We recently attended a talk at London College of Fashion exploring the latest developments in co-design within online fashion.
Julia Wolny explained that there are several different models for co-design in this context:
Co-creation of a service: Zafu, is a company who recommend a style/type of jean that suits what a consumer may be looking for.
Co-creation of fashion ‘looks’: My Virtual Model is a service which gives you a 3D model to play around with clothing items. It started as a site to sell clothes from different retailers but has also developed an online community who simply share their favourite existing outfits.
Co-creation of a product: There are several examples of this idea where companies ask consumers to have a say in the colour or ‘cosmetic’ decisions of a product, like the Reebok trainers which you can choose the colour combinations for.
Consumer as designer: Ponoko is a company which makes interior products based on a customer's design. They also sell designer/makers work and helps consumers to manufacture and distribute a product.
Threadless are a successful Tshirt company who allow the consumer to choose/vote on a favourite design for a tshirt. The design with the most votes is put into production.
In the past, fashion brands may have run focus groups with consumers to gauge what they wanted from a product, but the Internet has made it much easier to facilitate a more open-source approach to including consumers in the design, development and manufacture of a product.
However, how realistic are these ideas? Julia Wolny asked the most obvious question: Are consumers creative? Do we really believe that consumers will want/be able to get involved and contribute to the design and manufacturing process of fashion garments?
Will our modern lifestyles, with the lack of time and lack of incentive to 'customise', prevent this format from becoming mainstream?
Time will tell, but if the commercial success of an interactive enterprise like Threadless is anything to go by, fashion consumers are keen to get more involved.