Case Study

Sustainable manufacturing in the fashion industry: Jeni Allison's Custom Loop

Sustainable manufacturing in the fashion industry: Jeni Allison's Custom Loop

Jeni Allison is a knitwear designer and product developer based in Edinburgh. Previously she has developed knitted products for Chanel, Loewe, Sonia Rykiel, Scottish Sculpture Workshop and her own brand, Jeni Allison. Jeni uses digital design and simulation technologies to make the product development process as accurate, sustainable and visual as possible.

A few years ago, while working for a luxury clothing manufacturer based in the Scottish Borders, Jeni observed that it was very difficult for large brands to operate sustainably as the upfront costs and minimum production orders were extremely high. Jeni applied to Creative Informatics’ Resident Entrepreneur programme with an idea to create an app in which customers could work within set guidelines for how knitwear is produced and change them slightly to create their own designs, without increasing the cost to the manufacturer. This would allow them to customise and create one off designs with no need for mass production.

“At its heart this project is an environmental one. In my previous role at a knitwear manufacturer I watched as brands ordered multiple units of a garment or accessory without knowing for sure if it would sell. The coronavirus pandemic showed the risk involved in this strategy – shops were shut, supply chains interrupted and products sat in warehouses unable to be sold. The environmental impact of unsold clothes is colossal.” – Jeni Allison

Image: Jeni Allison Knitwear

Jeni worked with a developer and together they decided to run the app with Fabric JS. Jeni initially planned an app that would work almost like pixel art whereby customers could draw their own designs, however through the process of making the app decided to keep control of the designs; creating a series of motifs which can be placed on the knitted fabric and manipulated through scale, rotation, copy and paste and background colour change. This allows people to ‘design their own’ knit with guardrails in place meaning they can’t make anything which would be out of keeping with the designer’s aesthetic.

Working with her Creative Informatics mentor and taking the opportunity to get legal advice provided by the programme, Jeni set up a limited company Knit One which hold the IP of the app Custom Loop. This limited company will act as a licence holder for any brands/organisations who might want to licence the app, which currently allows users to create designs for a custom scarf or blanket, in the future. Following user testing, Jeni realised that there was demand for personalisation –including initials and names on products – so has integrated this functionality.

Image: Jeni Allison working in her Edinburgh Studio

Custom Loop launched in October 2022 at Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh as part of its knitwear exhibition KNITWEAR: Chanel to Westwood. The app featured as an iPad interactive for visitors to the exhibition. The opportunity for a physical launch of the digital app meant that Jeni was able to access a wider range of customers and benefit from the publicity surrounding the exhibition. This resulted in press coverage and sales through a pop-up shop.

Since its launch, Custom Loop has featured in a number of different events and showcases. Jeni was interviewed and featured in the Creative Informatics film Data Driven Innovation for Sustainable Creative Practice, which premiered at the New European Bauhaus Festival in Brussels on 9 June 2022. It was also screened at a public event in Edinburgh on 18 January 2023 and Jeni took part in a panel discussion with participants from the other projects featured in the film. A sample scarf created using the Custom Loop app was displayed as part of the Creative Informatics exhibition at the UK Innovation & Tech Show in Brussels on 15 March 2023.



In April 2023, Jeni featured in a panel discussion as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival. Knitting with Data looked at how three artists and makers were combining data science with their art. The sold-out event was chaired by Creative Informatics Programme Manager, Nicola Osborne and attended by a highly engaged and enthusiastic audience.

Jeni believes that her experience as a Creative Informatics Resident Entrepreneur has been invaluable in providing the support to develop and bring her idea into reality. Looking to the future, she is focusing on other exhibition and pop-up opportunities but largely exploring how the app could be licensed to other brands as this represents the greatest potential for growth. The focus continues to be on knitwear, but it has the potential to be adapted to suit other designed products.


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