Last week, I had a consultation with my friend about how to establish a custom production business process for premium fashion brands. Here is some of the advice I gave to her.
As predicted by Alvin Toffler over 40 years ago, customers are now getting tired of always chasing the newer and newer trend in the fashion industry and of being told what to wear. Customers are now looking to be more involved in the creation and production of their fashion in order to make it more of a collaborative process. We may be at the start of a fourth industrial revolution where customization, flexibility and collaboration are the keys.
I have been involved into businesses with a high degree of customization for the last 8+ years and have learned a lot. Let me share some of my vision and tips below.
Customization, in my opinion, is different than couture, handmade or personalized products. Customization requires a business process that allows you to build a custom made high quality product fast and without significantly raising the price to a buyer (not more than 10-20%). Once you can set this up this foundation in your business (which can take some time and careful decision making), than you can start to successfully mass produce your custom products.
To start, you need to have a strong base product that can be created reliably and quickly. From this base, establish the process whereby this base product can be altered in certain ways (sizing, color, material, design etc.). This allows the customer to feel that they have collaborated in the creation of their product and gives them the opportunity to have a unique and distinctive product. But pre-framing accurate expectations with your customer is of the utmost importance.
Second, the next level of customization involved working with customers to make new products and conceptions. This level of customization involved careful listening to the questions and wishes of your client. This can be done individually with customers or more broadly through social media. Often the wishes of one customer expresses the wishes of many so the creation of a collaborative product may be something that a lot of customers are interested in. At @corsettery we have numerous collaborative products that have turned into best sellers, mostly corsets. Also, we have created several exclusive collections for theaters and shops selling us offline so it is also often customization on a grander scale.
It is not always possible to take a customer’s vision and represent it in a fashion piece right away. It is sometimes a process of working together and experimenting with different techniques and approaches. So be patient especially if you are an online seller (@corsettery is sold online all over the world in more than 25 countries) as the back and forth can take some time. But the process even when its slow, can be so educational to engage in. I am proud to have started @corsettery in a manner where customization, flexibility and working together with customers is a main priority. Clients appreciate it very much and we receive wonderful and grateful letters all the time.