While earning her undergraduate degree at Sogang University in Seoul, Yang was a member of the student drama club and in charge of planning costumes for each play. Planning the costumes required analyzing each character, a task that helped Yang’s interest in the broad field of fashion evolve into fashion marketing. Jennifer Yang, assistant professor of merchandising consumer products in the School of Design and Community Development, has a particular interest in apparel mass-customization, a business model that is gaining in popularity around the world.
Can you explain apparel mass-customization?
Mass-customization (MC) is a hybrid of traditional customization and mass production. When you think about traditional customization, you can think of a customized tailored suit. They measure your body parts, you select the fabric and the tailor builds a tailored suit just for you, to your liking in terms of design and fit. Mass production represents volume. It is like made-to-order burgers from a restaurant. Adoption of MC can be an effective strategy to practice consumer-centric business in the highly competitive apparel industry where consumer demands are diverse and unpredictable.
Mass-customization is a strong focal point for your research. Can you tell me why it interests you?
The research topic of mass customization interests me because I strongly believe that apparel products need to deliver added value to customers, and mass-customization can deliver the values that are tailored to the individual customer. With the help of technology such as digital printing, 3-D printing and body scanning, it is possible that the strategy can be better implemented in the future. As a result, consumers may be able to buy clothing and the fit and designs are exactly as desired.
Currently, how do customers benefit?
Firms involved in mass customization will manufacture products that cater to individual customers but will use mass production systems. The technique creates a certain level of variety and customization through flexibility and quick responsiveness. It is a feasible way to fulfill individual wants and needs. For example, there are many consumers who are not satisfied with the current offerings of ready-to-wear garments, in terms of fit.
Are there companies that are successfully running this type of business? Are they doing anything specific to be successful?
NikeID and MiAdidas are similar programs run by big athletic apparel companies. You may choose the colors and designs of the athletic shoes. Other companies such as Timberland are offering a certain level of mass customization. Brooks Brothers is offering customized dress shirts. There are many companies that offer mass-customization.
Finally, tell me about your research.
I published an article that developed the theoretical types and the scope of mass-customization in the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal. It explored the possibility that customization and modularization can be combined to identify a profitable position in the mass-customization market. I am continuing to conduct research on consumers' perceptions on mass-customization, specifically examining the relationships among consumer characteristics, their attitude toward using mass-customization and their purchase intentions.