Generally speaking, I believe the combination of design taste and crowd sourcing to be an uneasy one, but web developers have long been fascinated with the idea of consumer-controlled, vote-based product direction (remember these?). And now a new site based out of San Francisco called Inspirare is recruiting small-batch apparel designers (according to their PR person they have clients in Mexico, Italy, and Romania as well as the US), providing them with the funding to launch their brand, and allowing the public to weigh in on the design process. Is that a bad thing?

Not only is Inspirare liberating designers, but also the consumer. The online revolution has bred a new kind of savvy customer who knows who they are, what they want and have honed their own individualistic style. Customers are now exploring the world of fashion for themselves and influencing it's direction.

Opening up this dialogue between customer and designer, Inspirare have connected them directly in an expressive and fun online community. Through votes and forums, the public decide what trends flourish and what clothing is manufactured and sold to them, whilst sharing invaluable feedback and support to up-and-coming labels waiting to be discovered by the shopper.

Founded in the San Francisco Bay Area, a haven for new ideas, Inspirare is dedicated to supporting the next wave of fashion designers. Inspirare offers 100% production funding to it's designers and manufactures all of it's garments in the USA.

Here's the thing: I like a designer to surprise me, to make me think twice about what I think I like and what I think looks good on me. It's hard to see how "votes and forums" will do anything other than dumb down designers' ideas to the least common denominator, encouraging bland and interchangeable design ideas, creating doubts in a designer's head, and squashing innovative and challenging ideas in fashion.


Still, it's quite a bargain, that 100% production funding...