Interview with Tim Williams

Tim Williams
Tim Williams
YR Store
YR Store

On-demand products reduce oversupply and wastage
YR is the world's first live all-over print fashion brand that lets a person curate and create one-off high-quality garments in minutes. It enables brands/retailers build stronger relationships with audiences through customisation experiences. Founder Tim Williams sheds light on the emerging personalised fashion market, millennials and the future of custom-fashion.

Can you tell us how you ended up thinking about YR Store & YR Live?

My business partner Tom and I set up a business some years ago to make exciting, artistic, interactive pieces for events and retail. Tom is a digital artist and created incredible project-based works in Bristol. So, we decided to commercialise that. As our business grew, many of our clients were in the fashion and sportswear industry. We got into fashion tech by accident! We wanted YR to be much more than just a company which offered printing services, and what sets us apart is our vision for customisation and on-demand printing from end to end.

How big is the on-demand printing/engraving/embroidery market?

The on-demand printing industry is growing rapidly and promotional products for example (pens, t-shirts, tote bags etc) are worth in excess of $40 billion globally. The on-demand production market (clothing literally manufactured to order) is growing rapidly-it will disrupt every single supply chain globally if it hasn't already. In my experience, the demand for personalised products is largely being driven by millennials and brands have no choice but to provide that offering. Some have been slower to adapt than others (Debenhams being a good example), but ultimately it is a trend that has staying power and that's exciting for us.

What kind of sales does custom fashion pull in-store and online?

Custom fashion appeals to multiple segments-with a strong focus on younger consumers who are adventurous and want to create their own look. While customisation is a strong revenue generator, consumers are likely to spend more time in store and therefore more money. Online it's a similar story-the longer a customer is looking at a brand's website, then typically they will spend more over their whole lifetime with that brand. In general, custom products can make up 10-15 percent of a brand's revenue, and as custom becomes synonymous with on-demand, this percentage will increase.

What kind of customisation services do you provide for apparel and footwear companies?

The YR customisation service starts with our bespoke design software which works though a large touch screen-these not only have great visual impact and draw in customers, but are also really easy and fun to use. We can create custom designs for almost any piece of apparel-be it t-shirts, jackets or jeans. Once they have designed their ideal piece, customers are then guided to the next steps of the process and make their payment through the retailer's preferred method. 

The production is automated as much as possible. The print or embroidery takes between 2 and 10 minutes depending on the complexity. Often, the designing takes longer than the printing! The YR software can collect a mobile phone number; so, the customer can carry on shopping and get notified as soon the garment is ready, further improving the customer journey. YR works in much more than just print-we enable multiple print technologies including embroidery, heat print and 3D printing and cutting, and we can work with almost any digital output.

The number of pieces that can be produced per day is only limited by the space allocated to the equipment and cost. So, an out-of-town production facility could be scaled to meet any demand.

Are shoppers willing to pay more for a customised fashion item? Can you give us an idea of the demographics of the shoppers of such custom fashion items?

I do believe consumers will pay more for goods made just for them, with a great fit and customised experience and final design. A big reason for this is the custom design, but also as the products are made on demand, they are more sustainable than mass-produced garments. Environment-friendly products have become more important than ever to the modern fashion buyer and the fashion industry is known to be a very wasteful one. Research conducted by Neilson (2015) found that 74 per cent of millennials are willing to spend more on a sustainable product. This suggests that millennial shoppers will be looking for greener, on-demand products in the future and will be happy to spend more on them.

What has been the most challenging customisation service so far provided to a brand?

YR has been fortunate to work with some incredible brands all over the world, and while print is still the most common embellishment, we have worked on some interesting products and techniques. For a major global luxury brand, we had to create extremely high-quality stick-on leather patches, and create a software experience to match-that was difficult and fun at the same time. The challenge is always to ensure consistency of quality on every item produced everywhere in the world. We are working on some really interesting projects at the moment. So, keep an eye on our social feeds.
Published on: 25/05/2019

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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