Researchers have discovered that consumers are willing to shell out more for customisable clothing and are likely to keep these items for longer, thereby curbing the fashion industry’s environmental impact.
The study, led by Dan Guide, chaired professor of operations and supply chain management, and Aydin Alptekinoglu, professor of operations and supply chain management at Penn State Smeal College of Business, United States, was published in the Journal of Operations Management.
The ‘fast fashion’ sector, notorious for its contributions to environmental pollution, often relies on inexpensive, plastic-based synthetic materials called polymers, leading to increased landfill waste, according to Penn State.
Dan Guide, the corresponding author, explained, “What we were asking is: how do we find a way to provide product variety while not suffering significant cost on initial manufacturing expenses? 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 participated in tests to determine how varying levels of customer involvement in designing, producing, and using T-shirts influenced their willingness to pay and garment retention. Another study included 501 US participants, exploring various mass customisation approaches.
The study highlighted that the technology to allow customisation already exists, with customers able to personalize products online. Flexible manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing can also support mass customisation.