Twenty-first century technologies are defining a new era of customized and mass-customized clothing. Worldwide, apparel firms are experimenting with economical strategies that individualize clothing for each customer by offering a variety of design and fit options. Large and small, Internet as well as bricks-and-mortar companies are now making clothing "just for you."
Levi Strauss & Co. was the first large apparel company to offer mass
customization when they introduced "Personal Pair" jeans, later marketed under
the name "Original Spin", in selected Levi's stores. Consumers could
customize their jeans by choosing from a selection of styles, fabrics, finishes, colors, leg-opening sizes, and inseam lengths. Individual measurements were taken by a salesperson. Jeans fit was determined by inputting the individual's measurements and style selections into a computer program, and then trying on jeans that are kept in the store for that purpose. Thus, the customer could identify the exact fit that matches their preference. The jeans were individually manufactured and shipped to the customer's home. A record was kept of each customer's selections, so the next pair of jeans could be ordered without the try-on step. This program was discontinued in 2004 when Levi's closed the last of its domestic manufacturing plants.
Using a different strategy, Lands' End offers custom-made shirts, jeans, and chinos on their Web site. Customers type in their measurements, guided by instructions on how to take them properly. Style, fabric, and fit choices are made from a set of options on screen. An automated custom patternmaking process is used to create a pattern specific to each individual, then the garment is made and shipped to the customer's home. Lands' End keeps these measurements on file so customers can reorder.
Brooks Brothers uses all of the new technologies, including the body scanner, seamlessly. They offer mass-customized suits at their New York City retail store using a 3D body scanner to collect customer measurements. Style, fabrics, and design features are selected from a computer screen in consultation with a trained sales professional, who facilitates the discussion of fit preferences, such as loose or form-fitted clothing. Brooks Brothers uses a proprietary custom patternmaking system to create an individual pattern based on the body measurements. The garment is manufactured and shipped to the store where a single fitting ensures customer satisfaction. Scan data and patterns for each customer are stored for reorders.
Many smaller Internet-based companies offer a variety of custom design and size choices for clothing products ranging from bridesmaid dresses to fleece jackets. Suppliers of military, school, and industrial uniforms are also offering style and size customizations. A tour of the Web will find companies offering mass-customized clothing such as IC3D (Interactive Custom Clothes Company Designs), American Fit, and BeyondFleece. Technology-enhanced made-to-measure (i.e., mass-customized) clothing is now affordable and easy to acquire from companies of all sizes.