Crowdsourcing is the basic concept for public community platforms as Wikipedia or YouTube. Everybody contributes only a little part but these add up to one big community. Now crowdsourcing has established itself on the online fashion market.
The Dutch trend-spotting agency Trendwatching declared in its 2010 predictions that “this decade will see brands championing collaboration instead of an Us/Them mentality”. The consumer will drift away from a standardized passive role (buyer) and turn into an active creative designer.
The idea is that you design fashion for yourself and for others. Often online shops attract the potential designers with contests awarded by prize money. Voters decide which design wins and goes into a production series. One of the first projects was Threadless, which is based in Chicago and began a much-copied online T-shirt contest in 2000 with only $500. Its annual revenue was last disclosed in 2005, when it was $6.2 million. Many others like “Design your dream heels” a Canadian Website where customers hand in design for a pair of white high-heeled pumps. Almost every country has now its own internet t-shirt or shoe online shop. But also other fashion can be self-designed exuve.com a Californian Website has monthly contests for every kind of fashion.
But why is this development so successful?
Companies support customers work by every means because it saves money. A customer is a free worker how enjoys it so much that he invests his own free time for the company. But it is not only creative work that the customer does. Georg Ritzer calls it “The McDonaldization of Society”, we order the food ourselves, we draw the soft drinks, bring it all to the table and clean after ourselves. What happened to service? Ikea sells around 4 million Billy bookcases yearly. Assuming it takes half a hour to assemble and costs 8€ per hour, Ikea already saves 16 million € yearly. A Billy bookcase is therefore not to expensive but what about a cappuccino at Starbucks? Is it acceptable to pay 3€ for a Cappuccino to go?
I think that involving communities in design and creative processes is a desirable development but we always have to be aware of what we are giving us up for.