Fashion tech company YR recently partnered with Karl Lagerfeld to create an exclusive in-store customisation experience to personalise limited Iconic Karl Lagerfeld white shirts in honour of the late Chanel designer. Here, YR CEO Tim Williams examines how customisation can help make fashion more sustainable.
Fashion is one of the most wasteful industries in the world. According to a 2018 report released by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the apparel industry produces 20% of global water waste and 10% of global carbon emissions, while 21 billion tons of textiles are sent to landfills each year. Many of these materials can take hundreds, if not thousands of years to decompose.
At the same time, consumers increasingly continue to purchase more throw-away clothing than ever before. The 2017 Ellen MacArthur Foundation report revealed a 100% increase in the amount of clothing bought in the last 15 years while the number of times an item is worn has declined by 20%. This is due to constantly changing trends which are reinforced by the likes of Instagram - where outfits are often not worn more than once to get that perfect #OOTD shot. So, how is customisation tackling this issue?
Customisation is a growing global trend that confronts the growing problem of fast-fashion head-on. Would we be so eager to quickly discard and replace clothing if we had access to bespoke pieces of apparel and footwear? Probably not – because consumers will naturally develop a special attachment to the pieces they have designed and curated themselves. It becomes a memorable experience as well as a powerful connection between them and the brand. A product we identify with and attach a memory or experience to is one we keep for longer. We will most likely repair the item when it’s damaged rather than just throw it away, leading to longer product lifetimes.
We all want to do our bit for the planet, but it isn't always simple to incorporate. Technology has made personalisation super easy and accessible to consumers and retailers alike. Nike, DKNY, Selfridges, Ralph Lauren and Levi’s are just some of the brands investing in in-store tech, which enables consumers to create their own design and print on apparel live in the store. It’s important to be user-friendly to make the whole experience seamless and enjoyable. This could mean incorporating touchscreens, intuitive design software, digital rendering and state-of-the-art decoration technology. Used correctly, customisation can be utilised as a tool to enhance shopping experiences.
The next era of fashion is all about personalisation. Consumers want clothing that fits better and more personalised recommendations tailored to them. Using technology to create a custom experience through inputting style preferences and sizes as well as using online AR fitting rooms can help cut down carbon footprints through the reduction of returns, since they aid the consumer to buy the right size clothing the first time around. These personalised tools could even be utilised to produce made to measure clothing.
One of the biggest issues surrounding sustainability is that products are manufactured in bulk to keep up with current trends and subsequent consumer-demand. However, if more people are personalising clothes and shoes and, are therefore more considered with their choices, this should naturally reduce the need for bulk-buying, which will ultimately have a positive impact on the environment. But are customers willing to wait for their clothing to be customised? Well, they don’t need to. New customisation technologies have enabled businesses to efficiently print on clothing as and when required, with companies like YR store even offering live in-store printing. The speed of direct-to-garment (DTG) printing means that the time taken to complete an on-demand or customised product is decreased. Personalisation no longer means having to wait patiently for weeks for your order. In-store customisation allows retailers to order fewer variants of a basic item as customers create their own variants, therefore reducing wastage in the supply chain.
Customisation lends itself to recycling. You can revive an old pair of jeans by printing a new design or rework them into shorts or a skirt. There might just be a bigger appetite for the product if recycled into something new as opposed to it being left for landfill. Customisation has endless possibilities with technologies allowing for printing on pretty much anything! Fashion items can potentially be reworked to adjust to trends, consequently reducing waste.
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