Ever picked up a shoe and thought to yourself, wouldn’t it be better if the hardware was in a different finish, or the sole a different colour? There’s probably no better time to be finicky about the details of what you wear, with mass customisation fast becoming a cornerstone of high-end fashion.

Take Salvatore Ferragamo. Following the success of last year’s Vara and Varina MTO (made-to-order) women’s shoes, the brand has launched the MTO Driver so men can also try personalising their footwear – in this case, a classic driving shoe. The options for elements such as material and hardware finish make for more than 100 permutations.

IT’S A SHOE-IN Salvatore Ferragamo’s classic driving shoe can now be personalised under its MTO (made to order) programme. Taking into account all the options, there are more than 100 permutations, so you can have a timeless shoe design to call your own.

With notable designer Jason Wu helming its womenswear division, Hugo Boss is also showing that it’s not just about crafting men’s suits. For autumn, the German brand presents the Boss Bespoke Bag for women, a structured tote that can be personalised with different colourways and hardware finishes.

Hugo Boss is launching the Boss Bespoke Bag for women, a structured tote evocative of the label’s menswear and tailoring roots, complete with cufflink-inspired fastening lock. Available in five colourways and two metal finishes, the bag can also be personalised with metal letters on the back.
 For customers who feel like they have already made enough decisions at the office, mass customisation offers a shortcut to owning something special. Think of it as putting together a Lego model set, rather than building something from scratch. There is a fixed blueprint and you decide within that – choices are numerous enough, but not so many that they overwhelm the customer or the production line.


Strictly speaking, mass customisation is nothing new. Dell has been selling configure-to-order personal computers for ages. In the fashion sector, Levi’s launched a mass customisation programme in 1994 called Perfect Pair. For years, consumers could get their jeans tailored to their sizes and preferences. The programme never really caught on, and was terminated a decade later. In 2010, however, the denim company jumped right back into mass customisation with Curve ID. The difference? This time, it was an online interactive experience.

Technology has greatly increased the potential for mass customisation programmes. Configurators (the digital platforms that customers use to pick colourways and see visualisations of their desired specifications on the product) have become less expensive even as their capabilities have grown.

Prada has been periodically holding limited-time Made to Order projects, offering customers the chance to personalise their pumps or their brogues. Most recently, shoppers had the chance to customise their Decollete heels with an array of options pertaining to heel height, material and colour.

Customers participate in the design process by clicking on options. Companies, in turn, deliver an individualised product. The customer gets to wear something he had a hand in making, and the company has less inventory to contend with. Everybody wins.

With consumers becoming increasingly connected and eager for ways to wear their individuality on their sleeves, it’s not hard to see why mass customisation has caught on in a big way. This is especially true for the luxury sector, which has even more pressure to offer products and experiences truly special to its customers. Being able to get your initials on your Louis Vuitton carry-all with its Mon Monogram service, customise a pair of Prada Made to Order Decollete shoes or personalise an Hermes scarf seems par for the course.

First, there was the Mon Monogram service, which allowed LV lovers to jazz up their monogram leather pieces with their initials and stripes. Now, the French luxury brand extends this customisation service to its grey-checked Damier Graphite items. They can be dressed up with one’s initials and stripes, in a palette of up to 22 colours.


But at a time when consumers can “design” a pair of Nike trainers at their computers and even Coke cans can be customised, how can luxury brands set themselves apart? Perhaps the answer lies in customer engagement beyond the retail process, and aligning the service with the brand’s DNA and digital marketing strategy. Burberry, for instance, first plunged into mass customisation in 2011 with Burberry Bespoke, a programme that celebrated its iconic trench coat, while etching into public consciousness the idea that the Burberry trench was the only trench worth having.

What was clever was not that customers could line a coat with mink if they felt like it, but that even those who could not afford a designer trench coat could be part of the experience. Site visitors could assemble a coat virtually and share those images on social media platforms – an effective way for the brand to build brand loyalty while creating buzz. This month, Burberry extends its customisation capabilities to another signature accessory: its cashmere scarves.

This month, fans can look out for the Burberry Scarf Bar, which offers the full range of the brand’s signature Scotland-made cashmere scarves for personalisation and monogramming. Customers can select the colour and print featured on the scarf, as well as the colour of the thread used for the monogram.

As mass customisation continues to gain momentum in the luxury sector, true bespoke, where everything is measured and made to specification from scratch, may be the only option left for those who want something truly one-of-a-kind.

That said, not everyone has the patience to sit through numerous face-to-face discussions and measurements, and wait months for, say, a pair of Oxfords. At the end of the day, luxury is about satisfying personal preferences and, now, there’s truly something for everyone.