By Cindy Atoji Keene
FPgirl was created for ‘tweens, who typically love to play dress-up, doodle fashion sketches, and shop for the latest styles, said Alanna Mallon, 42, a merchandise designer for the Beverly-based e-retailer that lets young girls design their own clothing. Aspiring fashionistas select from existing online templates, personalize with virtual trims and embellishments, then can purchase this custom-made outfit, which is made in a local factory. “FPgirl offers a fun outlet for creative self-expression and also a safe, interactive environment where kids can crowd-source ideas and insights,” said Mallon, who said that girls have created over 12 million designs in the online design studio.
Q: Why are mass customization companies like FPgirl becoming so popular?
A: People love things that say, “I’m an individual,” but up till now, it’s been expensive to produce one-of-a-kind products. Because of more and more production efficiency, mass customization is the ability to offer customized goods at a reasonable price. It’s not just browsing and buying, but now creating and sharing – in this case, girls use a game-like interface that empowers them to be original.
Q: How does FPgirl work?
A: A virtual sketchpad lets users select dresses, pants, skirts, handbags, and T-shirts and then save it to their own personal design collection. When they’re ready to order, a picture of the design is sent to our Fall River factory, where our seamstresses start with an already-constructed base garment and then apply graphics or sew on embellishments such as rhinestones or ribbons. Prices are set based on the complexity of the design and the number of items. Finished orders are checked for quality and packaged for shipment to customers.
Q: What do you do at FPgirl?
A: I design the basic silhouettes for the girls to work with, whether it’s a peasant tunic, long sleeve wrap, capri skinny jean, or charm necklace. Every season we introduce new pieces, and ask the girls to weigh in on colors, materials, and styles. For spring fashions, for example, I’ve been working on mood boards that capture what I think the ‘story’ will be – in this case, vintage looks, pastels, and lace will be hot.
Q: FPgirl has an online community so girls can interact and talk about their designs and fashion. How do the girls sometimes surprise you with their opinions?
A: We hold contests where we ask girls to submit a drawing, photo or computer rendering to show their creativity. We also ask for their input; recently we polled them on what pinks they thought would be hot for spring. I thought they’d choose a subdued, mid-tone pink but they overwhelmingly voted for a very sophisticated and not-so-girly berry color. They have a very strong and opinionated voice. But while we kid-test everything, it also has to be parent-approved. For example, girls love the ‘cold-shoulder’ top that bares the neckline and shoulder but we designed one that wasn’t as revealing and more appropriate for young girls.
Q: Before FPgirl, you were a designer for Sigrid Olsen and others. Have you ever happened upon someone wearing your FPgirl clothes or anything else you’ve designed?
A: It’s very rewarding to see something you designed on the street. It happens a lot around town – I’ll see a girl wearing something she’s designed on FashionPlaytes. And I also saw a woman wearing a sweater I designed when I was at a lady’s apparel company. My husband said, “Why don’t you say something to her?” But I just couldn’t see myself going up to her and saying, “Hey, I made that sweater.”