Last night I went to a very interesting talk organised by Protein – a platform that brings together brands with influencers and documents consumer culture since 1997. The focus of the forum was co-creation and co-operation in fashion. The speakers were; Rachel Cosford from London College of Fashion, Kirsty Emery co-founder of Knyttan and Jack Young from YR STORE.
There were some really interesting points, Cosford talked about the different types of co-creation and how consumers are no longer just looking for products but experiences as well, they are more active and need to be heard. Co-creation can be used in different ways, either B2B (business to business), business to consumer (ex. Threadless), but also consumer to consumer (ex. Polyvore mood boards), product promotion (ex. Jimmy Choo Stylemakers which engages the consumers) and product feedback.
Emery, is the co-founder of startup company Knyttan, which focuses on individuality via personalisation. The Somerset House based knitwear company produces jumpers and scarves that can be customised by the consumers, who can change the colour and shape of the print and have their very own knit. They also focus on making manufacturing a more transparent process, since every knit is made in front of your eyes at their store (or you can order it online). Knyttan was also created as the answer to the problem of producing knitwear in small quantities, which is normally really expensive. For them it doesn’t make a difference if they make one or 100 jumpers. Each knit product has a unique ‘barcode’ number and the person can choose to put their name on as well (‘Made uniquely by X’), which it seems to get people really excited Emery says.
Knyttan, Somerset House
Young from YR STORE, talked about the creation of unique, customisable T-shirts with the use of a software they created. The machines they use help you create a one-off design and print it in a few minutes. They opened their first pop-up in 2013 and a few months later landed a concession in Topman, where you can still find them. Co-creation is at the heart of their business since it allows people to use the assets they are provided with to create what they want. They have collaborated in events with brands such as Nike, Liberty, and Google.
YR STORE, Topman Oxford Circus
Another point was about production becoming more localised in the future, something that is becoming more and more important as if you produce in the Far East for example it would take at least six weeks for the shipment, whereas you need to be faster to keep up with trends.
There is a fine line between being able to customise your product and make it more personal and special to you and having too much freedom, Cosford says: “I don’t think the public will completely take over. They like curation and being guided”. Young and Emery both agreed, saying that their customers come to them for the whole experience. In fact, Knyttan has some pre-made designs in limited numbers that can be bought directly but some people prefer spending hours trying to select their design. This is also a point in favour of the design world, as people from different backgrounds will be able to understand how hard designing actually is – imagine having to create a whole collection and not just play around with a pre-set pattern! Instead of it diminishing the craft it actually makes people appreciate it more, which is a great thing especially for young designers.
Co-creation sees fashion and technology merging, people will be using it more and more to life hack and make things work better for them.
The role of social media definitely speeds things up, Cosford says the reason is gamification and the fact that people constantly want newness and new content, be it on your Instagram feed or your favourite high street store.
As for the future and the big businesses, the panel doesn’t see co-creation as the end of mass production, “companies will become smarter, test or monitor [their products] on social media, leverage data etc.” Cosford says. Emery and Young agree since they can both monitor and see what people like in terms of colours, patterns etc and see the interactions in their respective companies. Data is interesting in what you can learn so that you can adapt your business.
Overall it was a very interesting talk and I’ll definitely be attending more of Protein’s events.
Knyttan, New Wing, Somerset House, Lancaster Place, WC1R 1LA
YR STORE, Topman/Topshop, Great Castle Street Oxford Street, West End, Greater London W1W 8LG