Monday, August 13, 2012

customize this!

by frédérik

If I were to sum up The Fashionoclast’s raison d’etre, it would be in four words that end in “al.” Ecological. Local. Ethical. Individual. That, dear readers, is why you won’t typically read posts featuring yours truly sporting a new sartorial acquisition. Despite the occasional indulgence, I just don’t tend to buy very many clothes or shoes unless there’s a need for it. (Of course, I also rarely like how I look in pictures and thus prefer not to inflict my mug on you.)

Of these four words, I’ve recently focused on the ecological and moral aspects of fashion. This week, I wanted to briefly turn to the “individual” element of fashion, namely, the capacity for fashion manufacturers to offer products that are customized for buyers instead of mass-produced yet nevertheless scaled for large production. Mass customization, in other words.

Interestingly, there is a way for companies to give the illusion of mass customization – by having a so large a catalog that customers have, in essence, a practical equivalent to having a product custom-made for themselves. Nail polish companies OPI and China Glaze offer a good example of this. Yet there’s something inherently satisfying about the way in which they present their catalog of colours: both offer virtual nail salons in which users can choose their skin tone, nail length, and then “try on” nail polish colours to visualize how they would look. It’s a neat idea, and it lets customers drive their purchasing decisions based on their own personalities rather than whatever the company feels is trending.

Click here to try China Glaze's virtual nail salon.

Click here to visit OPI's website, then choose "Try On Ttis Color" from the menu above.

An alternative approach is to have a kit of parts from which products can be assembled according to the customer’s preference, a trade-off between building each product from scratch and maintaining a huge inventory. Although Havaianas are to flip-flops what Crocs are to clogs, their make-your-own option is wonderful in the way in which it lets customers choose colors and ornamentation such as pins.

Click here to make your own Havaianas (or just have fun with the website.)
Similarly great is Chicago-based jeweler Erin Gallagher’s capacity to let users design their own pieces. It personalizes the buying experience, allows customers to be more than just passive buyers, creates a stronger relationship with the brand, and I think highlights the role fashion designers should ultimately have: as enablers of personal style rather than dictators.

Click ye here for EG's design-your-own-jewelry tool.

You may have noticed the section in the sidebar, which I introduced in an earlier post, but just in case you haven’t seen it I wanted to draw your attention to the “Design your own…” link category. As I find them, I’ll add websites that, like the ones above, take advantage of mass customization to deliver fashion that is fun and personal.

If you have any suggestions, let me know!

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