Customisable Clothing: Key to Sustainable Fashion
Researchers from the US’ Penn State Smeal College of Business have discovered that consumers are willing to pay more for customisable clothing and are likely to keep these items for a longer duration, potentially reducing the fashion industry's environmental impact.
The study, led by Dan Guide, Smeal’s chaired professor of operations and supply chain management, and Aydin Alptekinoglu, professor of operations and supply chain management, was published in the Journal of Operations Management.
‘Fast fashion’ is infamous for contributing to environmental pollution due to its use of inexpensive, plastic-based synthetic materials called polymers. Such clothes are often disposed of quickly and contribute to landfill waste, with complex polymers also posing recycling challenges, Penn State said in a media release.
“What we were asking is: how do we find a way to provide product variety while not suffering significant cost on initial manufacturing expenses?” said corresponding author Dan Guide. “The big idea is that we'd like for people to stop disposing of stuff as fast as they do.”
The findings suggest that adopting a mass customisation model can help companies remain profitable while reducing their environmental footprint.
In the study, 237 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to test how varying levels of customer involvement in the design, fabrication, and use of T-shirts affected their willingness to pay and retain the items. A second study involving 501 US participants explored different approaches to customer involvement in mass customisation.
According to the researchers, the technology to allow customisation already exists. Customers can personalise products online, while flexible manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing can support customisation on a mass scale.
However, the study did note some limitations, including the cultural bias of participants being mostly from western backgrounds. Guide emphasised that the next steps would involve more diverse outreach to bring the research findings into practical use.
Ashley Stadler Blank, assistant professor of marketing at Xavier University, and Margaret Meloy, professor of marketing at Penn State Smeal, were also co-authors of the paper.
Source: Fibre2Fashion News Desk