More and more retailers are trying to democratize design by making high designs affordable. The owners of ModCloth, however, want to make the act of design, and the thrill of having a design made, accessible. In an article for Inc. magazine, April Joyner writes that Eric Koger and Susan Gregg Koger want to democratize fashion.
ModCloth is an online retailer based in San Francisco. The company offers clothing and accessories from 600 independent designers. Part of their stock is decided by a feature launched in 2009 called Be the Buyer. The program lets customers vote on which designs the company should offer. The votes and comments, evaluated by custom “sentiment analysis” tools, help predict demand, a huge advantage in the world of fashion retail.
"The way most of the industry works is, they produce a design on a large scale, then they send it out to stores and hope customers buy it," Eric Koger says. "Ours is a more lean and agile approach. We involve the customer and get feedback earlier in the process."
Now the company is launching a clothing line designed by ModCloth's own customers. In November of 2011, ModCloth held a contest called Make the Cut which invited customers to send in sketches. The contest drew more than 1,900 design entries over a two week period. Voting was done on the company's Facebook page and elicited more than 1,000 comments. Seven winners were chosen to have their designs produced.
The line goes on sale this spring with an initial run of 200 dresses of the seven winning designs. The winners won't receive any percentage of the sales. Instead, each will receive a $500 prize and their names will also appear on the labels.
The contest is the first of what ModCloth hopes will be many new ways to engage customers and better target their tastes. If the initial runs sell well, future contests might include shares of the profits for the designers.
ModCloth wants to offer not only products by new designers but also opportunities for designers to have their designs produced and sold. The strategy is a mix of fast fashion and crowd sourcing, a better spin on what NBC’s Fashion Star is trying to do with their show.
"We'd like to help every designer get a real customer for their product," says Susan Gregg Koger.
Image: Shingo Shimizu portfolio on Creative Finder