Many people love fashion. They love reading about it, talking about it and finding a unique look. Think of that creative person you know who always seems to find great combinations of clothes… who scours shops to find items with a slight edge and manages to pull off just the right look. 

What I’m describing is style. Style needn’t be experimental or avant-garde. It isn’t necessarily what you see on the catwalk or the red carpet. It’s more personal. It’s about self-expression. There is an industry built around this, with trend-spotters working for fashion houses and magazines who are on the lookout for the next big craze.

But here’s the thing – the fashion industry is missing a trick.

Many online communities exist in product and service industries. Gaming brands often lead the charge (PlayStation, Xbox) but there are others too. Take for instance beauty brand Sephora, or toy company Lego. These businesses have reaped the benefits of communities and I believe fashion brands could too. And yet, so few have embraced the community approach.

A great example of the power of community within the fashion sector is Threadless, whose designs are created and chosen by its members. Nonetheless, while Threadless proves that a community model works, after 17 years few fashion brands have followed their example.

Why not? There are a number of possible reasons.

First, while consumers are notoriously loyal to fashion brands, this can be a double-edged sword for companies in the industry. Maintaining your customer base means remaining distinctive. For fashion brands, this often translates to retaining creative control over your designs. In addition, the success of the industry is largely built upon a culture of individuality, with famous (often eccentric) designers usually playing a key part in a brand’s marketing.

However, as described, fashion brands seek out  inspiration from the outside world. Now imagine if, instead of going out to look for it, the inspiration came directly to you. Imagine bringing customers into the design process of a new clothing ranges that they’d love to wear.

While few fashion brands currently have their own branded online communities, doing so would offer them a unique place to mine ideas from a thriving base of passionate customers. Customers could show designers how they wear their clothes, which combinations they create, the styles they favour and which other brands they like. What better way to get people excited than by bringing them on board?

I’m not suggesting doing away with traditional design, and fashion brands uncertain about the benefits of this approach needn’t dive in headfirst. But a brand owned community could begin as a source of inspiration for designers and give the company a real way to interact with customers on a daily basis. Now that the shop floor is either online or far from the inner workings of the business there are still great ways to interact with your customer base. Then, when they’re ready, perhaps the brand could allow customers into the design process. The community could submit designs, and through this exchange of ideas, brands could create a unique new clothing line that is even more appealing to their consumers.

Ultimately, I believe the reason many fashion brands are yet to embrace community comes down to culture. Understandably, this is no small barrier. However, by involving customers more profoundly in their business, brands could develop a whole new approach to fashion, one that brings customers – as well as the catwalk – into the process. This could save millions in marketing and create a unique customer connection. A big idea, perhaps, but for those willing to try… the opportunities are ripe for the picking!

 

ALSO READ…

Community Job Descriptions – Community Manager

The roles that are described in this series are an example of a team structure for a large and mature community and can be expanded on, depending on the specific needs of the company. Generally we would expect large Community teams to be structured using...

Tomorrow’s customer experience requires a reboot of business purpose…now

If I owned a time machine and could zoom back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, I would love to ask an industrialist to join me at the Forrester CX Europe Conference which took place this week. There would be a great deal that would bewilder my nineteenth...

8 Common Community Management Mistakes To Avoid

Since I know myself as a Community Manager, and from research on past decades of the profession, I see many discussions about our roles and how easy it is to mix our professional and personal lives into one big thing. Some companies and colleagues even brag that they...

Community Collaboration is the key to small business success

Launching a business is an exciting challenge, but it always comes with adversities to overcome. Elements such as low brand awareness, smaller budgets for marketing and the realisation that headcount is a huge expense can make it difficult to change the...

Community Job Descriptions (Intro) – VP of Community

Dear fellow Community Management Professionals, I’ve noticed some of us asking for job descriptions of our roles out there in the ether, like recently on the CMX Facebook group, including the job description VP of Community, sometimes also called Chief Community...

4 Steps To Using Data Driven Strategy For Community Engagement

Most of us have heard the phrase ‘the more the merrier’ and that holds true for our Online Forums. Increasing community engagement leads to heavily involved members that “spend up to ten times more than an average customer.” (How to Increase Sales by Vincent Boon) The...

Job Vacancy: Community Coordinator

We are an exciting young company based in London Paddington with unprecedented expertise in Online Community Management. Our founders have won several awards for their outstanding work in this field and we continue to strive to impact the relationship between brands...

Community Job Descriptions – Community Manager (Early-stage/Small community)

The roles that are described previously are an example of a team structure for a large and mature community and can be expanded on, depending on the specific needs of the company. Generally we would expect large Community teams to be structured using the...

Three Powerful Statements To Use In Your Online Community

“As Community Managers, we are human. We talk to people. We are interested in each other, we share opinions and we listen. But most importantly, we understand each other. As Community Manager , you should move beyond informing and let customers feel part of the...

Customer Experience(s) vs Customer Service

Having recently attended the CEM in Telecoms Global Summit here in London, one thing struck me above all else. Most speakers explored one meaning of the word ‘experience’, namely: technology. The focus was giving the customer more functionality, allowing the customer...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Vincent Boon

Vincent Boon

Founder

Vincent is Standing on Giants in-house community guru, futurist and troubleshooter. The source of our methodology he’s a fiery advocate for genuine customer-centric business.