More on the Future, now with dancing robots.

dancing robot
(Thanks so much to all of you who left robot-dress links! Carol was the first –by email– and she'll get some Dress A Day pencils and a dress-shaped notebook.)

left a good comment on the last entry, and, since I know some folks don't come back and read the comments (I am making a face of shock and horror), I wanted to respond up here in the main entry.

This would be far too expensive and illogical in the real world, as far as designers making your designs, one at a time.

I get that it's expensive now — what I'm hoping for is a convergence of tech and design that makes it inexpensive, and I think that, although it's not here yet, it's coming. We'll see it sooner than we think.

Now, I'm not sure that it's illogical, though. Think about graphic design–would most graphic designers want to design something for you from scratch? Well, yes. But are there freelancers out there who will take your basic sketch and keep you from making dumb mistakes and doing something horrible? Well, yes again. Check out — plenty of people offer design "help". And some people will just be your hands if you don't have the InDesign skillz you need to lay out your newsletter, brochure, etc. and will never make one single suggestion about how maybe, just maybe, you don't want to use Comic Sans. I think that this will eventually happen with fashion. You make the sketch, you find someone to program the and you get what you ordered. Have It Your Way, writ large.

I went through the beginning process of getting my own handbag designs made, to sell. The manufacturers wanted high minimums of products to make at once, and this was expensive, but it cut their costs, and cuts costs of each product, considerably.

I understand that this is how it is NOW. What I'm hoping for is manufacturing processes that make one-offs easier. I believe I read something on about a website that let you upload your design for machined parts — parts that used to require expensive dies to be made first — and get small lots of parts quickly and inexpensively. If it's hitting that manufacturing sector, it'll hit fashion eventually.

The pattern, the material, the design effort, etc. all in very short supply = expensive. Much time put in, much money spent, for one garment. There is no, this is great, now let's make tons. There's no real potential for profit.

Right. Again, this is how it is now. But if you think of the materials/manufacturing as being the barrier to entry, once those two factors become less expensive, more and more people are going to start wanting to make their own. Again, with graphic design — once there were desktop layout programs, many more people got into doing their own. Do I think all the DIY stuff is as good as old-skool designer-with-light-boxes-and-X-acto-knives stuff? No. But some of it is pretty damn good. I myself have InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator — just so I can mess around. As for profit, think about all the sites that make money off people making their own photo albums and scrapbooks and so forth. When the costs and methods get cheap enough, there will be money in custom items.

Plus there's the tricky little problem that "designers" are making YOUR original design, why would they want to do that?

Because there's money in it? Seriously. Once it becomes cheap enough to be a 'design facilitator' folks are going to do it. Think of it as the next step up from personal shopper. Can't find the pants you want at Nordstrom's? They will make them for you. They'll advise you whether what you want would be better in faille or twill or jersey. Come back on Tuesday. Oh, and they'll knock $5 off if you let them sell them to someone else, too.

Realistically, specs matching searches could happen, but it would just be a more sophisticated version of ways we can search stores, like Zappos, right now.

I think you're right that this will be first step. But adding metadata (like specs) is expensive, because it requires human eyeballs to look and categorize. Computers are just not up to speed on this yet.

Threadless has a vote on which designs to make, because making everyone's won't equal selling, right?

Well, it's not fungible. If Threadless doesn't make my t-shirt, it's not a given that I will just say "oh well" and buy some other shirt that someone else designed. If I ask them to make my t-shirt, they've made one guaranteed sale, and may possibly make others. The trick is in getting the transaction cost of that one sale down to the point where it's profitable to do it.

What can you do? Mix and match. Shop on the Internet and exhaust all its resources. You could even make your own tees on Café Press and only sell them to yourself. And finally, get a good tailor for the perfect fit.

Check, check, and I'm doing all that now! (Well, I'm my own tailor.) But I'm no cobbler, I have made one and a half handbags (I don't sew with leather, which narrows my options), and sewing takes up enough of my time to make knitting and jewelry-making not an option in terms of results-from-effort. Dammit, I want my instant fab machines!

Tomorrow, I promise, no more of this science fiction stuff. We'll be back to pretty dresses with occasional snark.

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0 thoughts on “More on the Future, now with dancing robots.

  1. I am very much hoping that customization will at least start in the home sewing world. Let’s start with dress forms. When will I be able to go somewhere and get my body 3d scanned, then order a perfect dress form? that is my dream…. i am having to make do with a mannequin with a paper-tape version of me shell over it. actually that isn’t too terribly bad.. but it could be so much better.My design is mostly limited to paper patterns, if I had a perfect copy of myself to drape on i could really rock and roll!I love your site.

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  2. I’m so very with you on wanting the magic future of design! My problem is I see fabric, and can see what I want that fabric to be (like some nice tweedy wool and think “Ooh, this would look great as a suit with a little skirt!”) but there’s no way I’ve got the skillz for that.

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  3. Your arguments are all great, and I’m excited for this new technology to come along. I’ll just need the money to afford it, myself (for it will be expensive for us, no? every new technology is expensive for the consumer at first, le sigh) But I’ll be there!I have one problem. I could have said what I just did after your first reply to the first section of my comment, but you kept going as if I were “still arguing” with you. I didn’t look so great in the entry. I understand that was not your intention, and perhaps I am too sensitive.Thank you for featuring my words, of course.By the way, I realize that you could be and probably are your own tailor, but I wanted to aim that at every one. :-)How is your caf shop doing?Good job and good luck.

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  4. Ella — Oh, I’m sorry — I didn’t mean for you to feel over-argued with. I’m afraid it’s a Univ. of Chicago thing, we shouldn’t be allowed off campus, even after graduation. (Ask AlmostGirl.) We get so excited by our own points we forget that other people left the bar hours earlier …My cafe shop is pretty much just for me to make shirts for myself. And to give as presents. If you see a schwa t-shirt, it means they know me! But thanks for asking!

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