers favor long production runs and have moved production to low-wage countries.
This project proposes a new fabric-production process, called "short-warp" weaving, which eliminates the cost, lead time, and factory complexity of traditional weaving setup operations. Short-warp weaving produces fabric-using yarn drawn from a single supply in a continuous process that allows weaves to be altered on the fly. The project's goal is to develop a business that rapidly supplies small orders of custom fabrics to high-end apparel makers and that alters the economics of weaving to enable local sources of production and supply.