Back in June, The New York Times Style section noted that the Rise of DIY was here again with an emphasis on “Design-It-Yourself” and "customizable luxury." Gucci, Coach, Opening Ceremony, Burberry, and J.Crew (to name a few) are currently offering monogramming and other customization services on outerwear and accessories; and it is expected for other luxury brands to follow suit. The New York Times article says the consumer’s desire for more individuality and self expression is responsible for the rise of customization, but I believe it is just a response to the luxury customer’s plea to differentiate itself from fast fashion and the knockoff market.
When Burberry designs a color blocked poncho, Zara can quickly and easily make a replica poncho. The untrained eye wouldn’t know the difference if they saw both ponchos walking down the street, and that of course annoys the hell out of the woman that can afford the $1500 Burberry original. But if Burberry offers a monogramming service, the customer can pay an extra $150 to train that untrained eye to know that hers is the real deal.
This type of personalization also affects a good’s resale value—for better or for worse. Companies like The Real Real, Tradesy, and Designer Revival help the luxury market sell last season’s goods to fund this season’s purchases. This Buy-Sell-Trade system makes designer goods available secondhand to a large market at a fraction of the price. When the Burberry woman decided to put her initials on her poncho, she can’t resell it to anyone that doesn’t also have those initials-- that extra $150 is her way of saying “I paid extra for this to be mine forever, and I don’t care.”
On the other hand, customization options like creating a one-of-a-kind Opening Ceremony varsity jackets and Gucci Dionysus bags can increase resale value. These products and services create the same level of status as the Burberry poncho (Canal Street can’t customize your back door bag, sweetie) while still allowing a large ROI.
So whether you are buying Anya Hindmarch stickers for your jean jacket, adding initials to your Kate Spade clutch, or having a Fendi Peekaboo bag custom made, adding individualized flare (flair?) to your wardrobe is something that goes beyond the late '90s-- early 2000s logo-mania and bedazzled brand names. While its worth might not equal the price to some, the luxury consumer can not get enough of this status driven #HumbleBrag.