The Group Buy

Ruth Kelly

Just because we are one doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference. There is strength in numbers. These beliefs are at the heart of the launch of Intern’s new group-buying platform.

What is group buying?

Group buying, also known as collective buying, offers products and services at reduced market prices or allows access to high minimum order products on the condition that a minimum number of buyers would make the purchase. 

During their first 30-day challenge Intern had set out on a mission to offer their community, factory direct textiles, thinking it would be an easy next step to take. They soon found it was anything but easy.

The initiative in its purest form was to offer the raw materials typically reserved for industry giants, but direct to small brands, makers, independent designers and students. Unlike Kickstarter or Massdrop, platforms that pre-fund finished goods, their platform would be offering raw materials, trims and hardware on a pre-order basis. Once the factory MOQ (minimum order quantity) is met, production would be officially unlocked.

We get messages all of the time from different designers, asking how they can get fabric mills to simply reply to their queries. It’s funny because we were in that exact same position just over a few years ago.


A majority of these massive manufacturers work in an economy of scale, and it’s simply not sustainable for them to be dealing with small orders. They have to account for all of the logistics of their facility which have to be built over a number of years before approaching profitability. Mills do not operate on large profit margins, so size of orders are really important for them to build up efficiencies in manufacturing in order to make a profit.

In addition, mills operate on a made to order, made to measure basis. They produce an innumerable amount of samples to showcase ‘what is possible’ but leaving it to each brand to define their particular needs and wants. Colour plays a huge role in the breadth of samples a mill produces.

The whole entire industry is geared towards mass manufacturing and remains the status quo. Clearly the system is not working, not only do mills spend the majority of their time on product and relationship management, but despite minimum order quantities (MOQ’s) their warehouses are stuffed with deadstock.

A print house showing excess stock

This put Intern’s plans in a bit of a predicament when they began to try and approach different vendors. Nobody wants to hear the question, how low can you go? On average they would be looking at 500-3000 meter minimums, with high surcharges or penalties for not meeting these quantities. 

We knew that in order to enact change, we had to at least pretend to play the game.


Since the first 30-day challenge, Intern have been lucky enough to expand from an idea into an operation; a technical apparel design and development consultancy. This has allowed them to engage in some conversations on behalf of the brands they work with, “slipping us past the gatekeepers so to speak”.

Still despite Intern’s successes, it didn’t solve their initial problem.

We wanted to be able to build product on our own terms, and even though we were working with some of the biggest suppliers in the industry, we weren’t able to bring the same resources to our community.

Photo Credit : Intern

It was clear after meeting countless like-minded individuals on their travels that the idea of a group-buying platform was welcomed, but what stands between it and success, is group size. 

At this time, Intern still need support in building this platform. In order to meet vendor MOQs, the community needs to reach 500-1000 members as it’s likely that only about 10% of members will join a buy at any given time. Furthermore, this is the best time to hear from the community, in helping shape what this platform can be.

Based on community response, Intern can curate or design fabrics that would be as good if not better than what your favorite brands are using.

We want other designers to ask you, hey, what’s that?
And for once (finally), you will be able to give a satisfying answer and send them to the group-buy. 


If you are a small brand, independent designer, maker or student, or know someone that is, please share the link below to sign up or head to @techwear.intern on instagram to sign up through their bio. This is a no obligation, 100% risk free process.

INTERN presents “The Group Buy”

Photo Credit : Intern

Article by Ruth Kelly

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