Whether suits or shoes, prams or bikes, buying tailored goods has long been a costly and time-consuming exercise.
Now, though, an influx of online stores is placing design tools directly in customers' hands, allowing them to create their dream product, in many cases for a fraction of the average retail price.
InStitchu is one service where men can design their own suits, shirts and vests, says co-founder James Wakefield, with options to select fabric colours, patterns such as herringbone and pinstripe, lapel styles, and a dozen other features.
To attract the doubters, they offer live chat help, an optional face-to-face measuring service and free minor alterations.
InStitchu recently launched a 3D body scanning booth with startup mPort, where clients' measurement details can be instantly taken and sent to a database to add greater efficiency to the ordering process.
“When we started in 2012 there were no other players in the suit customisation space in Australia,” Wakefield says. “Now there are imitators [such as Buttons 'n' Threads and Vinspi]. Though I guess it's the sincerest form of flattery.”
Revenue has quadrupled in the past 12 months, and in Institchu has dispatched its 10,000th order.
“We're entering an exponential growth phase. It's amazing to see the amount of venture capital funding thrown at this space,” he says. “And the most popular suits are around $400, much more affordable.”
Wakefield and business partner Robin McGowan see so much potential in the segment that in November they bought Mantorii, a design-your-own men's shoe shop.
Department stores are refusing to be left behind, with David Jones opening a concept store for online customisation leader Shoes of Prey in the women's shoe section.
"It's a key area of growth and one we are increasingly focusing on,” a spokeswoman says. “[In the past] we introduced our campaign 'Move With Your Mood', allowing customers to personalise their Levi jeans with options such as fraying, studding, detailing and distressing.”
Myer will bring "similar services to stores in the coming year".
While the fashion market is crowded, Rozibaby founders Rosh Ghadamian and Tahir Baig are relishing their position at the top of the personalised baby goods segment.
They compare the virtual pram-building experience with building Lego – parents can choose whether they want three- or four-wheel, air or solid tyres, a bassinet or seat, and a range of material colours.
“That's 64,000 combinations, and it doesn't even include the second seat option," Baig says.
Within a year of starting their business in 2012, orders have quadrupled. “People want something unique,” he says, adding he was looking for other baby products with customisable potential.
“Customers are becoming more comfortable buying online, not seeing the product first. There's a change in consumer behaviour and confidence.”
At Diamond Emporium in Sydney's CBD, managing director Gus Hashem is preparing to launch a new website that will reflect his shop's greater focus on design-your-own rings.
At the moment there are limited variables: gem shape, metal, and basic styles. In three months, Hashem will allow shoppers to pick the type of metal for the shank and for the setting, tone of the metal, and other features, with the aim to ultimately lift the number of potential combinations to 100,000.
“You'll be able to say 'I want rose gold for the shank and white gold for the setting which holds the stone'. This level of detail hasn't been offered before,” he says.
Once customers place an order for an engagement ring, they're emailed a computer-aided design rendering for approval.
They'll then be sent a wax model to perfect the fit, and the Australian-made ring will be posted within four weeks – half the time it takes a traditional bricks-and-mortar jeweller, he says.