Noelle here! Sending a few words out into cyberspace…
Over the past few weeks, Kali and I have spent most of our time in an ensuing and enveloping brain storm. We have identified a problem in the world of fashion; a problem that can be categorized in a few areas.
One, revolves around individuality, or lack thereof. In a world where nearly all apparel goods are mass produced, it comes by no surprise that our options cannot fully satisfy each of us in. In a very real way, each customer is its own market, with different needs, views, style, shape etc. For more information on this concept, check out the progressive work of author and mass customization theorist, Joseph Pine.
The industrial revolution pushed the apparel industry to evolve into an entity that predicts and dictates who we are and what we want, rather than to offer goods that fit our exact needs. Though mass production provides access of goods to the masses, its’ system limits our individuality by assuming each person has the same set of needs/wants. Enter mass customization. A soaring new structure that can still produce goods at the same rate, with an ability to alter that good to a ‘perfect fit’.
How on earth does this work in the apparel industry? Currently, the production cycle is summed up in the following; A garment is designed, mass manufactured, distributed to retail/wholesale locations, and then waits until the customer (hopefully!) purchases it. This process unfortunately relies on predictions of consumer trends, which more often than not, fall short. What occurs is a long list of expenses, from unsold products, to product discounts, to product waste. Nearly 50% of all apparel goods end up in a clearance isle which further drives the loss.
Mass customization reverses the process by only making what has already been purchased. The customer finds a style they like and alters it further to their specifications. Then and ONLY then is the item made. No wasted excess, ever. At its core, a sustainable structure that saves money.
Incredible strides are being made by companies that are teaching manufacturers to set up processes that enable this change. Once manufacturers are capable of a mass customization work flow, they can provide the same quality product at a potentially smaller price point. Incredible.
So, we will be seeking out US apparel manufacturers whose abilities, or at least objectives, align with ours. A tricky task, as mass customization is still a relatively new concept.
Check out some of the incredible companies that are already using a mass customization structure and let us know what you think!