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OM in the News: Tech + Fast Fashion = Mass Customization

April 11, 2018

A computer screen showing a 3-D body scan with body measurements in custom software

Style trends are moving faster than ever in an age when a shopper can spot an outfit on Instagram and buy it with just a few clicks, writes The Wall Street Journal (April 10, 2018). That immediacy is prompting the fashion industry to experiment with a business model called “click, buy and make.”

Today, Hong Kong clothing maker Bespokify’s customers, anywhere in the world, can order professional women’s clothing. Customers input their measurements, generating a digital pattern for clothes manufactured in China, and receive their orders within 2 weeks of purchase.

“Consumers are now shopping 24 hours a day and are being trained to expect new styles all the time,” says an industry analyst. Big retailers also are looking into the click-buy-and-make model. A year ago, Amazon won a patent with which it could take a customer’s order, print a pattern on fabric and send it to be cut by a robot before being assembled by another robot.

Hong Kong’s Li & Fung Ltd., one of the largest supply chain managers in the global garment industry, thinks new technologies could ultimately mean that more companies would be able to place small orders and avoid being stuck with extra inventory. “Just look at the average size of orders—it’s been going down for years,” its CEO said. “It went from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands. And it will keep going down until it approaches a unit of 1.”

Software and robotics have been in use in fashion for some years. Companies like Proper Cloth use technology to predict a customer’s ideal shirt measurements without having to measure them in person.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. What is keeping this technology from wider use?
  2. Name some other industries moving toward mass customization.
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