The Co-Creation Platform For The Sport-Style Industry

By Vivienne Amari, WGSN, 07 October 2011

This month WGSN’s footwear experts speak with Brian Bednarek – founder of MESH01 – on the concept of crowdsourcing and how his co-creation platform is re-shaping the sportswear industry.

Crowdsourcing is a term that has gained a great deal of momentum over the past few years. Originally coined by Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” the concept has evolved into a primarily web-based activity. Given the vast number of freelancers in design, the potential for crowdsourcing among this sector is great, and could potentially reshape the ways that companies regard design and brand strategy.

One site which is evolving into the benchmark for the crowdsourcing model in the sportswear industry is MESH01. According to the website, MESH01 is a co- creation platform that links designers and brands worldwide. Together, they create and launch innovative products for the SportStyle industry.

Its founder, Brian Bednarek, came up with the concept after having spent 14 years in the sportswear industry in a variety of roles as well as eight years in technology, most recently for a company called Techcoder, working on crowdsourcing. “I combined two passions and threw in innovation, and created a dream job”, he says, launching the site in April 2010.

The MESH01 site offers designers a forum for their work, but also allows them to participate in design competitions directly for participating brands, thus gaining the opportunity to showcase their ideas directly, and immediately.

The MESH01 site offers designers a forum for their work, but also allows them to participate in design competitions directly for participating brands, thus gaining the opportunity to showcase their ideas directly, and immediately.

Bednarek says that the site strives to “provide opportunities for designers to try different things”, as he feels that there is a growing movement of “more and more people who would rather choose what they do”, rather than always being directed in what they do. He does stress, however, that the site does request that designers get approval from employers before participating, as they do not want to get into a situation in which a designer is breaching a non-compete agreement.

The future of MESH01 is promising: when it first launched in April 2010, it had zero members. Bednarek and his collaborators then built a beta site to put the word out and interest quickly spread.

Today, just over a year after its launch, the MESH01 community now has over 3,000 members representing 60 countries, and over 500 design schools around the world. He is quick to note, however, that they are not striving to be the biggest site with the most members, but rather are looking to produce a lot of value, and to be the most active: He seems to care greatly about the success rate of MESH01 initiated projects, and strives to provide support to both designers and members.

The focus of the site is “how we provide value”, Bednarek says. To that end, they have focused on the briefing process, working directly with brands to improve the effectiveness of their briefs. They also nurture designers by providing support and feedback as needed. “You have to value effort and time; and give feedback. To do that, we answer every email that we can”, Bednarek says. There is as well the possibility for designers to get feedback from other members of the community through comments and direct messages.

One brand which is interested in MESH01’s approach is Reebok, who are currently sponsoring a talent search on the site. Mike Kirtley, director of design, innovation team, and Dana Faulconer, head of recruiting, say they are very excited about the prospects for MESH01. Faulconer says that they agreed to work with MESH01 when Bednarek reached out to them because they “wanted to be more innovative in how (they) reach out to people interested in working at Reebok.” The search that they are currently running on the site is to find designers for Kirtley’s innovation team. Kirtley says that he feels MESH01 allows them to “connect with active and passive candidates, to engage with the community, to be more creative, and to speak to designers in a way that is more familiar to them”.

The talent search ends around the middle of November, with the winning entrants being invited to the company for an interview and to meet the team. Thus, while Kirtley and Faulconer have said that it is still early to judge the success of the process in achieving the company’s goal, the initial traffic on the site for their competition has been promising.