Many thanks to my colleague Fran Taylor for this story:
On 7 December we ran an event in partnership with the University of Hertfordshire on customised design, and how designers can create unique, tailored goods for their customers – either at the luxury or mass-produce ends of the market.
It’s a challenging area for businesses. On the one hand it is a way of finding your USP (unique selling point) and potentially being able to charge more for your products. On the other hand it also makes the manufacturing and ordering process much more complicated.
The first speaker was Shaun Borstrock, who has worked with Asprey, Thomas Pink, and the British Luxury Council and he spoke about the luxury end of customisation. He talked about how the luxury market is forecast to grow by 57% over the next five years to £9.4bn. He talked about how a lot of companies often create the impression of offering customised products, but in reality just offer small changes e.g. by adding initials to a designer hand-bag or offering different colour options. He also gave the example of the Prada Lace-up project.
In contrast, Sarah Maynard from SML offers an extremely high end, bespoke service in the luxury transportation market. She has a team of craftsmen who can provide anything from working with a team of chemists to choose a specific colour pigment to a gold-plated gear stick. For her business, customisation is achieved through one-to-one relationships with clients over a longer period of time. Customisation is her USP and her customers are willing to pay a lot of money for the craftsmanship involved.
Our last speaker was jewellery designer Mark Bloomfield from Electrobloom. He is a huge fan of 3D printing and explained how it opens up opportunities for customised design, low-cost manufacturing and experimentation. Through 3D printing you can produce prototypes quickly and the creative process can be very iterative. It also reduces the cost and energy required for shipping and manufacturing abroad.
He produces beautiful flower-inspired designs in around 20 different colour and shape combinations. They are made out of nylon (which incidentally is also dishwasher proof).