There is growing demand for made-to-order garments amongst Chinese luxury consumers. As a Jing Daily report affirms, in the last few years, China has witnessed the rise of a whole range of technologically dependent customization services spanning from Nike sneakers to luxury handbags to personalized items of clothing. Chinese luxury consumers are increasingly adapting to this rising trend which helps them stand out from the crowd. As a March McKinsey & Co report shows, customization has become a necessity rather than just a possibility for Chinese luxury consumers.
With growing adaption, consumers’ expectations for customization options have also increased, says Zhou Ting, Head-Research, Yoak Institute that surveyed over 40,000 Chinese millionaires and billionaires. They now look at customization as a way to express their personality and quality standards.
Customizing brands’ back-end operations
As luxury brands roll out new customization services, fashion tech entrepreneurs in China are endeavoring to adopt the made-to-order functionality to back-end operations. One of them is PlatformE, the start-up that drove to the creation of ABCDior, the customization pop-up launched by Dior. China’s luxury brands no longer depend on the inventory system as it often adds to fashion’s waste problem, adds Ben Demiri, Co-founder. For them, deadstock is a financial burden that can be unloaded only with made-to-order fashion.
Made-to-order also makes the current supply chain model more agile, opines Janice Wang, CEO, Alvanon which offers technologies to accelerate brands’ product development process by almost eight weeks. The company helps leading luxury brands Chanel, Alexander Wang, and Coach, develop their own sizing schemes with 3D scanning and data analytics. The technology can help shift the legacy design process to a 3D virtual sample creation, development and approval, adds Wang. 3D can help brands not just expand their made-to-order services but also enhance customers shopping experiences, he affirms.
PlatformE, which attracted leading investors including The Amorim Group, The Luxury Fund Management and Carmen Busquets, is known for transforming the linear supply chain model to an interconnected one. The startup helps brands personalize production as per customers’ request. It uses a platform approach that enables brands to engage into one-to-many-type of communication with consumers, says Demiri.
Made-to-order is also gaining popularity on China’s social media platforms. Louis Vuitton’s e-commerce brands Monogram and Goyard Chevron offer customization in their classic offerings. The sprouting of customization shops across China is also helping consumers personalize luxury items with cartoon figures, drawings of pets, portraits of their loved ones. Various customization options are being explored by luxury brands. Gucci is exploring made-to-order menswear services beyond Tier I cities like Beijing and Shanghai to Tier-II cities like Shenyang and Chengdu.
Brands are also exploring new customization types, notes Zhou Ting, Head. One of this is the ‘under the brand’ customization, which is similar to consumers’ perception of made-to-order luxury. The second ‘above the brand,’ customization enables brands to offer customization beyond their current offerings.
Lack of product samples and longer deliver times
Expansion of made-to-order has also given rise to new issues such as lack of customized product samples for Chinese consumers. Many brands are tackling this issue by using the new infrared technology, though the technology is yet to be widely adopted.
Another issue with Chinese brands is the longer time taken for delivering customized orders. Brands like Chanel and Celine take almost six months to ship a bespoke order. Reason includes, customization done from a European perspective rather than Chinese perspective. China therefore, needs to explore new customization techniques and combine them with previous experiences to offer a truly bespoke experience to customers.