12 11, 2012

[Market Watch] Open Runway: A Women’s Customization Paradise

By | 2018-06-14T06:49:40+00:00 November 12th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Design, Footwear, Personalization|

Open Runway #logoCertainly, vendors offering individualized shoes and handbags are not a truly new concept. But some do it better than others, at the very least in terms of configurator-usability.

One such example is Open Runway, a company founded by Monika Desai, one of the strong members of the Boston mass customization community.  Open Runway lets you crate individual shoes (soon) and handbags (now) and have them manufactured from scratch.

The web-interface is, as said, really convinient to use. You pick one of several base models, represented as silhouettes, decide which material and color individual parts such as heels, trims, straps etc should be in and see the results of your decisions in realtime on your screen.

As you can tell from the two images below, the process of designing is fairly simple even for men. Manufacturing time is announced to be 8 weeks, but if you have the chance to get the shoe or handbag, you have always wanted, what is two more months? (even if we know from our research that a delivery time of two weeks really improves the turnover rate .. so here is room for improvement for Monika).

Open Runway Shoe
Open Runway Bag

More about Open Runway on their website. I am curious to see how this develops and fits into teh recent trend of strong investments into custom fashion sites.

20 06, 2012

Market Watch: mi adidas Team: Adidas Launches Customization Portal for Sports Teams, Lets You Fly Your Colors

By | 2018-06-14T06:55:54+00:00 Juni 20th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, Footwear, MC/OI on the Web, Personalization, Sneaker, T-Shirts|

Copyright adidas, www.adidas.com, all rights reserved.Adidas, major sports gear manufacturer from Herzogenaurach, Germany, is likely known to everybody around the globe.

Since 2000, adidas has been engaging in the market for customized sportswear. Their mi adidas program offers convenient online configuration of your favorite clothing and adds some extra motivation to your sporting efforts. It has been one of my favorite case studies and examples of mass customization in my presentations.

After 12 years of successful mass customization targeting individual athletes, adidas now took the next logical step, enabling not only the individual but also the entire team to design their own individual yet affordable uniforms. Mi adidas Team is the latest addition to the mi-family of adidas customization platforms. And from a business perspective, this may be the trigger to finally scale up MC at adidas.

Copyright adidas, www.adidas.com, all rights reserved!

Configuration process on PC. Click to enlarge!

Amateurs and professionals, youth and adults alike, from schools, universities, leagues and clubs can style a wide variety of footwear, apparel and accessoires. The team's crest, sponsor logo, player number or team name can be applied on the items which are also customizable by picking from 15 base colors.

Sportswear you look and feel great in is one factor adding to your (perceived) victory chances, fan support is another. Well aware of the importance of your supporters, adidas also offers the option to customize a number of off court items for fans, coaches etc.

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, adidas extends the idea of teamwork from the field to the computer: When you have created a design you are happy with, the configurator lets you share your concept with your teammates, management and sponsors via facebook, twitter, email or blog integration.

Once the final look has been decided upon, adidas will ship your order to a dedicated adidas specialist retailer within 45 days.

Mi adidas Team is currently availible for eleven sports categories (running track and field, running cross country, rugby, baseball, football, basketball, handball, volleyball, American football, TECHFIT® training and select Olympic sports) on 16 markets (USA, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

For those who prefer old fashioned personal collaboration over online social media, mi Team has designed the platform with the use on mobile platforms in mind. It looks especially great on tablet PCs and allows you to design your new major league uniform right on your advancement party.

Copyright adidas, respecitve owners, www.adidas.com, all rights reserved!

Configurator demostration on a tablet PC. Click to enlarge!

It will be interesting to observe how this rather large addition to adidas' customization portfolio will develop and which impact it will have on the market of (semi-)professional team sports goods. More about mi adidas Team on the official website.

Concluding, these are the following three features that make the new mi adidas team customization site really interesting for me:

  • Moving from 1:1 customization to communities of users!  This is still one of the first team customization sites.
  • Building a multi-layered site that takes care of multiple stakeholders – players, equipment managers, coaches, moms, fans, retailers … this is one of the best configuration systems in this regard I have ever seen!  While the online cofiguration toolkit is "just" common good practice, I would say, this multi-stakeholder capability of mi adidas team is terrific!
  • Re-integrating the (independent) retailer back into the MC system. For a long time, MC moved direct, and away from retailers. With mi adidas team, the site also provides great opportunities for individual retailers to customize a sales pitch for a local team, based on a local set of garments.  By making independent retailers part of the system, Adidas may utilize these retailers as "brand ambassodrs" for customization.
8 05, 2012

Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 3): Selve – women’s best friend

By | 2018-06-14T06:57:26+00:00 Mai 8th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Footwear, MC500|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: Women's best friend, custom shoe supplier SELVE.

Feet are by far not as standardized as the shoe industry would like them to be. Neither is the individual customer's taste in shape, color and details. Until a decade ago the only way to obtain shoes that do both fit perfectly and look exactly as one wants them to, was to take a rather pricy trip to the cobbler. Selve went new ways with their offer to tailor shoes, custom built to the client's demands in individual size and look, shipped to your doorstep after a convenient visit at www.selve.net. (even if most customers prefer to visit their store in Munich or London for a personal consultation and foot scan).

More info: Selve's chairwoman Claudia Kieserling will be telling more about the selve-concept at this year's edition of the GERMAN Mass Customization Meeting, the MC2012, helt on the 29th of june in Salzburg, Austria.



Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data.

18 04, 2012

New Blog Series: Featured Companies from the MC500 (Part 2): Converse.com

By | 2018-06-14T07:13:19+00:00 April 18th, 2012|Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Customization Trends, Footwear, MC500, Sneaker|

MC500_Signet_2012In our series of postings introducing companies that performend very well in our Customization 500 study, we are introducing the next mass customizer. Remember:  The order of these feature postings is more or less randomly!


Today: Street Style Classic Converse.com


Founded in Massachusetts in 1908 and today a subsidiary of global producer of sport goods Nike, Converse allows consumers to create footwear with an absolutely distinctive style. Originally designed as basketball shoes (and still to day worn by some NBA superstars in their games), the converse sneaker was one of the early products in this category that can be customized by every consumer. 



Note: Please see this post for detailed information on how to interpret the above data. 

5 11, 2011

#MCPC2011 Business Seminar: Setting Up a Mass Customization System at #Skyou, #Bene AG and #Selve

By | 2018-06-14T07:15:32+00:00 November 5th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Cases-Industrial, Clothing, Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Customization Trends, Design, Events, Footwear, MCPC2011, Open/User Innovation, Personalization, Service Customization, Technologies & Enablers|

MCPC 2011 On November 16th, the MCPC 2011 conference kicks off at the Marriot SFO Airport, San Francisco. In this series of postings, we introduce our speakers at the business seminars of the conference.

This session will focus on the different business models that are behind the mass customization trend.

Brennan Mulligan, Founder & CEO, Skyou
What I Learned from Setting Up Five Successful MC Companies

MulliganWhile mass customization can be seen as an established business model we still see often little scale in its execution. At the same time, many new ventures and established businesses alike face the challenge to establish a supply chain fitted for mass customization – and everyone seems to go through the same learning cycle again. In his talk, Brennan Mulligan will propose a solution, reflecting on his experiences in leading many successful mass customization businesses since 1993.

Karl Berger, Vice President Engineering, Bene AG
Developing Solution Spaces for Mass Customization

BergerSolution Space Development is one of the core activities of a successful mass customizer, clearly defining what it is going to offer and what it is not. The presentation will explain how Bene, a leading European office furniture provider, has developed a special approach to understand and serve the idiosyncratic needs of its customers, to develop the solution space. Karl Berger will show how different constraints work with each other, and how a of organizational layers helps to execute different solution spaces in the organization.

Claudia Kisserling, CEO, Selve
Illissa Howard, Founder, Milk and Honey Shoes

Establishing a Mass Customization Factory in China

Kieserling_howardThis joint presentation is delivered by two experienced entrepreneurs in mass customization footwear, representing selve, the Germany-based category leader in the field, and Milk&Honey, a recent Hong Kong based startup. Claudia and Ilissa will first share insights into the market for customization in this field, discussing the Women’s fashion footwear market size and growth areas, global reach via online configurator, and the challenges and opportunities associated with that. Then, Claudia will share here experiences in setting up an own manufacturing plant in china, after seven years of manufacturing of high quality custom women's shoes in Italy. She will discuss the pros and cons, the do's and don'ts and her experiences of setting up and running a custom shoe factory in China.

Please find the complete program at the official MCPC 2011 website.

19 09, 2011

#MCPC2011 Program Highlights – Mass Customization and Open Innovation in the Fashion Industries

By | 2018-06-14T07:16:59+00:00 September 19th, 2011|Cases-Consumer, Clothing, Co-Design Process, Design, Events, Footwear, MCPC2011, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies, Sneaker, T-Shirts, Technologies & Enablers|

MCPC 2011In a series of postings, we present some of the program highligths of the MCPC 2011 conference. The following is just one of more than 50 sessions we will host on Nov 16-19 in San Francisco, CA.

Since the beginning of the MCPC conference series, clothing and footwear products have been has discussed extensily during this event. Also, just by looking onto the numbers, these industries are leading the mass customization movement. At the same time, some of the early pioneers in Crowdsourcing, Threadless, also focused on this industry.

A dedicated track at the MCPC2011 will provide a closer look on this topic.

Sessions 5.2 and 6.2 (Nov 19): A Special Focus on the Fashion Industries

Why Customization of Footwear is Not Fit for Masses

Market facts prove that, despite a certain number of valorous entrepreneurs are there to exploit the advantages of the new business model, the benefits of personalization of products have not yet reached the shoe wearing masses. Sergio Dulio will present the example of a new Italian brand in the field of luxury bespoke men shoes and the presentation of its technical and market expansion plans, it will be discussed why customization and masses, at least in the field of footwear, don’t’ seem to go together as expected and a theory will be formulated to support the idea that, possibly, this is the right approach to a consumer centric shoe world.

Customization in Apparel Design

Advanced customization and 3D visualization are in the core of the latest planned solutions to enhance customer's shopping experience and brand loyalty, and with the help of advanced GPUs the industry is a step closer in creating a better, more precise design and shopping environment. Yoram Burg (Optitex) will present and discuss the latest projects his company is involved in that include deploying the 3D customized solutions in the worlds of movies, home sewing, apparel design, animation and art work, and give a preview on the next level of solutions currently in development by OptiTex.

ErtlRenz Sport Shoes World – Adapted to Improve the Customer's Performance

While many professional athletes are outfitted over long periods of time by their sponsoring sports brand through the same service people, the “normal” customer typically buys his standardized equipment by individual picks from different stores. Dirk Rutschmann (Corpus-e), Sven Renz and Wolfgang Richter (ErtlRenz) will report from the ErtlRenz Sport Shoes World and present how they embrace the customer over his personal sports career providing him individual sport shoes for maximum performance and comfort like a pro.

E-Co-Creation for Fashion

The Web 2.0 revolution is changing perceptions and influencing a younger generation, but can co-creation challenge traditional design methods for fashion and promote sustainability, and can designing together enable the democratization of fashion? Jen Ballie, Philip Delamore (London College of Fashion) will present a mapping of co-creation within a fashion context, using participatory practice methods. A series of case studies will be used to define co-creation communities, the role of the individual and the sustainable benefits of working together. The viewpoint of both the designer and consumer will be used to illustrate their role and relationship, and to define methods and toolkits for how they can work together.

CoReNET – Value Co-Creation of Small Series Customized Healthy, Fashionable Clothing, Footwear and Assessories

In this presentation, Dieter Stellmach (DITF Denkendorf) will give an insight into CoReNET – Customer-ORiented and Eco-friendly NETworks for healthy fashionable goods: A toolset and first practical experiences for value co-creation of small series customised healthy fashionable clothing, footwear and accessories.

The Fitting of Pants

When fitting pants, a garment can have the correct horizontal and vertical dimensions, but not fit properly. This is a particular problem at the crotch, where there is a saddle point on the abstracted 3D form of the body, where the front and back of the body are joined in the crotch area and one leg transitions through the crotch area to the other. Bonny Carmicino has determined that these fit problems are the result of patterns that do not properly fit the crotch curve and are not properly balanced and will present new methods of creating the proper crotch curve and balancing pants, both of which produce excellent results on subjects of all shapes (including “normal” and also atypically- and asymmetrically-shaped subjects).

Configurator for Apparel Manufactoring within the Mass Customization Program

Companies need to acquire and manage a knowledge base of consumers’ needs and preferences in order to meet, even surpass, customer's expectations. In the fashion & clothing industry, mass customization is not generally well understood or implemented due to difficulties related to measurements, pattern adaptation, and inflexible manufacturing processes. Jocelyn Bellemare (Université du Québec à Montréal), Serge Carrier and Pierre Baptiste (Montreal University) will present their identification of the fundamental variables and data necessary to produce custom-made clothing, the development of a configurator based on such data, and how to enable the efficient transmission of configurator generated information to computerized production systems.

— And these are just some of the talks on this industry!! check the full program for more!!

Listen to the full content of these talks at the MCPC 2011, Marriot SFO Airport, San Francisco, Nov 16-19, 2011:

– Conference Website and Registration (reducted rates until Sept 30)

– All info here in one compact MCPC flyer

Conference hotel and travel (rooms fill quickly, book now!)

– All posts about the conference in my blog

19 12, 2010

Can MC Enhance UK’s Medal Winning Prospects for the 2012 Olympics? Participate in Survey on Personalised Footwear

By | 2018-06-14T09:44:58+00:00 Dezember 19th, 2010|Cases-Consumer, Co-Design Process, Footwear, Research Studies|

Survey sample The Elite to High Street Project is an inter-disciplinary project at Loughborough University in the UK that focuses on the personalisation of footwear. Researchers in Sports Technology, Manufacturing, Industrial Design and Ergonomics are working together to deliver sports footwear optimised for the individual.

It is hoped that results of this project will contribute to the UK's medal winning prospects in the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, with a longer-term goal of bringing personalised sports shoes to the high street.

As part of this project, Matthew Head has been investigating how potential customers can be integrated into the personalisation process. He is in the process of developing the YourStep system: a toolkit that is intended to form part of an in store running shoe personalisation process. The aim is to increase consumer understanding and confidence in the personalisation process, which will hopefully minimise regrets customers may experience after purchase.

Matthew’s prototype toolkit is available online at www.yourstep.co.uk/survey, and he would welcome feedback. It takes around 10 minutes to complete, and the results will hopp to shape the future development of the system. Please participate in this research!

Any further feedback or queries can be emailed to him directly at m.head@lboro.ac.uk.

23 01, 2010

Designed to Surprise — EU Conference on Consumer Goods Research Brings Three Major Research Programs Together – Free Participation

By | 2018-06-14T11:07:57+00:00 Januar 23rd, 2010|Clothing, Customization Trends, Events, Footwear|

Designed to Surprise: How Strategic Research and Innovation can Extend Europe’s Leadership in Design-based Consumer Goods on the Global Market

European Conference on Consumer Goods Research

Hotel Bloom, Brussels, 4th February 2010 — Free Registration

3ETPs_logo For this first time, three major European bodies representing some of the main fields of application for mass customization meet in a joint conference to discuss visions and strategies for current and future European Consumer Goods research.

The European Technology Platform for the Future of Textiles and Clothing, the European Platform for Sports and Innovation, and the European Footwear Products and Processes Technology Platform jointly organize this international conference featuring high-level speeches from industry, leading researchers and the European Commission (I got the challenging task to provide the closing remarks and summarize the discussion over the day).

In previous meetings preparing the conference, mass customization and personalization, but also customer co-design and consumer co-creation, frequently popped up as some of the key trends unifying these areas.

During the conference, ten major European research projects in the field will present their current developments in the area, with Open Garments, Dorothy, Fit4U, and our own SERVIVE project presenting pure mass customization research.

With this first event we expect to have an important impact on future EU research & innovation policies at a time when important EU policy decisions such as the EU2020 Plan are under preparation and new European Commission leaders start their work.

Thanks to this cross-platform collaboration which started in early 2009 and which we intend to strengthen and deepen in the future, interesting research funding opportunities are expected to emerge during the remainder of the 7th Framework Program (starting from 2010).

This event is the place to be to learn more about this and to make contacts for future collaborations — and best of all, participation is free! But we have an upper limit of approximately 200 participants and places will be assigned on a “first come, first served basis”.

Download the conference flyer & program and the registration form

13 10, 2009

MCPC 2009 Conference Report Day 4: Fashion Lab: Anna Ruohonen, Selve, Servive, Rivolta on why customization is the true luxury in fashion

By | 2018-06-14T11:08:34+00:00 Oktober 13th, 2009|Clothing, Customization Trends, Design, Footwear, MCPC 2009|

MCPC_2009_Fashion_Lab The last day of the conference was dedicated to three labs, which provided an interactive platform for discussion around specialized fields. I joined the Fashion Lab.

We were a very nice group of people, ranging from luxury companies LV, Selve, or Paris-designer Anna Ruohonen to streetwear labels like Converse and Spreadshirt, from great students and professors from the Helsinki design and fashion scene, from specialist consultants like Sergio Dulio (footwear) to my academic colleagues from RWTH-TIM in Aachen.

The day started with a presentation by Sirkku Liukkonen, responsible for customization at the  Helsinki concept store of Anna Ruohonen. "From atelier work to mass customization", so the title of the journey Sirkku described.  Anna Ruohonen is a Paris-based fashion designer with two clothing labels carrying her name, both for men and women. Her style follows the tradition of Finnish design: the forms are architectural, the cuts are considered, and simplicity and sustainability are key concepts.

They started with customization for some retail clients and slowly moved into the consumer business after opening a mass customization concept store in Helsinki in April 2009. Products are produced together with the general items; all are produced on-demand in Paris. The popularity of the customization offering largely exceeded expectations. "Better fitting is the key word", Sirkku said. No wonder, as they offer the customization service at no additional fee. It is a "premium service for free".

An interesting debate started at this point: Conventionally, "sustainable fashion" is an oxymoron: Fashion is all about change and getting the latest stuff … But as Sirkku explained, sustainability is more than just using eco textiles: "If an item fits well and people really like it, people really will use it for a long time". And Sergio Dulio added: "Mass customization equals sustainability: the amount of products which are not sold corresponds to such a huge batch of energy without no use at all." An interesting debate that we will continue during the next conferences.

The presentation about Anna Ruohonen started a second stream of discussion (along the solution space dimension of our framework): How to balance between the design aesthetics of the brand and the vision of a star designer like Anna Ruohonen: Shall Anna allow the modifications of her dresses that they are suited for customers with body dimensions not seen in her patterns before? Where does the "dream" of a customer ends? What will this mean for a brand?

This is a question that also drives Claudia Kieserling, one of the longest members of our community. Claudia is founder and president of Selve, the first and leading customizer for ladies shoes in the world. "Luxury is a key characteristic of mass customization", she said. "No matter what price you ask, consumers see it as pure luxury." This is an interesting turning point in the discussion, as previously, we saw as one objective – or even as part of the definition – of mass customization that it should reach a large "mass".Claudia reported that her customers are coming for both fashion and fit (often starting for fit, and returning for fashion). Some of her best (and wealthy) customers have ordered more than 100 shoes — making the shopping of a creation process of her own. For her, "time and experience are the new luxury" – an impression shared by Kamel from Louis Vuitton.  

A final example of experience was provided by Sergio Dulio. He has consulted in the past months extensively to an Italian entrepreneur who wants to revolutionize the way how custom-made shoes in the upper segment are sold and produced. A concept / testing store has just been open at the famous Via della Spiga (#17) in Milan.

Under the name of "Rivolta", customers there can experience one of the most advanced configurators in the world. You not just can design your shoes like on your iPhone on huge screens, but also fully try your custom shoes virtually on your own body in a virtual mirror. There also will be an iPhone Application to customize your shoes on the run! Shoes are expensive (Euro 1400 an up), but targeted to business people who have expensive custom shoes anyway, but want to purchase them with a new twist and different level of service and experience. Here, the act of purchasing the shoe becomes a luxury experience.

The Fashion Lab further had a number of interesting live demos. Thorsten Harzer and Moritz Wellige from my group at RWTH Aachen demonstrated a financial model to calculate the impact of mass customization in the clothing industry, developed as part of our Servive project. We could see a demo of a 3D knitting machine — the complement to rapid manufacturing and laser sintering in the fashion industry ("data in, pullover out"). We got a demonstration of the Corpus.e Foot Scanner and its application at Pakerson, another upscale customizer of men's shoes with a successful store in St. Petersburg.

All in all, a great finale of a great conference!

27 07, 2009

Dream Heels: A Threadless for High Heels

By | 2018-06-14T11:09:30+00:00 Juli 27th, 2009|Crowdsourcing, Footwear, MC Alternatives|

Dream_heels I was for long wondering what may be the next big product exploiting Threadless' spin of crowdsourcing … and perhaps Matt Francois found a perfect match. While the majority of Threadless' customers are young male men, Francois is offering the female equivalent: High Heels.

His new website, Dream Heels, lets anyone design printed high heels and earn cash when their design is winning a competition, Artists submit their designs to an ongoing shoe design competition. Winners are rewarded with $250 upfront, and $0.50 for each pair sold.

Some examples of Dream Heels submissions “Dream Heels lets you design printed pumps that are completely unique; Wild patterns, colorful designs, you name it.” Founder and owner of Dream Heels, Matt Francois, is quoted in a press release, “I’ve designed one-of-a-kind custom shoes for years, and I know that given the chance others will enjoy designing unique shoes as much as I do. The extra cash is just the icing on the cake.”

For more information, or to begin designing shoes now, head to http://www.dreamheels.com

There is a rather simple template to use and a very nice 3D viewer to get an idea of the shows.

Will this work? I am curious to see .. Being a critical German and not part of the target group, I would say no, as the product's price point may be to high for a spontaneous purchase (there is no price quoted yet, however). Also, production runs for such a shoe should be considerable longer than the few days it takes Threadless to produce a shirt, allowing them to cash into the moment of excitement that a design wins for which you just have voted.

Also, with shoes of this kind you have a fitting problem, and returns of more than 50% may kill you if you are a small company with little cash. And, finally bit most importantly, will their be a community of shoe enthusiasts that both submit shoes and participates in the voting — and finally purchases the shoes?

But I hope that I am wrong, as the idea and product itself is great … and it really is time for a successful and scalable transfer of the Threadless idea into another product category.

20 09, 2008

Fancy Feet Custom Shoes: Update on Keds/Zazzle Custom Footwear

By | 2018-06-14T12:53:41+00:00 September 20th, 2008|Customization Trends, Footwear, Sneaker, User Manufacturing|

Last month, I reported about the cooperation of Keds and Zazzle that brought custom sneakers to a new level. Now, there is a first user-generated mashup-up of this offering. Check the website of Fancy Feet.

Here, a user programmed a few very easy, but nice, templates to customize sneakers with names and monograms. To fulfill his orders, the site entirely relies on Zazzle and its cooperation with Keds to manufacture the shoes.

This is a great example of the next generation of mass customization: A user utilizes a design and manufacturing infrastructure to create a new business.

By the way: Keds and Zazzle will share their experiences on the upcoming MIT Smart Customization Seminar in November at the MIT Faculty Club in Cambridge, MA. Click here for more information.

7 08, 2008

Keds & Zazzle Are Bringing Footwear Customization to a New Dimension

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:05+00:00 August 7th, 2008|Co-creation, Co-Design Process, Design, Footwear, Sneaker|

Keds-at-zazzle(updated – Aug 13, 2008) Customizing footwear has been a long theme in this blog. RYZwear recently offered a fresh approach to this (see my report), and now the evolution of custom footwear continued one more step. US shoe brand Keds just launched its new custom footwear offering, called Kedsstudio.com. While looking at the first glimpse like a copy of NikeID or Timberland's Custom, a closer look on the site convinced me that Keds went much further.

Keds is an iconic US brand that actually invented the term ‘sneaker’. Since 1916, Keds is offering its classic champion sneaker and a large variety of other styles. Keds is a subsidiary of the Stride Rite Corporation, which again is a unit of Collective Brands, Inc.. Collective Brands is the owner of Payless ShoeSource, a more than 4,500-store retail chain in footwear, and thus one of the very big guys in the international footwear market.

With kedsstudio.com, they created a mass customization offering that goes far beyond the present state of the art in this industry. Their advancements are with regard to two dimensions:

First, users can upload any design or picture on their shoe. So it is not just picking color options for pre-defined components of a shoe, but really getting what you want. Shoes are manufactured with an advanced digital printing technology that offers great variety in high quality. The customized sneakers are produced in China within 24 to 48 hours, and will be received by consumers within one to two weeks, depending upon the shipping method selected.


Secondly, and more interesting, Keds is one of the best examples of a new trend in mass customization: Keds actually did not build any mass customization operation of its own, but outsourced most of the process to mass customization intermediary Zazzle. Keds Studio is one of the finest examples for the benefits of the new MC infrastructure providers.

In an e-mail, Gregg Poulin, who initiated and implemented the Keds mass customization program as the e-commerce director at Keds, described how this collaboration worked (Gregg has left Keds to become CEO of compete.com).
When Keds' management decided to profit from the mass customization trend, Gregg had to face a tough challenge:

"Essentially I had no budget and very little partnership dollars to create a custom shoe program that as you know can cost millions of dollars. In order to complete the vision I needed to be creative and find partners."

While browsing the web looking for a solution, he found my blog and a report on Confego, the company of Brennan Mulligan that later became part of Zazzle:


[solution] I found through your writings is Confego. They were the second key to the solution. I had the brand, they had the process/systems. Now I needed the community, which is where zazzle.com fit in."

With this partnership, Keds has beaten Adidas, Nike, Puma, Timberlands and the other large players in the industry with a very elegant solution: It truly is the first 'custom' shoe program that enables people to not only design their own shoes from the ground up but also to sell their own collection to others and make a profit.
Gregg told me:

"Within 48 hours, there have been over 18,000 designs published on Zazzle. Can you imagine the dollars it would have taken an internal team to accomplish that feat? No inventory to carry, not guessing on what will sells. At $60 per pair everyone is making margins well above, including the factory!"

The configurator is executed well and has all the elements of a good mass customization configurator. It also features functionalities like sharing designs, getting inspirations, using templates, saving designs, etc. which are part of the Zazzle online experience.
For Zazzle, Keds also is a large win as they now could add an entire new category to their assortment of customizable products.
For Keds, mass customization is just seen as a continuity of what consumers used to be by their own:

"Since the launch of the Champion in 1916, consumers have been enhancing their Keds with their own personal style using markers, paints, pens and other creative tools," G. Ribatt, president and chief executive officer of The Stride Rite Corporation, Keds' parent company, is quoted in a press release.

"This growing form of expression was the inspiration for Keds Studio. Through our relationship with Zazzle, we can now offer Keds customers the opportunity to bring an uninhibited range of design options and a more professional design aesthetic to this classic shoe."

Keds Studio and its cooperation with Zazzle is a great case of what you can achieve in mass customization with creativity and little money by using the existing infrastructure of mass customization enablers. And, by the way, Zazzle does not care whether you are Keds or just an average consumer: They may not launch an entire new product line for you, but like every consumer, you can turn your creative ideas and market opportunities in your own offering (Spreadshirt or Cafepress are offering similar services).

Update Aug 13, 2008: In a mail from Zazzle, they told me that one week after the launch, more than 30,000 user-generated designs for custom shoes were created in the community.

Jeff Beaver, co-founder and chief product officer of Zazzle, reports:

“We have an incredibly diverse and talented community of designers, and had high hopes that the opportunity to create custom shoes would get them excited. We’ve simply been blown away by the response, both the volume and variety of user-generated designs have exceeded our expectations. 

Some of the most popular themes include art, music, animals and politics, but you can already find pretty much anything.  Developers are also taking advantage of the platform – within 48 hours after launch, one blogger created a Google Maps mashup so that you can get a map or satellite photo of your hometown on your new kicks.” 

Read More
24 07, 2008

RYZwear.com: Applying the Threadless Concept to Footwear

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:13+00:00 Juli 24th, 2008|Co-Design Process, Crowdsourcing, Design, Footwear, MC Alternatives, Open/User Innovation, Sneaker|

we’ve set out to create a people’s brand – a community of designers,
sneakerheads and anyone that cares enough about art, fashion or sneakers to
speak up. Together we’ll create sneakers that are designed and chosen, not by
some big, faceless corporation, but by you.

Think of RYZ
as a stage for designers to showcase their creativity and a forum for people to
define what great sneaker design means. In other words, we just make
comfortable sneakers – the rest is up to you.“

This is how Rob Langstaff announced his new
business just one month ago, ryzwear.com The hope of RYZ is to become the Threadless
of footwear
, connecting people who design custom sneakers with those that
vote on the designs and purchase. I am wondering since long what could be good fields
where the extremely profitable Threadless idea can be applied to, and footwear
could be one option.

Rob Langstaff is not an
outsider of the sneaker world. The former
Adidas America Inc. president
has turned the business model of its former employer
upside down, Instead of assigning design jobs to inhouse designers, he is relying
on online clusters of consumers to design products and figure out which ones to
sell. „In Ryz’s case, it’s MySpace meets „American Idol,“ with
footwear as the unit of expression“, as an online report called the business model.

„The corporate design
team is limited by its walls,“ Langstaff is quoted in the news report,
„The corporation shouldn’t be dictating what the consumer wears. The
consumers should.“

This is how RYZ works:

  • Each month, Ryz will post a
    different standardized shoe silhouette on its Web site (a high-top shoe and a
    low-top shoe were the first two). Users can download the template and, using
    Adobe Photoshop, illustrate or add images across the shoe.

  • Site visitors can rate and
    comment on submissions. After a month, a winner will be declared and Ryz will
    order a run of the winning design — 100 pairs to start and 1,000 pairs by next
    — from a contract manufacturer in China.

  • The winning designer will
    get $1000 for the start, plus royalties of $1/piece on ongoing sales, and get their
    profiles attached to each pair and a listing in Ryzwear.com’s Hall of Fame.

  • Two weeks after the contest
    ends, Ryz will sell the winning shoes on the Web and, for now, in Xebio Co., a leading Japanese
    sporting-goods retailer that owns a stake in Ryz. The retail price: $75 to $90
    a pair

By 2012, Langstaff hopes to
allow users to design the entire shoe, from the shape of the sole to the shape
of the eyestay. He also hopes to get into athletic wear. He expects to rely on
customers to do most of his marketing.

Rob Langstaff is putting $4
million into his shoe startup, saying there is too great a disconnect between
businesses and consumers. He expects to do $40 million in revenue by 2012
(which would be about half the time of Threadless‘ way to scale, but could work
given his larger experience in the market and the higher price tags).

Interestingly, among some
of the people helping Langstaff to set to the business is Mikal Peveto, a former footwear executive who started
design-your-own shoe site Customatix
in 2000. In case you have followed mass customization since its beginning, you should
know Customatix. The company got much attention and had one of the best online
configurators of its time. But it also did offer too much of a good thing,
giving users really zillions of choices at a time when consumers were not
really educated in mass customization configurators.

But Peveto believes Ryzwear
can succeed where Customatix failed because consumers today are more comfortable
interacting and purchasing online from less-established companies.  „Our timing wasn’t great. We couldn’t get
people to buy because they didn’t trust the brand,“ Peveto said. „Now
is a completely different time than in 2000 because there are so many different
brands that are valid.“

So I am curious to see whether
Mikal Peveto and Rob Langstaff’s predictions come true. They took some serious
modifications of adopting the Threadless models for their industry. But
Threadless‘ customers are as much purchasing the membership in a club, a
community, by purchasing t-shirts frequently at $15 a pop. I am not quite sure that
this will work with $90 sneakers.

To develop however a great (and
profitable) underground line of sneakers with a great story, their approach may
work will. T
hey may want to learn from Muji, the
Japanese’s retailer, and its approach to the model. Muji is not just
letting customers vote on new designs, but also asks them to make a
small cash payment on the item they really want to have in stores.
Thus, they can much better predict what
people will purchase later. Such an approach also could benefit RYZ as
it would connect the voting process closer with purchasing.


A good article in Oregonlive told me first about RYZ

recent article in the
San Francisco Chronicle on crowdsourcing and user idea
competitions is featuring RYZ, Threadless, and a number of other companies.

My previous
reports about the CEC User Co-Design Competitionand Open Source Footwear.

15 07, 2008

The CEC Co-Design Contest: Open Innovation in the Footwear Industry

By | 2018-06-14T12:54:18+00:00 Juli 15th, 2008|Co-Design Process, Footwear, Guest Articles, Open/User Innovation, Research Studies|

A year ago, I reported about the CEC User Co-Design Contest. Now, the results are in and the experiment is over. In the following guest article, Angelika Bullinger and Erik Hansen report about the contest. They are working at TUM Business School and were the project leaders of this contest. Here is their report:

During the last three to four years, we have seen a dramatic surge in interest in the principle of “open innovation”. “Open innovation” means the involvement of customers and other partners in the innovation process. By their creative input, many companies are significantly increasing their ability to source powerful products.

But how to meet with the creative minds outside your company?

For European shoe manufactures, an answer to this question is provided by the “CEC Co-Design Community (CE3C)”, a web-based platform that enables the integration of customers in the innovation process. The platform provides combinable modules for the interaction of the company with its customers and partners. For example, in the “mindstyle module”, customers get an analysis of their preferred style by intuitively selecting pictures out of number of photographs. The manufacturer gets information which trends are currently “hot”.

In another module, “product configuration” those shoes in the collection which can be customized are shown. By the data on individualized shoes, manufacturers are informed about customers’ preferences. Especially in combination, the modules of CE3C provide shoe manufacturers with rich information on their current consumers’ preferences. 

But preferences of current customers are not enough to your company? You want really innovative designs and get to know their creators? In this case, the “idea contest” is your solution. An idea contest is a forum in which passionate contributors from all over the world can exercise their creativity on account of a topic defined by the organisator. Prizes – and the recognition by the company – generate interest and drive participation. Typically, one company organizes an idea contest and submitted ideas are judged by a panel of employees.

The idea contest module of CE3C has already been very successfully tested – the “CEC Shoe Design Contest” was run between October and December 2007 on the platform. To involve customers more closely, a voting functionality allowed users to express their opinion on the submitted shoe designs. User votings were integrated the final decision-making on the winning designs.

The results of the CEC Shoe Design Contest have been very satisfying to the involved shoe manufacturers: In total, 63 highly innovative designs have been submitted. The active community of interested users (and submitters) has about 400 members who stem from nearly 50 countries around the globe. Both the unusual size of the community and the number of high-quality submissions indicate the power of the idea contest module of CE3C. The winning designs are currently manufactured and companies are getting in touch with the creative minds behind the designs.

You also want an idea contest for your company?
You would like to meet with the still unknown designers? The CEC CoDesign Community (CE3C) stands ready for adaptation to your company’s particularities – and the established community only waits for the next idea contest on account of a thrilling topic. Let’s thus integrate and innovate!

For more information, contact Angelika Bullinger or Erik Hansen.

Here are some more results of the first contest in form of pictures:





13 11, 2007

Create the Shoe of you Dreams – Participate in the CEC Shoe Design Contest

By | 2018-06-14T12:56:50+00:00 November 13th, 2007|Co-creation, Crowdsourcing, Footwear, Open/User Innovation, Sneaker|

Open Innovation and crowdsourcing finally is arriving in the footwear industry

CecshoedesigncontestCrowdsourced logos were yesterday, now it is all about shoes. The CEC project is a large European research project dedicated to nothing smaller than reinventing the footwear industry. My old research group at TUM is a major partner in the project, and as part of the work, they are now running the first European Consumer Shoe Design Contest where everyone can become a shoe designer.

Your task is to design a shoe model along a theme called “Original Origin”. This category of aesthetic trends expresses cultural values, regional roots and techniques and at the same time uses authentic materials and innovative shapes. The contest asks everyone to play with the theme and interpret it in the most creative, but still feasible way.

More details on the contest can be found in the CEC Contest briefing which also has the exact rules of the design contest.

Submissions are evaluated by a top-class jury consisting of international shoe and design experts from companies like Hugo Boss, CallagHan, Liitto, Future Concept Lab, and Frau. The jury’s criteria for the assessment will be design, innovativeness, feasibility, task alignment, and an overall score for excellence. In addition, also the public can vote on their favorite design and nominate a public winner.

Awards are a bit technical but provide a nice opportunity for everyone interested in footwear:

The first price is a site visit with Hugo Boss in Morrovalle/Italy to get a prototype of your design as well as to gain insight into prototyping process.

The second price is a real working prototype of your design, manufactured according to your design and mailed to you

The third price is a free participation at the “Future Vision Workshops” dedicated to the aesthetic trends in Milan (also, winners of the first and second price are invited to participate).

How to participate:

Register on cec-designcontest.net and enter the “Design Studio” to upload your design. All what you have to do is to provide a sketch or rendering of your design (and a short description). All further information can be found in the design briefing.

Submissions are accepted until December 31st, 2007. Winners will be announced on February 29th, 2008.

Now, start designing!

A personal comment at the end:
The footwear industry is an extremely conservative industry far behind many other industries with regard to open innovation and customer driven value creation. So it is a real revolution that they now start such a competition. I am curious to see how this contest may change their attitude and expectations – and if the wining design ever will be produced. However, the rather long contest rules and the not too fancy prices already show how difficult it is to get their commitment. But it is a great start – and hopefully more initiatives like this will follow!)

Context information:

– The contest web site: http://www.cec-designcontest.net
– Earlier post on the CEC-made Shoe Research Project
– Similar ongoing competition (open source footwear)