dewolfe leather goods newbury street

Newbury Street Harbors the Makers of Fashion

How the Rise of DIY Culture is Influencing Retail

The indelible shifts in our culture and economy, prompted by the advent of pervasive internet access and rapidly evolving technology, are expanding into the realm of fashion and retail. Fueled by the online democratization of information that yielded a DIY generation, the fashion industry is incorporating the manufacturing prowess of the user into their product.

In other words, the maker movement is revolutionizing what we wear – from custom details to personalized designs.

Like most changes that have a lasting impact, the innovation is happening from the bottom up – at the street level. And there’s no other street in Boston where this trend is more evident than Newbury Street.

Holiday shoppers could see this first hand at The Third Piece pop up in 177 Newbury Street.  The Boston-based business was founded by Carina Donoso and Kristen Lambert, two millennials seeking to “transform fashion accessories and the craft of knitting.” Each piece from their collection is uniquely hand-knit by a local maker, whose name is noted on each garment.

“Shoppers are being selective in what they buy and want to invest in quality instead of quantity” says Lambert. “Buying from brands that create local economies or have a social mission adds more value and satisfaction. You are supporting someone you can put a name and face to.”

All garments at The Third Piece are handmade by Boston-area knitters.

All garments at The Third Piece are handmade by Boston-area knitters.

More to the point, The Third Piece collection is offered in a “Knit Kit,” a DIY package that provide consumers with the materials to make their own apparel. In this regard, The Third Piece has directly incorporated the trend of doing things yourself into their business model. “We not only embrace that people can make their own,” adds Lambert, “but fully encourage it.”

Directly above The Third Piece, shoppers can often see Gina DeWolfe hand-stitching her award-winning leather bags through the brownstone bay window of her pop up workshop. DeWolfe seems to embody the maker spirit, “I’d rather make anything than buy it. If it seems doable, I’ll always give it a shot.”

A few years ago, she set out to find the perfect backpack. “It had to be durable,” she recalls, “large enough to carry all of my things, small enough to use as an everyday bag, and most importantly – chic and professional looking.” Frustrated by her lack of options, DeWolfe decided to make her own – a product that would launch her upstart leathersmith brand.

dewolfe newbury

Gina DeWolfe crafting in her Newbury Street workshop.

Of course, a craftswoman like DeWolfe hasn’t let the success of the business stop her from hand-making each one of her pieces. Her developed craft and agility allows for creative customization – a big draw for consumers.

“Everyone wants something personalized just for them” DeWolfe says. The option to customize means each piece is completely unique: “sometimes it’s something small, like a monogram or an added detail to an already-made piece, but often customers will request unique, well thought out designs.”

The trend toward customized products is not bound to just the local, small businesses on Newbury Street. Brands like Madewell, Le Labo, and Indochino have incorporated personalized touches to their signature products.

Indochino, for example, is transforming the suit buying experience with their made-to-measure model. Consumers can build their own custom-fit suit, selecting the most granular details from buttons and vents to pockets and lapels: a departure from the big-box shopping experience familiar to many men.

“Everybody I know who’s worn a made-to-measure suit says ‘once you spend a day in it, you don’t want to wear anything else,’” notes Anthony Mastacci of The Next Gentleman. “It’s really hard to go back to buying off-the-rack suits.”

Still, the emerging dynamic between maker and consumer stretches beyond DIY models, made-to-measure fits and personal customization. Often the custom requests and feedback are synthesized as useful consumer research that impacts the standard offerings.

“One of my best selling products is the envelope clutch,” DeWolfe notes, which she designed to be a slightly oversized evening bag. “Many customers were coming back and asking if I could add an adjustable shoulder strap so they could use it as a daytime bag too. Since so many customers requested this detail, I now implement it on every envelope clutch I make.”

She is currently working on re-making a vintage leather safari chair. True to the maker ethos, DeWolfe says “if a customer can dream it, I can make it.”

ALLTOOHUMAN: Bridging the Gap Between Art + Culture

MUJI Opening Boston Flagship