Close-up of two rungs of a dark wooden ladder; a Wildling shoe box stands on the bottom rung.

Why slow fashion and a sale are not contradictory

Mindfulness is an important keyword when it comes to slow fashion. What many won't associate with it are numbers. Spreadsheets and smoking heads – well, maybe it's not quite as dramatic, but the whole thing has more to do with calculations than one might initially think. And there is a simple reason for that.

It is customary in the apparel industry to produce very large quantities, to plan for sales and to factor in reduced prices from the outset. Some companies even burn the remaining pieces of a collection that weren't sold. From our point of view, this approach is the exact opposite of regenerative economics.

On the other hand, we cannot afford to use our production insufficiently. Because we have already paid in advance, paid our suppliers and manufacturers, and have running costs for employees and warehousing – in other words: Every Wildling minimal shoe that remains in the warehouse costs money. 

Wildling Shoes does not want to produce on mass as long as there is a risk that this mass will remain on the shelves afterwards – it is important to us to work in a resource-saving way and to treat what the suppliers produce respectfully. Wildling therefore aims to avoid wasting resources by storing overproduced wildlings.

The goal is to create a balance between careful, resource-saving planning, and the desire to fulfill the orders of as many customers as possible.

Person pushes cart through the Wildling Shoes warehouse. There are many boxes on high shelves around the person.

Image: Stefano Chiolo | Wildling Shoes 

But how can we plan as resource-friendly as possible?

Planning the quantities: The team first estimates how many Wildling shoes should be produced. The sales figures for the current and previous year are used as a guideline, and a forecast is made for the upcoming year. This then determines the production quantities for each model – feedback and wishes of the Wildling Shoes community is also considered.

Determine the size distribution: Once it has been determined how many of the season's total supply will be on each model, it's on to the size distribution. Not all sizes are equally in demand. To provide a benchmark, the team is guided by previous sales data: It analyzes how often similar models have sold in which sizes.

Order the material quantities: After all these evaluations, assessments, and forecasts, the production quantity is set. Correspondingly, the necessary amount of material must be determined and ordered – this often needs to be done a year in advance. The amount of material ordered finally determines the maximum number of Wildling shoes that can be produced.

About half of the targeted quantity will be produced on time for the launch. After the launch, the team confirms whether its planning was accurate: How are the respective models actually selling?

If a model turns out to be less in demand than expected, its production will be scaled down as soon as possible. Should it become apparent that certain models and sizes are particularly popular, production will be adjusted upwards – however, this is only possible if there is material available and our production partners in Portugal have the necessary capacities.

Why is there a sale from time to time despite this careful planning?

Due to the required time lead and the fact that growth forecasts are ultimately just forecasts (the thing with the crystal ball), there is a certain risk of error. In addition, there is no accounting for taste – thus it can happen that models considered as wallflowers by the team turn out to be absolute favorites. Or that team favorites have a harder time in the great wide world than expected.

Although the production quantity is planned as prudently as possible and new developments are responded to as spontaneously as possible, exact planning down to the individual sizes is never possible.

In other words: As much as we want to avoid it – there are shoes left. But what is important: No shoe is thrown away! All shoes may stay and will be available for purchase again in the next season. The same applies to all Wildling shoes that do not meet the visual requirements. Regularly, a sale is held for the "love at second sight" (Second Choice). Shoes where something has really gone wrong during production are distributed among the team or find a loving home in other ways. 

What we find additionally nice about this whole sale topic is that even those people who have laid their eyes on a specific model, but weren't entirely convinced yet, can find their match. Or make those happy whose budget is not enough for the regular prices. And, of course, for all who are looking forward to another pair of Wildling shoes.

Cover image: @harmonychildhood