Fashion’s New Rules: Using Technology to realise the Potential of Iconic Products [Part 2 of 4]

Fashion’s New Rules: Using Technology to realise the Potential of Iconic Products [Part 2 of 4]

(In 20 years) the aggregate value of the 100 most valuable global brands has doubled, reaching beyond $2.1 trillion. Brands are more important than they have ever been. However, their traditional paradigm is reaching its exhaustion.

The End of Positioning: Introducing Iconic Moves, Interbrand - 2019

In the first instalment of our new content series ‘Fashion’s New Rules: Customisation, Connection and Digitally-Enabled Production’, we explored how customisation is helping brands respond to the challenges of digital disruption and turning customers into brand collaborators; in turn pushing fashion production to recognise the opportunity in moving away from a mass market approach to connect demand to production for the first time.

(Missed Part 1? Recap here).

This week, we’re taking a closer look at the ways in which these technologies are breathing new life into classic brands and their best-loved and most enduring products.

Reimagining Iconic Products

Every brand has an icon.

From the Hermès Birkin bag to a Burberry trench or Napapijri rainforest jacket, iconic products historically transcend the cut and thrust of changing trends to offer consumers the chance to own something timeless.

Favoured by customers decade after decade, their value is upheld through a mix of exclusivity, editorial favour and celebrity patronage.

But here too, changing customer behaviours are forcing these hardy brand favourites into a reimagining for the digital future.

Nowhere is this behavioural shift more apparent than in the changing face of luxury retail.

Legacy brands are pivoting from luxury as deeply exclusive, to more dynamically inclusive. New brands are emerging to define new categories and business models. And all in the restless pursuit of consumers who now ask to access luxury on their own terms.

Desire: Beyond Retail and Luxury, Interbrand - 2019

Brands must help consumers ‘access products on their own terms’ without compromising on all-important brand value, and the exclusivity upon which the value relies.

If they can do this, not only will they inspire loyal brand fans but will help extract the value locked into these iconic products, introducing them to new markets and new customers.

We see curated customisation technology as a crucial way to reinvigorate products and maximise their commercial potential.

Brands are already experimenting with software and platforms that allow key elements of iconic products to be personalised, from colourways to patterns.

With the design settings remaining under the brand’s control, determining what elements can be played with and how, the product's iconic DNA is preserved even while capturing the customer’s power of imagination in a deeply engaging interaction.

Maximising Iconic Potential

For brands, the commercial advantages are clear.

Offering sophisticated new customer experiences opens up iconic products to the new breed of discerning but savvy connected customer, one who desires quintessential brand items but with a modern twist.

Research by YouGov shows consumer perception towards customisation has grown. In 2018, 29% of Americans purchased personalised apparel and footwear, compared to 21%  in 2016. The largest contribution to growth coming from consumers reported to seek a sense of identity, demonstrate creativity and participate in a unique buying experience - a hugely valuable opportunity.

Consider also the associated production benefits of customised products.

By their nature, customised garments must be manufactured on-demand, boosting efficiency in production and mitigating the need for discounted or unsold stock.

More full-price sales and fewer markdowns preserve the esteem of iconic products and help cement brand influence.

New Balance: a World First

Unmade’s partnership with global sportswear giant New Balance is one such example. Famed for athletic footwear, New Balance has implemented UnmadeOS to create a world-first - the launch of a fully customisable knitted upper on a shoe.

The Unmade x New Balance 111 Knit shoe offers customers the choice of a range of colourways, patterns, graphics and text, using UnmadeOS’s visualisation tooling which delivers photographic renders of the customer’s unique design pre-purchase.

The customisation and design process is fully connected to the New Balance supply chain using Unmade’s patented algorithms, automatically turning unique designs into production ready files.

Such an investment in customer experience is helping New Balance, an established brand with over 100 years of manufacturing and design prestige, to create a truly exciting brand experience, delighting existing customers and engaging new ones.

(Read more - or watch a video - profiling our work with New Balance).

Iconic Customer Experiences

As with any technology investment, the key to realising potential is to relentlessly focus on the needs of the customer.

Curated customisation is proving to be an invaluable method to increase engagement in brand favourites. It encourages existing customers to explore beloved and familiar products in new ways, while simultaneously attracting new customers with inventive, playful tools to energise iconic products they may never have engaged with previously.

Next: The Future of Production? Data, Not Guesswork

In our third article, we’ll be interviewing Unmade co-founder and Chief Product Officer Ben Alun-Jones, for exclusive insights into why the future of fashion requires demand-driven production, what technologies are in place to help us get there and an insider view on where the industry is as a whole. Don't miss it!