All of the changes that are rippling through the garment industry today are occurring because of the internet.
To be born in the time of the internet means to exist in a totally interconnected, interdependent world. There is no clearly defined source of information. Anyone can contribute. There are no clearly defined disciplines, specialities and industries. Everything is merging. There are fewer and fewer clearly defined jobs. Special skill sets and abilities are mandatory.
The internet is paving the way for the individual. A person with something to say and create, who understand the fusion of the multi faceted social and professional worlds and with the capacity to acquire insight into undeveloped and unchartered industries.
The Garment Industry 2.0 is created by, employs and sells to this individual.
The culture of the Garment Industry 2.0 has given rise to a myriad of social terminology that begins to define focus and the goals of the Industry 2.0: experience-centric, individual- centric, result-oriented, asset-light, pay-as-you-live, digital nomadism, self-learning, location independence, freelance, startup and access vs. ownership. In return, these shared goals are redefining the methods and relationships between product development, manufacturing product distribution and, finally, product consumption.
Etsy, Ebay, Craigslist, Amazon, Gustin Denim, Wool and the Gang, Lanieri, Girl Meets Dress, Vestiaire Collective and Everlane are only some of the organisations fusing the garment industry with the internet and the tech industry at large; irrevocably changing the nature of fashion.
The cutting-edge company Alive Shoes illustrates a version of the new supply chain and the role an individual consumer can play in product design, product development and selling.
Luca Botticelli, Marco Ferroni and Michele Torresi merged their considerable knowledge and backgrounds of the Italian shoe industry to form Alive Shoes: an international collaboration between the designer, the manufacturer and Alive Shoes.
Through Alive Shoes anyone can become a professional designer; all you need is gumption, talent and access to the internet. Design shoes, build your virtual boutique and create your personal label. When you reach seven sales your design will be manufactured and sold. For every pair sold, you make a minimum of €20. As most of their shoes are priced at around €100 you, the designer, are making between 15%-20%, at least as much as much as Ralph Lauren.
Alive Shoes is considerably more multifaceted than just a designer gateway. While they do not design, develop or create products, Alive Shoes is the infrastructure for the entire supply-chain and nexus between the consumer, the designer come seller and the factory:
- For the consumer, the Alive Shoes website functions as an e-shop, currently offering over 100 limited edition, Italian crafted, made-to-order shoes.
- For the designer-come-seller, Alive Shoes develops and provides design software, educational media, an online retail space and the opportunity to develop an independent brand identity.
- For the factory, Alive Shoes guarantees potentially infinite new designers and a completely new, global expanding market.
This is horizontal integration at its best.
At the core of Alive Shoes is the individual and the recognition that there is a high demand for unique, quality merchandise. They understand that each consumer is unique and therefor wants access to goods that will reflect their personal needs, taste and desires. They also, understand that there is a colossal amount of untaped talent in the world, which by it’s nature is capable of meeting the demands of the new consumers. By cutting out the middle man and giving middle-income consumers access to designer quality products, Alive Shoes, is expanding the purview of their Italian factories.
By hosting videos, articles and inspiration, Alive Shoes is providing a platform for experiential education. Soon-to-be-professional designers have the opportunity to learn, try, fail and try again in an environment where failure is not degraded and success is highly rewarded.
Experiential education is about gaining insight through experience, reflection, implementation and problem solving. It occurs every time you learn something new: when you are on holiday confronted by another culture, when you explain public transportation to a tourist, when you teach your parent how to use Facebook. The knowledge and understanding, once, gained is directly transferable to all successive experiences, coalescing into a unique library of abilities and skill sets.
The internet democratizes information and therefore plays a major role in experiential education: forums like Reddit, link people with shared interests on a global scale; sites like CIA.gov, provide access to massive amounts of raw and digested data; how-to videos on YouTube are created by people sharing their personally developed methods; blogs are dedicated to and chronicle everything from how to eat healthily to how to build model cars.
The online world of experiential learning is fuelling the global discussion of ethical values. The garment industry is frequently at the heart of the debate.
New consumers no longer believe what the old industry has to say. Brands and labels, advertisements and commercials, spokespeople and the face of … are viewed with suspicion and trepidation. Traditional experts represent a just-out-of-reach ideal, equipped with their own personal stylist and a well formulated recipe for perfection. They are there to tell you what you need because you are not enough. Think: Pygmalion or My Fair Lady.
The online community is redefining “the expert”.
The new expert is not employed by a product selling company; she is a peer of the consumer, struggling to meet the same lifestyle goals and facing the same choices and obstacles. She overcomes her problems by researching, testing and developing solutions. Most importantly, she shares her unbiased findings and insight. Transparency and authenticity are everything. Yes, she is usually but not always, young, cool, educated, beautiful and thin but check out: Ella Woodward of deliciouslyella.com, Caroline Rector of un-fancy.com, Anuschka Rees of into-mind.com and try to tell me that these women are just another marketing ploy. At the end of the day anyone can become an expert.
These new experts are essential when it come to making decisions on what to buy and and how and where to shop.
Not all experts blog, some of them vlog (video blog) and some of them only comment and review. Blogs, vlogs, forums, comments and reviews are active, global conversations, where consumers divulge information, express opinions and answer questions. Dialogs are not based on amorphous concerns, like: Is this true to size? or Is the colour accurate?. Queries are personal, open-ended and experience and opinion centric:
- “Do you think my boyfriend will find this sexy?”
- “Low-rise jeans are the new “mom” jeans. Please, help me love high-waisted!”
- “I’m 24, 4’10”, 115 pounds and may have to resort to boy’s suits as oppose to men’s. I would really appreciate any advice or feedback on what to wear.”.
The question: “do I want jeans from: GAP, Levis, Miss Sixty, Replay or Nudie Denim?” is irrelevant. Now, the question is: Do I want a pair of jeans or something else? And if I do want jeans, do I want: high-waisted or low-rise?, black or colourful?, designer or high-street?, vintage or new?, Italian or Japanese?, ridged or finished?, sanforized or shrink-to-fit?, off-the-rack or custom?. The choices are literally limitless and by no means confined to the wealthy.
Designer fashion on a budget? Check out Ebay, Vestiaire Collective or BuyMyWardrobe. Need a luxury gown for one-night-only? Rent from Girl Meets Dress or Rent the Runway. Forget about buying from the style section or who-wore-what page. Shop real-life celebrities’ wardrobes at Goop or Rebelle. Want a bespoke suite, coat or dress? Lanieri and Etsy will customise and design to your specifications. It’s not about seasons or labels. When the marketplace is global, when life is inundated with infinite options, and obtaining desires is a click away, the real decisions are: “What do I actually want?”, “What do I actually need?”, “What represents me?”. These are tricky, existential questions and believe it or not these are the questions young consumers need to answer before they buy.
It is no wonder capsule collections, five-piece-wardrobes, minimalist lifestyle and the method reuse-sell-buy-reuse is fashionable. It is not “cool” to have roomfuls’ of “stuff”, not just because of ethics or the environment but simply, because it is vastly accessible and unbelievably affordable. Personal taste and a refined wardrobe are not. Now, cutting-edge consumers view shopping as a research project, not just on how to dress and what to buy but how to eliminate alternatives and determine possibilities.
The online shop BuyMyWardrobe manages to simultaneously be an expert and a vendor.
In 2008 Kal Di Paola founded BuyMyWardrobe in reaction to disposable fashion and excessive consumerism. BuyMyWardobe is a peer to peer internet marketplace for pre-owned designer fashion. All sellers are vetted, approved and provided with their own virtual shop. Effectively, every seller’s wardrobe becomes a carefully merchandised, mini-boutique. A frequent shopper at BuyMyWardrobe is loyal, returning over and over, to the specific boutiques that reflect her style and carry her size.
It is an oversimplification to define BuyMyWardrobe as just a fashion-resale e-commerce site. Community and a shared value-system are at the core of BuyMyWardrobe’s success. Authentic profiles, an open forum, and a community powered blog propagate trust, transparency and authenticity.
Styl.sh, the stand-along blog is written by the shoppers, the sellers and the owners of BuyMyWardrobe. Styl.sh is an active platform for discussion, promoting and reflecting the values of the consumer, equally about fashion, personal identity and lifestyle decisions.
Together, BuyMyWardrobe and Styl.sh are virtual hubs of experiential learning, communicating not just what to wear or how to wear it but the value of pursuing education, how to live a healthy lifestyle, interior design and local events.
Like any nurtured community, people return and participate over and over again. The interaction between consumers, the exchange of common experiences and shared goals directly results in a profitable, successful business which is founded on and propelled by ethical values.
The Garment Industry 2.0 is a high profit industry. There is very little or no overhead. There is no markup because there is no need to markdown. There is no middle man. There is very little if no stock. Products are either: under ordered, used and resold goods manufactured by the Garment Industry 1.0, or manufactured for an individual consumer who has already pledged to buy. There is almost no retail space or warehouse space because the products, once, manufactured are sent directly to the consumer or the products are hanging in a seller’s wardrobe ready to be shipped out once purchased. Companies are flat organizations with minimal staff, and any work that does not revolve around their core competency is outsourced.
In many cases it is unnecessary to be an “industry” professional to be a participant. Designers and sellers can be anyone. That being said, key players with real in-depth knowledge both on the consumer side and especially, on the vendor side, are necessary to bridge the gap. Neither Alive Shoes or BuyMyWardrobe design or manufacture anything. Their role is to act as a nexus linking consumers with products, bridging the gap between designers and factories and opening the industry to new unchartered talent. That being said their major responsibility is a rigorous understanding and execution of quality control. They are the sentinels, bouncers and gatekeepers of the Garment Industry 2.0