Mass customisation in fashion is like VR (virtual reality) – it’s been around for ages, one day is HUGE, the next is MEH, then after two years becomes hot again, and everyone goes “Mass customisation will change the world of fashion FOREVER”, then nothing happens, then it goes BOOM again, and so on and so forth. Repeat. Again and again.

From Levi Strauss in the ‘90s, via NIKEiD, to recent examples such as Longchamp, LV and Neiman Marcus + Manolo Blahnik, Prada and – of course – Burberry, we’ve seen it all.

But the question is – does mass customisation work for fashion brands?

From Business of Fashion: ‘Will Mass Customisation Work For Fashion?’

‘Despite the success of services like NikeiD, mass customisation has yet to take off in fashion.

The good side of it: ‘With mass customisation, customers get products exactly configured to their needs and tastes. They also pay for products before they are put into production, eliminating the risk of excess inventory and resulting discounts — a major advantage for businesses operating in trend-driven sectors like fashion, where consumer demand is hard to predict.’

And the dark side of the situation: ‘Yet mass customisation has yet to really take off in fashion, especially at the higher end of the market. Tinker Tailor, a mass customisation platform for designer fashion, launched by Moda Operandi founder Aslaug Magnusdottir, folded in July after less than a year in business. And, just last month, Burberry Bespoke, a Nike iD-like service for luxury trenchcoats (priced from about $1,800 to $8,800), was quietly closed in the days before the British luxury brand launched Burberry Scarf Bar, a simpler service that lets customers monogram their initials on scarves (priced from about $475 to $995) made from colours, fabric weights and patterns of their choosing, reflecting a recalibration of the company’s approach to customisation.’ 

RIP Burberry Bespoke, then, let’s try something else, they said: enter The Burberry Scarf Bar.

Introducing The Burberry Scarf Bar

From Adweek: ‘Ever Wonder What Goes Into a Burberry Scarf? This Smart, Lovely Ad Shows You’

‘For the launch of its new Scarf Bar, where users both online and in-store can customize their own scarves, Burberry decided to educate people on what goes into making one.

When a brand launches a customization service, people (rightfully) assume their options are limited and at least somewhat automated to ensure fast service to the most customers possible. In other words, it can cheapen and commodify—the opposite of luxury.

But this video succeeds in illustrating, beautifully, what a total headache it is to produce a Burberry scarf, while reminding you of its premium value—or, as one YouTube commenter put it, “why it’s expensive.”

So, in general, mass customisation for fashion presents some issues:

  • Time. It took Tinker Tailor up to four months to deliver customised products.
  • Economies of scale. Forget about it.
  • Too much choice. It can confuse potential customers, says Joseph Pine, author of the seminal book Mass Customisation.
  • Giving too much freedom to prosumers to play around with things can mean brand dilution.
  • Many people buy from a brand because they “trust” it, and love what the designer does.

Conclusion – Mass customisation might work for some brands and some wardrobe pieces and staples – accessories like scarves, and shoes, not only Nikes and Converses, but also sandals and “ugly chic” footwear, like this article on The Guardian suggests – but, when it comes to a Burberry coat, it’s either completely bespoke, or the highway.

What do you think? 

Appnova is a digital agency specializing in web design, UX, eCommerce, branding, digital marketing and social media.

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