Z-Day by Ronan Lynam
A T-shirt that puts a wacky and macabre spin on the iconic V-J Day photo from World World II is selling like hotcakes these days.

Z-Day by Ronan LynamWhile the famous Life magazine shot depicts a sailor kissing a nurse amid the celebration that erupted in Times Square when the war ended, the Z-Day tee features a zombie taking a passionate bite out of his lady love amid a shuffling horde of Night of The Living Dead-style creatures.

But the $20 T-shirt wasn't picked for distribution by some high-powered fashion buyer at a big retail chain. Already in reprint, the Z-Day tee is available on Threadless.com because the site's shoppers decided it should be in the product line up.

Step aside, fashion designers and retailers: Web sites devoted to selling user-generated -- or "crowd-sourced" -- clothing are proliferating, enabling shoppers to take product design and selection into their own hands.

Social-shopping sites, such as pioneer Threadless.com, and newer sites like ShopMyLabel, which lets users create and stock their own online boutiques, are giving everyone a chance to be both a retail buyer and an arbiter of style.

And we're not just dictating fashion: We're playing a role in designing everything from jewelry and home decor to toys on sites like Shapeways.com.

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are getting into the act too: National chains have begun tapping consumers to help them design their clothing collections via social-shopping games.

Power to the People

This trend should come as little surprise: The Internet has created both a platform and consumer appetite for ever-more targeted and specialized products and services.

"Fashion crowd sourcing is the Internet-era combination of two venerable retail strategies: satisfying demand and building customer loyalty," Susan Scafidi, professor and academic director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School in New York City, tells DailyFinance.

"When 19th-century Chicago retail impresario Marshall Field adopted the mantra, 'Give the lady what she wants,' he couldn't have imagined the ladies in question emailing their own ideas and voting on each other's designs. But what better way to keep a finger on the pulse of consumer passion?"

Indeed, the crowd sourcing model, Scafidi says, is a new way to take some of the guesswork out of predicting consumer desires.

Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, a technology company that provides social shopping games to retailers such as the Limited and Saks Fifth Avenue (SKS), agrees.

"Retailers are realizing the voice of the customer is essential in determining which new products will be successful," he says.

Don't expect the social-shopping trend to put fashion designers out of business anytime soon.

"Should designers like Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang fear that their talents for reinterpreting street style as high fashion will be obsolesced by crowdsourcing? Absolutely not," Scafidi says.

"The social media generation may think of itself as a crowd of creators rather than a herd of consumers, but every crowd has its leaders -- and true talent tends to rise to the top."

But if big-name designers and retailers still largely determine what we buy, they certainly don't have the lock that they once did. Here are seven social-selling sites that are starting to put shoppers in the fashion driver's seat.



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