We use to wear rugged boots, now it’s all tailored suits
-A$AP Rocky (Hell)
Right now, we’re witnessing a shift from “mass-manufactured” to “made-for-me”. It’s happening across almost every vertical, where customization is important and even some where it’s not. It’s being driven by consumers who increasingly see value in products that better fit their lives and bodies. Advancements in technology that reduce price and increase accessibility of bespoke products are acting as an enabler. The independent confluence of these 2 forces, consumers wanting custom products and improved mass-customization manufacturing techniques, is a powerful change agent.
The desire for “custom” has been a major consumer trend for a number of years now. It’s not being fueled by technology, rather customers increasingly wanting to demonstrate individuality, status (custom is perceived as higher value), and differentiate in a very homogenous market.
Products weren’t always so similar. Prior to the industrial revolution, most products were custom. No one bought dress shirts made in China or shoes made in Italy unless they lived in those places. They relied on local artisans and small regional manufacturers to fit them and then make the product by hand. Industrialization instilled consistency and higher quality products at a lower price but replaced customization with “good-enough” fit.
Today, technologies like computer controlled sowing machines, computer controlled cutting machines, 3D printers and industrial robots are creating a manufacturing environment where the price of custom and the price of mass-manufactured is converging. It’s not there yet, but custom is starting to move past the first adopters. Look at custom suits, custom bride’s maids dresses, jewelry, headphones, bikinis and of course, custom insoles.
I’ve spent the last few months immersed in the custom world and the sheer number of new companies taking the custom approach across verticals is shocking, it’s the tip of the iceberg.
Add “non-custom” clothing to the list of things I think children born today will never understand to the great list that already includes such notable awesomeness as “cars that don’t drive themselves” and “not being able to take a vacation to space”.