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On the job

Tapping the inner fashionista in young girls

Merchandise designer Alanna Mallon talks with tween models Maddie McIlroy, 11, and Tyler Jackson, 10, during a holiday photo shoot at Glenn Scott’s studio in Beverly.

Juliette Lynch for The Boston Globe

Merchandise designer Alanna Mallon talks with tween models Maddie McIlroy, 11, and Tyler Jackson, 10, during a holiday photo shoot at Glenn Scott’s studio in Beverly.

FPgirl, a Beverly online retailer, 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 firm. Aspiring fashionistas select online templates, personalize with virtual trims and embellishments, and then can purchase this custom-made outfit, 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.

Why are mass customization companies like FPgirl becoming so popular?

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People love things that say, “I’m an individual,” but up until now, it’s been expensive to produce one-of-a-kind products. Because of production efficiency, mass customization is the ability to offer customized goods at a reasonable price.

How does FPgirl work?

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.

What do you do at FPgirl?

I design the basic silhouettes for 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.

FPgirl has an online community so girls can interact and talk about designs and fashion. How do the girls sometimes surprise you with their opinions?

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.

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?

It’s very rewarding to see something you designed on the street. It happens a lot around town. I 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.”

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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