Firstly for those who have an interest in cyber security and/or computer viruses, there's an excellent article on the Conflikter virus and its evolution on The Atlantic, avaliable here. I found it tough going but eminently readable. Considering this is now a botnet with 6-7 million computers in it, it's worth knowing about before it destroys civilisation.
However, on to the main portion of tonight's symposium, an excellent service I found out about the other day. Blank Label is a site dedicated to the art of co-creating shirts. What does that mean? In essence, that you design a shirt, and they make it for you.
The array of options is vast, and ever growing. They're even trying to engage people on the designs they have on offer. For example they currently have a poll up on a new collar style - the Nehru.
Speaking as someone who can't afford to have tailor made shirts (sad but true) this service is an amazing idea and one I have already taken advantage of. A charcoal gray shirt, with customised collar, cuffs and buttons, including delivery, set me back just shy of $75. To me, this isnt wildly expensive. I rarely buy work clothes and as such I'm willing to spend a little extra to get something special.
Also, when you put it in perspective, its not actually a huge amount. A TM Lewin shirt (my usual choice) would set me back in the region of £40. Thats for a generic, off the rack shirt, something I'll see coworkers wearing on a daily basis and which no one will look twice at. For a little over £50 I now have a shirt on the way which I wont see anywhere else. And I'm willing to pay for that little conceit.
Blank Label have hit upon a business model which I think will carry them a long way. They've brought a product which was previously exclusive to a worldwide community at an affordable cost. They are taking advantage of the fact that the internet creates a marketplace which can virtually guarantee they are profitable, even if they're only making a very small margin on each unit sold.
They arent the only company doing this, Chocri provides custom chocolate bars, and [me]&Goji allows you to create customised cereal. Strange concepts though these might be, I'm grateful for them, as I'll no longer have to think about good ideas for birthday presents.
Businesses like these are surfing a new wave of potential created not only by the internet, but the rapid dissemination of 'buzz' around the products they sell. Social media is spreading these things in a viral fashion, utterly bypassing old media and jumping from person to person.
Unique production is an increasingly viable concept across the board. Cost is being cut back further and further as the market accessability increases, the mass production technology grows more sophisticated (ironically more sophisticated mass production is unique production done on a massive scale) and the consumer demand grows. The range of products will continue to grow. Blank Label are clearly in the market to create a custom suit sooner or later, if someone doesnt beat them there.
Its an exciting new world, where anything is accessable. The next step, one I'll discuss in a later post, is to bring mass production into the home, allowing you to fabricate unique things.
I will of course, report back on the quality of the shirt when it arrives. For now, take a look at the site and see what you think.