Asking the Internet hivemind to make a decision for you is, historically speaking, a terrible idea.
The big, anonymous Internet decided in 2010 that Justin Bieber would perform in North Korea; it decided in 2012 that Mountain Dew’s new soda flavour should be called “Hitler did nothing wrong”; and, just this past April, it decided to name England’s new $266 million ship “Boaty McBoatface.”
Despite how evil online strangers can be, a new fashion company named Orin believes it can harness the crowdsourcing strategy for good.
For two weeks starting Monday, August 8, Orin will call on its customers to fill out a survey to determine which products Orin will make, what country will produce them, how much factory workers will get paid, and what the models sporting those products should look like.
Kevin Chan, the co-founder of Orin, says he was inspired by companies that have made transparency a top priority in recent years, such as American Eagle.
Since 2014, the company has employed models of all different body types and has stopped airbrushing its photos, both of which customers rewarded with explosive sales.
“It’s a hypothesis I wanted to test,” Chan tells Tech Insider.
Orin’s survey comes in three steps: Products, Manufacturing, and Models.
Users begin by telling Orin what kind of products they want most. The company is beginning with women’s activewear, so the items are limited to sports bras, shirts, shorts, and yoga pants, each available in six colours.
The next step is manufacturing. Users can choose between four factory locations: the US, China, Colombia, and Sri Lanka. They can also choose if the factory should be certified to protect the environment, whether workers should earn the local minimum wage or a livable wage, and if the materials should be standard, premium, or luxury.
The four choices aren’t just political, Chan says. Each one comes with particular costs that change what the customer ultimately pays. Each of the four decisions factor into the potential retail price, which is displayed at the top of the screen and gets updated in real-time as you click different options.
For example, if you decide your pair of standard shorts should be made in an uncertified factory in Sri Lanka, where workers get paid minimum wage, they will cost $16:
But if you want luxury shorts manufactured in the US in a certified factory where workers make a livable wage, suddenly they’re $65:
The final step prompts customers to pick who should model the product. For the models’ race, the options are White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Mixed, or Other, though Chan says a seventh option, No Preference, might also be added to the survey. Customers also select their desired body type, which ranges from skinny to athletic to normal to plus-sized.
Although the survey might only last two weeks, Chan hopes to build a business based on what customers want, so the data it gleans will determine how the company works for the foreseeable future.
In Chan’s mind, this strategy may be the only way to achieve the kind of transparency that savvy, socially-conscious people crave from businesses today.
“It starts with what products are getting made,” he says, “but now people are saying they care about how it’s made. So we’re letting the consumer decide that as well.”
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