There are many ways to involve a crowd, some more successful than others. Crowdsourcing is of course a very new topic and the word is being thrown around without much care or understanding of what it really means. I hope to clarify some of the different forms and some useful examples of how they work.
Crowd-bidding or crowd-voting
This allows the public to bid on what is produced, but they typically have little say in anything else. This is a great way to tap into the opinions of people in order to minimize over production, but it’s just a start as far as crowd involvement is concerned. Here are a couple of examples:
Gustin Denim designs a cut of premium jeans and fabrics and allows you to vote on which ones you like most. The style/ fabric with the most votes is produced.
Cut On Your Bias takes crowd-voting to the next step, as you get to select from a few options, giving a "you are the designer" feeling, for up-and-coming brands that have posted challenges on the website. However, there could be more options given to really involve the consumer/ designer in the process.
This is the most popular model referred to as “crowdsourcing” that is seen in fashion. In this model the customer gets to choose from a range of options in a huge number of combinations. It's like crowdsourcing but the main difference is that the crowd creates only for themselves and the results can only be purchased by one. I don't believe this is crowdsourcing, especially being that there is already a completely different name given to it. A successful example of mass-customization is Joe Button – one of many custom shirt websites. It’s nice that they have something for the ladies too.
Probably the most interesting and innovative to date is Constrvct, which is an interesting example as it looks like crowdsourcing but is actually closer to mass-customization on one real level: the print, but no one can vote on it, and only recently could you buy the designs, although it seems that the most interesting designs are not available to the public. They have also developed some amazing 3d software to facilitate print application to limited number of garment styles. There are only 4 very similar dress styles, 2 shirts, 2 skirts and leggings available. It will be interesting to see if they expand the garment offerings. Regardless, the 3D technology is cool and easy to use.
Kickstarter is one of the most well known and if you search the fashion section you’ll see that Gustin (mentioned at the beginning of this post) was successfully funded with over $400,000 USD!
is when you build a mutually beneficial community of people and get them to design a product (or part of it), vote and participate in building a productive community of professionals – regardless of whether those professionals were amateurs to begin with. This is what most of the others sites are missing - there's no community.
Threadless is the original and has been around for over 10 years and they have an extremely active community. They collaborate and share, and help others make what they do better. This is what real crowdsourcing is about regardless of the fact that they don’t design the garment, they are still actively involved in the design of what goes on it. The point is - the job of print design that was typically done by a couple of people working for a brand, to varying degrees of success are, is outsourced to the crowd. This is what crowdsourcing is – not a false sense of involvement, but real involvement!
A newcomer to the fashion crowdsourcing game is Betabrand. It’s very new, but has potential.
There's no design limitations for submissions, unless you count the prerequisite humour in every design. They do a good job of creating a sense of community and it will be interesting to see if they start to grow into a real competitor for Threadless.
In the end, crowdsourcing by itself is only sustainable in that it limits overproduction and involves consumers. All crowdsourcing variations do that, by tapping into the wants and needs of the consumer. Other then that, it's how you use crowdsourcing in combination with other sustainability theories that makes it really sustainable.
The article image is taken from: https://www.weargustin.com/howitworks