The growing personalised fashion market is ripe for the taking. In a Just Style exclusive, Michael Colarossi, vice president, product line management, innovation, and sustainability at custom design and manufacture specialists, Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS), explains how mainstream fashion brands can capitalise on this lucrative opportunity.
Personalised fashion is without a doubt on the up, Colarossi, the man behind Avery Dennison RBIS’ portfolio of products and solutions, product line strategies and technical product innovation, tells Just Style.
Two reasons are driving this; the first is that today’s consumers have a stronger desire for a personal identity when it comes to clothing. He explains: “Whether it’s apparel or consumer goods – the ability to personalise, customise and create something unique is becoming more important.” Secondly, the rise in digitisation means more people want to create online personas and they want those personas to match their real-world selves.
“This need for personalisation in both the real and online world is growing. The rise of ROBLOX [which allows users to develop or play millions of 3D online games] and other video games with virtual shops means users can create avatars that look and feel like they do in real life.”
Team sporting events such as the Fifa World Cup are a natural place for customised apparel, says Colarossi, as it allows individuals to show their support for their favourite teams and even have their own names emblazoned on the back.
However, he adds: “That might be where it all started, but today we’re seeing footwear brands such as NIKE and adidas also offering customisation.
“We’re witnessing it hit the mainstream with many brands having capsule or small collections that have some level of customisation.”
He explains this is now on the cards for more mainstream brands because digital manufacturing technology allows the customisation to be scaled up.
Footwear brands in particular have evolved their customised platforms over time to give consumers more choice and speed, which addresses that critical question of how long individuals are willing to wait for a customised piece of footwear.
Colarossi points out Polo Ralph Lauren did some interesting work around the Olympics, which enabled customisation for some of its beanie hats and sweaters.
Personalisation hasn’t permeated into every piece of apparel, however, but brands like Rapha, which focuses on cycling apparel, has certainly found ways to make it work for parts of its portfolio and at scale.
Colarossi believes these examples demonstrate there is scope for more of the mass apparel market to tap into the growing trend for customised apparel, but it will require the wider adoption of digital design technology.
The more challenging and arguably more complicated step for mass brands wishing to tap into customisation is the need to shift from offshore sourcing locations to nearshoring ones that are closer to a consumers’ home. Success is also dependant on digital manufacturing technology being implemented to deliver the personalised elements at speed.
“I anticipate a shift towards manufacturing that is closer to the point of consumption,” Colarossi says. “No-one wants to wait two days for anything. So customising personalised garments means doing it close to the point of order and where it will be consumed.”
But he adds this shift will take time because of the large install of digital technology that’s required and the need to change manufacturing location.
Back in 2017 Nike promised custom shoes in less than 90 minutes and Colarossi is confident solutions like this will become the norm in the near future.
“Digital technology is enabling this – whether it’s 3D technology or design. Being able to see how the apparel will look online and automatically transferring this into real-life manufacturing enables customisation to move from the web to real life almost seamlessly.”
This trend is only growing as more factories digitise and the workflow can be scaled up faster.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a growing trend for miniaturisation which means being able to customise in store.
Colarossi says: “It’s becoming a reality whether that’s on-demand embroidery and patches or inkjet printing with customisation – robust technologies are making it easier to give consumers what they want quickly.”
Avery Dennison is currently enabling customisation and personalisation at every point of the supply chain journey. At the front end it is digitising its product and allowing it to be brought into the design process and from a design perspective it is going through a digitisation process as well.
“We’re enabling customisation to take place in our factories and we have a platform called In-Plant-Printing solutions that allows items to be printed on-demand, Colarossi says. “Customers can send data and print it as they want for a unique one-off piece or for a run of thousands. In other words our platform allows for on-demand printing in a factory.”
Avery Dennison is also working with some of the world’s leading brands and retailers to train employees on how to customise on-demand in a retail environment.
The digital element is key to the success of personalised apparel and Colarossi suggests every product in future will have a unique digital ID.
In fact, Avery Dennison has a technology platform called atma.io which can create a customisable consumer experience in as little as 16 minutes thanks to its radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking.
It also means that if a customer wants to have a piece of their clothing on the web, Roblox or an avatar – the platform will allow them to do that.
While the metaverse was arguably the buzzword for apparel retail in 2022, Colarossi says it is still relatively new to many. In fact many of the industry’s decision makers today are probably not the ones purchasing apparel on the metaverse themselves.
With a 13-year old son himself, Colarossi is confident teenagers do care what their avatars look like and they will spend money on the outfits. That is why we’re starting to see mass fashion brands pop up on these platforms offering clothing for consumers’ avatars, he says.
“It’s definitely making the fashion world think differently about how they brand, market and target consumers and how they monetise it.”
For example, translating a physical t-shirt to something in the metaverse is still not something that’s been figured out but everyone is exploring the space.
“From an Avery Dennison perspective – we see ourselves as being the ones to help make that a reality in future. Imagine a world where you purchase a designer t-shirt, handbag and pair of trousers and want to put it in your avatar in the metaverse? Through a digital ID we could enable that in the metaverse seamlessly,” he asserts.
In other words a consumer’s avatar in the metaverse can look exactly like the consumer in the real world. But, he notes one of the challenges will be establishing what is real versus what is not.
He states: “There’s an ethical question there as well and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.”
In five to ten years time Colarossi believes there will be a shift in the mass market to creating more customised, personalised and on-demand manufacturing closer to the point of consumption.
He predicts it will be driven by consumer demand for personalised garments and growing consumer awareness around sustainability and the negative connotations associated with throwaway fashion.
And the outcome could be a more sustainable supply chain that is producing more apparel on-demand, which in turn reduces the amount of waste.
Sharing his final thoughts on the subject, Colarossi says there will be a growing push for a higher volume of goods to be produced closer to the point of consumption.
“Customisation as a trend
linked to sustainability and digitalisation means we’re at a unique point that
could drive a more efficient and sustainable supply chain that meets the
demands of consumers in terms of customisation, personalisation, speed and
By Just Style