It’s a new season for fashion production.

Global economic uncertainty, rising new markets and the unstoppable impact of digital technologies on the fashion experience continue to exert pressure on once untouchable brands.

Companies must think strategically, sharpen their decision making, and keep their fingers on the pulse of customer demand...One size will not fit all.
The State of Fashion 2020: Navigating Uncertainty - McKinsey

Fashion production is changing, because consumer behaviour is changing.

In a world of increasing choice, new digital-first players and the enormous influence of social media, consumers are redefining the buying rules.

How can brands and the wider industry respond to these changes? More importantly, can our responses be reflected in current manufacturing models built for mass production?

These are crucial questions we’re going to explore in our latest content series ‘Fashion’s New Rules: Customisation, Connection and Digitally-Enabled Production’, offering up unmissable insights from our work and research, with original case studies and exclusive interview content from our senior team.

In this, the first article in this four-part series, let’s begin by exploring the changing fashion customer experience and why customisation could be the beginning of its reimagined future.

Why Customisation is Turning Fashion Consumers into Brand Collaborators

Digital technologies are driving exponential change in customer behaviours right across industries - fashion is no exception.

The role of the consumer has shifted from one of passive observance to enabled dominance.
Digital transformation: the ultimate challenge for the fashion industry - Deloitte (2018)

Sophisticated mobile device technologies coupled with the explosive impact of social media has put buying power back into the hands of hyper-connected consumers. This connected consumer can now compare products, read peer reviews globally and make buying decisions, often long before they make contact with a brand. This represents a huge shift, from brands pushing trends, to consumers pulling them. Turning them into curators.

Smart brands understand that harnessing the power of digital to create new and meaningful customer experiences that go beyond traditional service, is going to be crucial to staying relevant in the new power dynamic.

But how? The answer may lie in curated customisation.

The demand for personalisation is there...more than 50% of consumers expressed interest in personalised products. The majority of consumers would also be willing to pay more, particularly in more expensive or fashion related categories.
Made-to-order: The rise of mass personalisation - Deloitte Consumer Review (2019)

Dynamic visualisation tooling and customisation options are fast growing in popularity, allowing consumers to change the colours and patterns of garments, to their taste, from a set of curated design settings.

With photorealistic 3D visualisation and on-model photography, consumers are invited to collaborate with their favourite brands and create unique pieces with more meaning and value, while brands still preserve their integrity by defining the underlying curation options.

The market was crying out for a design-led and fully digital customer experience that was seamless in manufacturing and delivery.
Ed Clifford, Rapha CTO

(Unmade recently helped iconic cycling brand Rapha deliver a customisable team range offering designed to disrupt the current custom cycling market - you can learn more here and view the gallery below)

Customisation Driving On-Demand Production

Customisation offers an interesting challenge to current production methods, built for high volumes and cost reductions, a seasonal approach to design and long development cycles.

If we introduce customisation, we are introducing a new way of looking at manufacture, evolving from mass production based on predicted sales volumes to making the products we know people want, with the data to not only back it up, but also to inform the production process itself.

Developing and enabling the supply chain to adopt an on-demand approach, so that what we see is what gets produced, not only maximises efficiency for brands and mitigates the impact of unsold or reduced inventory, it helps instigate an important leap forward in-immersive customer experience.

Winning the War for the Connected Customer

What’s fundamental to consider in the deployment and investment of these technologies is an absolute commitment to putting the consumer at the heart of the experience, and bring the product and brand experience into one.

Consumers want to create unique pieces and brands need to offer that capability, understanding that increasingly, they want to ‘make’ rather than simply ‘buy’ - they want to buy in to a brand, not simply buy from them.

Remember, the power shift has already happened and brands who welcome that shift will win.

Customisation tools and technologies empowering on-demand production are critical in the fight to win the loyalty of the connected and discerning fashion consumer.

Next: How Fashion Technology is Realising the Potential of Iconic Products:

In our next article, we’ll be examining how brands can realise the potential of their most iconic products to win in new markets and get fit for a digital future.