Monday, May 31, 2010

Selling individuality

Most of us want to be unique. Different than all the rest. We regale in our find of a TV show, or cinematic treasure that no one else has discovered. We troll the Internet looking for the next big musical sensation. We can recall the time that we found the perfect pair of jeans or shirt, for our lumpy and less than model styled bodies. That thrill you get when fashion seems to weld to our bodies; a near blissful synergy, made only for us.

So it's no surprise that retailers are re-tooling their businesses models to offer customization, detailing and "made by you" as a way to capture customer interest. Not that any of this is new. We've been able to slap our name on the back of a t-shirt since the days of the slide rule. The difference now is the ability to customize well beyond the name, choosing colors, fit, fabric and style. All powered by advances in technology, but also a shift in manufacturer thinking, that there is a financial return beyond the "one size fits all" approach.

One company in the new DIY fashion arena is a company that focuses entirely on custom designed men's shirts. You are "co-creator" on their website, choosing fabric, style, sizing and adding your own personal touch, such as monogramming, buttons or your own private label. The experience is billed as being fun, easy and more than anything, the opportunity to create something that is all your own, not one of ten thousand. They have received a great deal of lavish press, all of which you can read on their website.

Blank Label joins a new and growing movement of individualized products. allows you to create a personalized custom granola (what better way to start your day by celebrating your oneness through cereal). is a youth oriented site that allows members to create and upload their own t-shirt graphic creations to show the world. Threadless builds a community, while at the same time providing cash, and exposure to budding graphic designers, likely silkscreening away at a campus near you.

If online customization is not your thing, and you prefer the in store personal touch, check out "Tailored Clothing Technology Corp", or TC2. This company has been developing 3D scan technology, allowing for customers to achieve the perfect fit, The customer stands, in what is essentially an airport security scanner, strips down and dons a scan wear outfit as 16 scanners cruise around creating an incredibly accurate 3 dimensional image of your body - lumps and all.

The technology was first installed in 1999 at Levis' San Francisco flagship store for perfectly fitted jeans. Now the technology has been installed at Brooks Brothers and Victoria's Secret. The US Coast Guard has bought a machine (for perfectly fitted underwear!), as have 40 to 50 Colleges with fashion design programs.

A little closer to the campus store experience is the company At first this company build its reputation on customizing sports jerseys at arenas throughout the US and Canada. Using a vending machine concept, customers can use the interface to order their favorite players sports jersey, or add their own name and number to the product. Now FanZones has been reaching into the college market with their in store customizable solution. They showed at Camex 2010, and while their focus has been in the college team customization, they make a good case for campus stores making this customization product available to many groups on campus. Alumni, Presidents office, Student Groups. The list is endless as how this company could really help the camps store build goodwill (and sales), by offering an in house customizable product. Worth checking out to build incremental sales and weave your store further into the campus community.

Finally, you can be an individual even while staying abroad. In Brussels, you can stay at the newly opened Pantone Hotel. Each room is designed in an official Pantone color palette. Your room shade is assigned based on your mood at check in. From there, the color matching concept is carried over to the hotel's amenities. The rooftop bar is a great place to sip a Daiquiri Green 12-0435. Guests can sign up for color consultations and seminars on color psychology. You can check it out here.

"Make it mine" seems to be the statement of the day. Enjoy creating and wearing your own styles, choosing just the right color palette for your stay in Brussels, and wouldn't it be great if you could scan your way through airport security, receiving a perfectly fitted suit at the same time? It makes taking off your shoes in the airport that much more worthwhile.

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