H&M Lab’s Start-up Base in Berlin open the Future of Digital Personalization in Fashion
On the evening of June 6th, a store rented by H&M in Mitte, Berlin, which is known as “Starting House”, will serve as the incubation base for H&M Lab in the future to foster start-up ideas. In the evening, the author was invited to attend a forum titled “The Future of Personalization” by ZyseMe, the first brand to collaborate with this base. Speakers in this seminar include head of H&M Lab Oliver Lange, CEO of ZyseMe1 Bobby Östberg, representative of digital printing company, Spoonflower2 Maria Neidhold, while the seminar was hosted by CEO of German sustainable open source sharing platform, Sourcebook, Marte Hentschel.
“Personalization” in future fashion is all-encompassing, ranging from basic layouts designed from the beginning, graphic design for fabrics to business model transformation, solutions to processing of inventory and large numbers of online returns, followed by manufacturing technologies, anti-globalization, and eventually privacy issues. In the end, the direction and
conclusion of the forum did not meet expectations as it merely explored the meaning of personalization to fashion, and focused on why the fashion industry will move toward personalization and how long it will take to move toward personalization. Three of the most hotly discussed topics during the forum on that day are listed as follows:
Personalization and customization depend on AI, which is expected to reduce returns of online apparel purchase due to poor fit, thereby reducing carbon emissions from logistics
Using AI to produce fitting clothing only is ZyseMe’s ideal, and one of its sustainability declarations. At present, problems to be observed and solved continue to arise one after another. However, ZyseMe decided still to roll out the use of this technology, otherwise the problems cannot be identified. H&M’s representative echoed the same sentiment, saying that understanding customers’ sizes in advance may solve the current overproduction problem. After all, it is estimated that 20 to 30 billion wearable garments turn into stock every year. Well-controlled quantity of garments produced can also reduce special offers for apparel, thus causing losses to apparel brands. However, the next question is: What if custom clothes or fabrics are returned? As regards this question, ten year-old Spoonflower explained that it is currently still accepting returns, but has found sustainable solutions to handle these fabrics, such as collaborating with an automobile company which adopts upcycling or converting them into energy once again.
Transformation of a designer’s role
This part brought together the discussion of various possibilities, including the following questions. Will future designers no longer need to reference trends of the mass market? Does personalization merely cover only size customization or also include outline of design? Will designers only need to design dozens of “basic outlines” a year and also decide on their own other matters, including fabric patterns, based on customer preferences?
Impact on the current supply chain and consumer mentality
In terms of supply chain, Spoonflower, which has been running the custom fabric business for 10 years, revealed that during peak seasons such as Christmas, they will cope with surge in orders by means of “renting machines”, and suggested that the growing number of micro-factories that combine various technologies, including AI, digital printing, etc., in the future will also undoubtedly lead to problems such as machine allocation and use. Concerning consumer mentality, ZyseMe and H&M, which will run a micro-factory in London, said, even if, in terms of privacy, consumers are willing to provide size measurements, it does not mean that consumers want fully fitting apparel; therefore, there will still be problems such preference for tightness or looseness.
No one knows whether the fashion industry will move toward personalization and when it will happen. However, forums in Berlin and Copenhagen have signaled the beginning of discussions on this theme.
ZyseMe is a fashion technology company founded in 2017, which attempts to use AI technology to conduct an online customized service platform beginning 2018
 Spoonflower is a digital printing company which was founded in North Carolina, USA in 2018, and prints custom fabrics, where customers can upload their own design of printed fabrics, mainly comprising household fabrics or dress fabrics.
六月六日晚間，柏林米特區一間由H&M租下的店面，未來將成為H&M Lab扶植新創點子的孵化基地，名字就叫做「Starting House」。筆者晚間受邀參加第一間與這座基地合作的品牌ZyseMe，舉辦題為「個人化（Personalization）時尚未來」的討論會。與談來賓包括H&M Lab負責人Oliver Lange、ZyseMe CEO Bobby Östberg、美國數位印刷公司Spoonflower代表Maria Neidhold，主持人則是德國永續共享資源平台負責人Marte Hentschel。