THEY ARE CALLING IT CROWDSOURCING, AND if you don’t know what it is all about, you better learn soon! This is a whole new idea in fashion, and major brands as well as many smaller players are in on what looks like a fairly long ride.
What Crowdsourcing basically means is giving the consumer the opportunity to decide what is designed and produced by a particular firm. On a large scale, it is often referred to as many-to-many. Yes, of course…this is Internet material!
But here’s the thing: consumers can not only create clothes, they can then share and rate each other’s designs and even get paid if someone orders their creations. Call it fashion democracy, customized products, or what you will. This is a very, very hot movement!
Many very big brands are in on the Crowdsourcing wave-length, like Bloomingdale’s and Nike and Keds. A number of little guys are getting into the action, too, like ModCloth and Spoonflower, small but smart startups on the retail scene.
Analysts predict the specialized products growing out of Crowdsourcing and the like will eventually represent 10 percent or more of the total market for apparel and accessories. That means big bucks!
Keds Collective is a curated collection of designs from artists, musicians and others. It is a good example of how the new customization can work with standard company designs. “We provide a clear point of view or starting point for the product and encourage people to add their point of view on top of that. We feel it really reinforces the brand’s positioning of creative possibilities,” Burrows says.
A major point to note: Retail accounts can also order and sell custom product!
CROWDSOURCING WORKS MOST EASILY WHEN A BASIC DESIGN IS FIRST PRESENTED TO THE CUSTOMER. HERE ARE SOME CLASSIC BASIC JEWELRY FORMS THAT STAND ON THEIR OWN:
- Plated rope chain. Add a pendant – or wear as is.
Just the Beginning
THIS IS REALLY JUST THE BEGINNING of Crowdsourcing, and nobody knows what directions it might go in the future. Companies are using it for all manner of things! For example, Threadless is a Chicago-based company that makes close to $40 million a year producing and selling customized t-shirts. Graphic designs are submitted and chosen by users on the site.
Then, there is a company called Ponoko. Customers here can create, sell, source and produce just about anything from tables to jewelry. Visitors to the site can upload designs to the firm, which is located in New Zealand, and it then laser cuts the design in felt, metal, wood, or other materials.
At Spoonflower, anyone can design, order and sell custom printed fabric. Designers earn 10 percent if somebody else orders one of their designed fabrics. The firm produces more than 2,000 yards of fabric a week, with more than 50 percent of the company’s customers making fabric to sell.
Spoonflower’s spokesperson says textile design is something that used to be limited to a tiny number of professionals and the products were mass produced. “But today, you put these tools for self-expression out there, and people will embrace them, whether it’s books, photography, or textile design. The same thing could easily be true for product and apparel design. Micro-manufacturing could easily become a significant force in the United States.”
Marshall Cohen, who is chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, says customers love Crowdsourcing but, “It’s got to be quick and easy for the consumer to execute.” Discussing its popularity with young people, Cohen referred to what he called “distinctive conformity.” Teens want to wear something no one else has, but they also don’t want to be laughed at. With the right kind of Crowdsourcing, they can create something unique, but not too unique!
NOT EVERYBODY IS INTO DESIGNING THEIR OWN PRODUCTS. FOR THE MAJORITY OF US, JUST BUYING GOOD PRODUCTS AT THE RIGHT PRICE IS ENOUGH. HERE ARE SOME GOOD EXAMPLES:
- Stylish oversized tote handbag in washed metallic colors. Wow!