While we are still waiting for the results of our made-to-measure production testing, I’m going to talk, again, about an apropos subject: patience and its relevance to changing culture. I have begun to listen to the new podcast, Akimbo, by Seth Godin, the ridiculously awesome marketing guru and much more. His beautiful words on the title of his short 30-minute, lunch sized podcasts:
“Akimbo is an ancient word, from the bend in the river or the bend in an archer's bow. It's become a symbol for strength, a posture of possibility, the idea that when we stand tall, arms bent, looking right at it, we can make a difference. Akimbo's a podcast about our culture and about how we can change it. About seeing what's happening and choosing to do something. The culture is real, but it can be changed. You can bend it.”
The one I listened to this week was “The Regular Kind” on the progression of cultural change.
For example, someone starts with an idea – let’s say someone says it no longer makes sense to have standard sizing for womenswear. We can do it better! We can use technology to make high quality clothing made to women’s specific measurements (no sizes!), and use this disruption to do it ethically. And this idea starts with a few people (you and me), and a small handful of other businesses and entrepreneurs. I imagine the progression as Seth has laid out in his visual here as follows:
The Path to "The Regular Kind" for Made-to-Measure Womenswear
The Fringe (the start) – Some small Etsy designers are making garments to your measurements, success and accuracy are ambiguous. Some fancy tech people are getting their Burning Man costumes made to their measurements. It is super niche and super novelty. An oddity. Some women who march to a different drum are marching right into men’s tailoring shops and asking for clothing tailored for them.
Risky – A few, niche businesses are working on this concept. Small experiments are taking place. There is no clear market. There has never been the option to custom-make clothing to a woman’s measurements on any scale except for the niche, so the demand is totally unknown. There are lots of obstacles to doing things differently. Investing in this is risky. The benefits are uncertain. Even your customers and that influencer who vouched for your product is taking a risk.
New – You’re hearing about it. You’ve heard about people who love it. They are friends of a friend. There is an article about it. It sounds interesting, but who knows whether it will be a success, it is new (People get very hyped up over new things that bite the dust like that fancy juice squeezer out of Silicon Valley).
Hot – The ethical fashion folks, actresses and influences are wearing it. There is a waitlist. People are anxious to try it. They’ve heard good things. Brands are burning the midnight oil to get their made-to-measure apparel to market.
Mass- You can get made-to-measure at Target or on Amazon. For certain items like blouses, it becomes standard. More and more companies are organizing their businesses around it.
Always – At some point, far in the future, people actually forget that there was standard sizing. Your average Jane, not educated in fashion history may say that it was always that way. Clothing was always made to your particular measurements (forgetting or never knowing that messy period where we squeezed into oddly shaped sizes and overproduced lots of ill-fitting clothing).
It becomes clear listening to his podcast and working through these steps, the full magnitude of what “changing the culture” is. I did not set about to do that but ultimately that is the kind of shift that I see will be necessary. And when that is the goal, enormous patience is required. That is not a new lesson, but his talk helps me put it into perspective. This is a long tough road of many little steps and enormous patience because we are changing the culture. As if that were not sufficient, we actually seek to change the culture in several ways (is this doable Seth?!?!):
- Shift to a culture where women feel beautiful and the “right size” just the way they are. If it is made for them they are the right size 100% of the time. No more telling women what size to be, who’s body to emulate, how to measure up, how to fit into an ill-fitting system
- We seek to change the culture of disconnection from the source of the garments we wear – people & the environment. We envision this system bringing our customers closer to the stories of the sewers and the raw materials that went into their garments
- We seek to elevate the level of acceptable functionality women will except from their clothing. We imagine a world where fussy dry clean only fabrics, teetering heals, pencil skirts and pocket-less clothing will take their place next to the corset at a costume party.
These are big goals. This is the future. It is no so very near. It is going to take a lot a patience and a lot of small steps. When I started out I didn’t think I was trying to change the culture. But this is what it has become. We will get there.
Thank you joining me on this path. Your support matters. Thank you.