Fashion Discovers Crowdsourcing

Source: FT, Feb 2011

Forget dictating the trends, these days brands are throwing the ball into the consumer’s court. Crowdsourcing – allowing your audience to decide on your product via social media, forums, and high-tech web customising programs – has become the buzz phrase in fashion.

This month, for example, New York luminary Derek Lam will launch a new collection via eBay. The affordable line will be unveiled with a runway show during New York fashion week and designs will be put to the vote on eBay.com in a three-stage process. (Only the favourites will go into production.)

Then there’s Burberry. This year the company will launch a new mass customisation website allowing any fan to customise a classic trench coat in any number of colours or fabrics, embellish it and add a monogram. They can then show their style to friends, who will be able to order it too.

“One of the biggest challenges brands face is deciding how much to produce, and of what. In the past they’ve usually relied on a combination of gut instinct and previous seasons’ sales to decide but even the best merchants make mistakes. Using the wisdom of crowds, some customers say what they like in advance.”

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