The name “INDi” could easily pertain to either “individual” or “indigo.” In the case of Archetype Solutions, the mass customization specialists based in Silicon Valley, it applies to both.
This story first appeared in the November 9, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The company on Thursday will take a big step in its effort to transform its INDi customized apparel operation from a business-to-business model into a business-to-consumer platform selling customized premium jeans to individual consumers with the relaunch of its indicustom.com Web site. With a simplified interface and greater use of graphics, it’s looking — one pair of jeans at a time — to establish INDi as a brand and expand beyond the nearly 20,000 customers who are already building their own jeans on the site.
“We’d done work for a variety of brands but never had the consumer facing or the brand, or the team with a strong apparel background, to really take advantage of the desirability of custom-made jeans,” said Ali Fenn, the e-commerce veteran who serves as vice president of sales and strategic marketing, as well as chief financial officer, of the venture. “We knew that 70 percent of women and 40 percent of men said they had a hard time finding apparel that fits, and we knew we had the technology to make what they wanted.”
Its B2C efforts began in 2008 with the introduction of INDi as a consumer brand, giving it a presence in the mass and individual customization camps.
More recently, with the additions of Tommy Hilfiger veteran Ben Ng as chief executive officer of INDi and Ulrich Simpson as its creative director, it’s elected to give up its B2B customization efforts entirely.
“With our old model, we didn’t have a direct line to the consumer,” Fenn noted. “Now we do.”
INDi continues to rely on single-unit manufacturing. “Traditional jeans manufacturers aren’t able to deliver custom denim because they don’t have the technology and expertise that we’ve developed over the past 10 years,” she added. “Customizing denim the way INDi does is really hard stuff, which is why we are the only ones who can do this and have patented the process.
“When other jeans manufacturers make any standard product they still have the need for warehouses and inventory. We don’t, which makes our model that much more efficient.”
Eliminating what Fenn considered the “deep, dark tunnel” of the old interface, customers will be able to assemble jeans with the model, fit, fabric, wash and detailing they want for between $175 and $200 and receive them directly from the company’s factory in Mexico in about four weeks. Once basic sizing information is entered, consumers will have a choice of three different purchase paths to pursue, backing up the goal of letting clients “customize as much or as little as they want to,” said Fenn.
In its simplest form, ordering might just be a matter of modifying a spec or two on any of about 20 styles. Women and men in need of a bit more TLC can choose from various body types, filtering the selections in accordance with their needs. In the full-blown form of the customization process, customers provide detailed information on their body dimensions and type, including data on often-neglected characteristics such as shoe size.
The customer information is used to develop a pattern that’s specific to an individual customer, although easily modified for subsequent orders based on changes in style, fit or weight. Colors are currently limited to various shades of blue, along with black and gray, but will be expanded later.
“About half the jeans bought in the real world are returned,” Fenn said. “We’re so committed to getting the person into the right pair of jeans that we’ll take an exchange at no charge, even if the error was the customer’s. And from the color of the thread to the design on the pockets, there’s very little we can’t make to the customer’s specifications.”
Any exceptions? “We can’t customize a hole in your thigh,” Fenn noted. “At least not right now.”