One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Why Custom Style Succeeds By Breaking Mass Fashion’s Rules

eShakti dresses range from $50 to $200, with many available for less than $100 including customization. Designs are offered in standard sizes of 0 to 26 at the same prices, and specialty sizes are available as part of customization.

“It would be fair to say that about 50% of our customers buy from us because they can’t get the sizing or the fit elsewhere, while the rest buy because they like our fashion and custom-making is an added plus. Remember, that even if a customer goes with a standard size, we still customize as to length, and where bra-cup size is given, also with regard to bust proportions,” says Mayer.

While it might be assumed that the bulk of custom clothing orders are from people at an end of the size range where it’s difficult to find options that are long enough, or short enough, or large enough or small enough, a significant portion of the people who decide to go for bespoke options could be considered average, but still in search of a better fit.

“We find that most guys will tell you that they have trouble finding shirts that fit. They might have a thicker neck for their body size, or longer arms than usual, or a particularly athletic or slim build. Very few people can fit off the rack sizes perfectly,” says Skerritt.

Kodjoe explains,”the issue with off-the-rack retail is, that this system has conditioned all of us to compromise greatly when it comes to our clothing and we don’t even realize it. When buying clothing in store off a rack, the size you choose is not really “your size”. You are probably able to wear clothing in standard sizes and mass designs comfortably, but upon closer inspection you might realize that usually there are areas in which you would prefer to make adjustments if you could. Maybe your sleeves are usually a bit short, or sometimes the waist is a bit large for you. Or maybe you would prefer buttons or cuffs in a different color or style you don’t see in the retail store.

Contrary to common perception, it is not just short or super tall men with sizing problems. Most people are just used to compromising and/or deal with spending more time shopping to find marginally acceptable fits.”

Indeed, while stretch fabrics have allowed for a better general fit in off the rack clothing, it’s the little things that stretch can’t accommodate. A larger than average bust, longer than average legs or smaller than average waist can make getting a properly fitting shirt or pair of pants difficult. But what can retailers, who have limited input when it comes to production sizing, do about it?

Follow Trends, Let the Individual Lead the Way

A large part of fashion – from design to retail, is correctly spotting trends and anticipating demand. Even among custom clothing makers, certain trends do emerge, but they’re adamant about allowing individual preferences to lead design.

Both Kodjoe and Skeritt list classic white shirts among their most popular items, though neither plans to use the preference for the wardrobe staple as a base for pre-made shirts.

“We do sell a lot of classic white shirts, but usually with some personal detail which sets each item apart from the next. This makes me think that people appreciate being able to express their individuality even if it is in a small way like a monogram or button thread colors. Some people do go for pretty eccentric design combinations, but not as many as I had anticipated,” says Kodjoe.

The overwhelming preference for all of the custom clothing retailers we spoke with was to take advantage of the internet to  really make shopping a two-way conversation – something they felt all online retailers could learn from.

“As technology evolves, it will support personalization and individualization of any product in any industry more and more, which benefits the customer. As customers will demand more ‘custom-made’, individual attention, traditional retailers, online or not, will learn to be more responsive to the customer’s individual needs and wishes,” Kodjoe continues.

If the name looks familiar, it’s probably from recognition of his brother, Boris Kodjoe. Boris, a former Perry Ellis model and actor currently appearing in NBC’s Undercovers, is a co-founder of Alfa. While former models have done well with collaborations and self named collections (think Kate Moss for Topshop or Elle MacPherson’s lingerie brand), Patrick Kodjoe says his brother is also betting on individual preferences over mass marketing. “A lot of celebs are releasing clothing lines without much or any personal involvement,” he says. “Boris was not interested in a traditional endorsement of someone else’s vision. Alfa is something close to his heart. Alfa is our personal vision of what is possible – a legitimate fashion revolution.”

Skerritt, similarly sees responsiveness to customer preference as the key: “a platform to interact and communicate with customers about how their clothes fit and what styles they like would enable any retailer to serve customers better.”

For women, who get used to using safety pins to keep shirts that are too tight across the bust closed, or cuffing pants that are too long, or lusting after clothes that aren’t produced in double digit sizes, the prospect of retailers who respond to individual needs is even more appealing.

“Customers are more variegated each passing year in shapes, sizes, height, body proportions and so on,” says Mayer. “Secondly, no one likes to be told, ‘sorry, we don’t carry your size.’ These are the two things online retailers need to see. Because in the internet era, customers write testimonials, share their purchase, post reviews and blog. They are in chat rooms, and social media like Facebook & Twitter. So they are more savvy than ever before. Mass-customization, long a buzz-word in e-commerce, is finally here and the customer has real choice. And retailers need to organize their business around giving the customer that choice.”

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