Tiffanie Wen 2015-09-01 02:44:12
SHOPPERS WELCOME A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF CUSTOM COUTURE. While bespoke suits for men have been around for decades, women’s fashion has only recently seen a significant bump in the availability of one-of-a-kind designs. Major brands like Burberry and Longchamp give shoppers the opportunity to put their own touches on signature products that have already found popularity on the market. Other companies such as online shoe retailer Upper Street enable customers to design pieces all their own from a blank canvas. Some businesses find their niche merging past and present by creating a more accessible version of the atelier experience for shoppers who want to collaborate with experts. Though customizable fashion has always been in demand from topname designers, couture wasn’t always a practical option. Now, thanks to improvements in technology—including online tools to digitally create merchandise and production techniques that allow for timely delivery— designers and entrepreneurs are finding creative ways to make bespoke items more accessible to the global shopping community. “This trend is relevant in a plethora of spaces,” says Mary Alice Haney, founder and designer of Haney, a luxury ready-to-wear line that also offers the option to customize pieces. “Consumers want specialty items that are new, innovative and personal. You can customize anything from your phone to your tennis shoes, to your meal plans. ... The future of fashion is about customization and personalization. The demand continues to grow in luxury fashion as women want something unique to their style and taste, something one-of-a-kind.” Reinventing the Custom Experience Helping along the current made-to-order movement, many luxury brands are offering in-house customizable options of their signature pieces, allowing shoppers to create unique versions of recognizable items. Burberry, for example, has been evolving customized signature offerings in recent years. Previously giving customers the chance to personalize the brand’s iconic trench coat, Burberry brings a new custom offering, The Scarf Bar, in stores and on burberry.com starting in September. Presenting the full range of classic and lightweight cashmere designs, Burberry enables its customers to select colors and prints of scarves, also giving shoppers the option of monogramming the product with a choice of more than 30 thread shades. The scarves are made in Scotland and woven on a traditional loom, created by local craftspeople who use methods passed down through generations. Similarly, Longchamp offers customization of its signature Le Pliage collection, which includes everything from coin purses and clutches to large totes. Consumers can select from several colors in both leather and nylon; adjust the length of the straps on some bags; and choose the lining, handles, closing flap and hardware. The bags can even be embroidered or perforated with a monogram on the exterior. Along with scarves and bags, footwear is also easily personalized with the help of retailers that offer goods and personalization tools online. While athletic shoe companies including Nike and Adidas have allowed customers to create unique footwear for years, now upscale producers are also helping clients design the perfect pair of shoes for any occasion. Upper Street lets clients design everything from ballet flats and sandals to boots and stilettos. CEO Julia Elliott Brown says she was inspired to start the company when her sister, Katy, struggled to find the right shoes for her wedding and ultimately had them made specially for her dress. “Katy fell in love with the whole concept and started getting all her shoes made to her designs. And when I saw those shoes, I was green with envy. I wanted to be able to design my own shoes too,” Brown says. “And we just thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if you could design your shoes online and have them sent right to your door?” She says a large part of her customer base consists of people who want to put together an ensemble for a special occasion, including brides and wedding parties. “They love the fact that we can create their shoes in bespoke luxury materials, and even have their personal inscription imprinted on the inside of the shoe.” Brown says the concept also appeals to women who struggle to find styles in unusual measurements, since Upper Street’s designs can be made in any size, from 3 to 13. The sky may be the limit, but when designing shoes for the first time, Brown suggests keeping it simple. “Focus on two or three key colors and materials only, otherwise you’re in danger of overdoing it. Select a heel height and shape that you know works well for you,” she says. “And try not to worry about creating something that is going to work with absolutely everything in your wardrobe, that’s almost an impossible challenge. Pick a couple of outfits that you want your shoes to go with, and start from there.” Back to Tradition While many major labels have taken full advantage of the suite of tools made possible by the Internet, others, like luxury intimate apparel company La Perla, have kept customization a decidedly traditional experience. Launched at the brand’s flagship stores last year, La Perla Made to Measure is now available at many boutiques that have been renovated as part of the company’s 60th anniversary. These shops, including those in South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, Calif.) And Rodeo Drive (Beverly Hills, Calif.), now offer a dedicated area for consultations and fittings. For the range of La Perla Made to Measure items, including pieces from the company’s Maison Gold Edition, Filigrane Collection and Cristallo Nero Collection, customers are measured (a minimum of 15 measurements are taken), and then are able to choose colors and personalized details such as monogramming. A presentation book of fabrics allows shoppers to feel the fabrics and thread. Once all decisions and measurements are made, orders are taken to a team in Bologna who handcraft each piece and send the almost-finished products back to the boutiques. Customers receive a final fitting before their piece is completed; they receive an elegant package with the finished garments, a handwritten message from one of the women at the atelier, certificate of authenticity and care instructions. The entire process takes approximately one month. While shoppers can’t currently order these customized pieces from the comfort of their own homes, the La Perla Made to Measure experience is meant to revive the Italian sartorial tradition and the spirit of the atelier. Los Angeles-based Haney also keeps things personal when it comes to customization services. Mary Alice Haney is no stranger to working with the individual needs of clients. Her resume includes work as a stylist for the likes of Eva Mendes and Reese Witherspoon, and time as a fashion editor at such publications as Marie Claire and GQ. The transition from styling to designing was a natural one. “I was constantly ‘customizing’ looks for VIP and celebrity clients on the red carpet to adhere to specific body types, consider photography angles and make each woman look perfect,” she says. “... We were constantly tailoring each garment or simply creating one-of-a-kind pieces. Sometimes we would see a great sillhouette, but want it in a different color. At the time, what I was doing as a stylist wasn’t being translated by a retailer. I launched Haney with the impetus of creating a range of ready-to-wear pieces that catered to a glamorous, jet-setting woman, but we’re not limited to a specific body type.” The Haney line features pieces ranging from casual and resort wear to evening gowns, and many of the looks are inspired by famous clients that Haney has worked with throughout her career. With names like The Reese, The Coco and The Holly, each item is a unique reflection of the designer’s multifarious aesthetic. Customers can peruse the company’s online shop at shophaney.com or visit select retailers in California and New York, but customization, Haney says, is all achieved directly through her and her design team. “All elements of the piece are taken into consideration,” she explains, adding that length is the most commonly requested alteration. Women can also choose different colored fabric, a different neckline or even add various lengths of sleeves. Every collection is made in Los Angeles, which makes this customization possible, according to Haney. “I can touch and feel each garment, and be privy to the entire process of its production,” she says. Though made-to-order fashion now allows anyone to coordinate outfits and accessories that are, literally, made for each other, there are many other advantages to one-of-a-kind merchandise. An increasing number of shoppers are confident in their own creative choices about self expression and want to control the pieces in their wardrobes. The new generation of retailers places the power of design into the hands of consumers, engaging their sartorial talent and inspiring them to make clothing as individual as they are.
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