Crowd-sourcing fashion design allows you to mix and match pictures of real shoes, clothing and accessories... allows you to mix and match pictures of real shoes, clothing and accessories...and then it doesn't let you buy the whole outfit with the simple push of a button.

Instead, it gives you links to manufacturers' websites where you can purchase each item full price. (I think they're missing a couple of bets, here.) So what's the point? The point is that you can share your outfit with the rest of the community, whose members can rate it. Subsequent visitors looking for similar outfits may find yours and buy one or more of the articles that comprise it...or make changes to build an outfit of their own. It's sort of like a bunch of kids getting together to dress Barbies (which I admit I've never done) and then admiring one another's creations. Or perhaps it's like "dressing up" testosterone-soaked action figures with Power Flails and Action Disembowelers and so on and then letting them fight it out. Whichever.

So What?

Essentially, Fashmatch is crowd-sourcing the creation of fashion, something that historically has been the prerogative of thick, glossy magazines. Crowd-sourcing occurs when a large group of (often unpaid) enthusiasts works to create content or solve a problem. The web has plenty of examples. YourNextDrink invites you to contribute drink recipes and rate others' creations. Amazon invites you to contribute (and rate others') product reviews, from which unpaid labor Amazon derives significant competitive advantage.

An extremely impressive company called InnoCentive serves as a crowd-source R&D broker--companies post R&D challenges to their site and 90,000 independent researchers in 175 countries have an opportunity to tackle them. Interestingly, many of the solutions come from "left field": physicists who easily solve what are nominally difficult chemistry problems, for example. Rewards range from $25,000 to $1 million, which is probably cheap compared to the value of most solutions.

But back to Fashmatch. If it can master ordering and pricing (two rather key success factors for a potential retail site), I predict a bright future for it. Of course, fashion is fickle, and a site that's Hot today may be Not tomorrow. Perhaps they could outflank the competition by branching out a bit and augmenting their Dior scarf collection with the Action Disembowler.


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