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Retail technology

GU showcase store introduces personalized avatars for virtual try-on

GU Style Studio
GU Style Studio

Fast Retailing’s GU, is connecting online and offline retail with a new store in Tokyo’s Harajuku district, that allows shoppers to see sample products in real-life and then try them on using virtual tools.

The GU Style Studio, as it’s called, is designed to showcase garments and provide a sense of convenience by enabling customer to then order them through their mobile phones for delivery at home later.

Visitors are encouraged to create their own digital avatar through a photo taken at the GU Style Creator Stand, then scan QR codes on individual items via the GU Style Creator App to see how they would look wearing each piece. They can then continue to play with a combination of different looks digitally while they move through the store.

According to Osamu Yunoki, GU’s chief executive officer, a benefit from this technology is the data collected from shoppers at the store. Yunoki told Bloomberg that information on app usage and styling combinations can help GU learn more about how people shop and what’s in style.

After purchasing items, customers can choose to have them shipped to their home, or they can pick them up at a nearby GU store or designated 7-11 location. GU has almost 400 stores across Asia, primarily in Japan, Taiwan and China.

GU Style Studio
GU Style Studio

“We’re fusing the in-store experience and e-commerce to offer a fun and convenient experience. Harajuku isn’t just for shopping. It’s also a place where fashion is created. We’d like to use our customer’s creations as a stimulus for developing new types of fashion,” he said.

It’s not the first time Fast Retailing, Asia’s biggest clothing retailer, and also the parent company of Uniqlo, has chosen GU as a testbed for new technology: it was the first brand in the portfolio to introduce RFID tags and self-checkout back in 2015. Two years later, Fast Retailing announced they would be using the technology in 3,000 Uniqlo stores worldwide.

The industry is increasingly seeing examples of more seamless shopping opportunities – from unmanned stores, to overtly interactive ones. This idea of walking out empty-handed, meanwhile, combines the idea of a convenient shopping experience, while encouraging customers to share more data.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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ICYMI: Apparel manufacturing coming home, shopping by voice, French brands focus on startups

Is apparel manufacturing coming home?
Is apparel manufacturing coming home?

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • Is apparel manufacturing coming home? [McKinsey]
  • Voice command: is it the future of online shopping? [FashionUnited]
  • French retail and fashion groups deepen focus on startups [WWD]
  • Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger are sending a clear signal that Amazon is the future of fashion, and it’s terrible news for department stores [Business Insider]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Magic Leap is real and it’s a janky marvel [TechCrunch]
  • Fast Retailing signs deal to fully automate warehousing [WWD]
  • ‘Building the digital factory’: 3D printing comes to Shopify [Digiday]
  • Chinese investment into computer vision technology and AR surges as US funding dries up [TechCrunch]
  • Amy Winehouse is going on tour as a hologram [Hypebeast]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Dove gets certified cruelty-free [FashionNetwork]
  • Why fashion’s anti-fur movement is winning [BoF]
  • The Maiyet Collective’s concept store: reshaping ethical lux [Stylus]
  • You buy a purse at Walmart. There’s a note inside from a “Chinese prisoner.” Now what? [Vox]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Amazon Fashion to launch London pop-up [Drapers]
  • Brandless is launching a pop-up shop in NYC [TechCrunch]
  • Supreme envy: The drop model gets used for burgers, tacos, toothbrushes [Digiday]
  • Jenna Lyons is back, and she’s returning with a brand-new multi-platform venture [Vogue]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Three Nasty Gal ads banned by watchdog [FashionNetwork]
  • ASOS unveils campaign and collection for new Gen-Z label Collusion* [TheIndustry]
  • Adidas launches new membership program [HighSnobiety]
  • Why brands are launching secret apps for superfans [BoF]
  • Snapchat becomes the mobile HBO with 12 daily scripted Original shows [TechCrunch]
  • Superdry unveils disabled mannequin shop window for Invictus Games [TheIndustry]
PRODUCT
  • Alexander Wang is launching a new Uniqlo collaboration that’s all about underwear [Vogue]
BUSINESS
  • Judge removes Deciem founder from CEO role [BoF]
  • Sears files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy [WSJ]
  • Superdry issues profits warning [Drapers]
  • Coast falls into administration and is bought by Karen Millen [TheIndustry]
  • Walmart acquires online lingerie retailer Bare Necessities [Reuters]
  • Lyst launches French version after LVMH investment [FashionNetwork]
CULTURE
  • The most diverse fashion season ever on the runway, but not the front row [NY Times]
  • Met Costume Institute embraces ‘Camp’ for 2019 blockbuster show [NY Times]
  • ‘Gender Bending Fashion’ to be focus of new show at Museum of Fine Arts in Boston next March [WWD]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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5 lessons on brand creativity from Uniqlo’s John C Jay

uniqlo john c jay
John C Jay, president of brand creative for Fast Retailing

It’s relatively unique to be the former global executive creative director of an advertising agency (Wieden + Kennedy), turned president of brand creative for a major global retail group (Fast Retailing, owner of Uniqlo) – but that’s exactly what gives John C Jay, who also previously worked at Bloomingdale’s, such distinctive insight.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International of Festivity last week, he shared some of his learnings on modern day communications in the fashion and retail space. Connecting to culture, choreographing physical spaces, launching collaborations, looking boldly to a future using data and technology, and underpinning it all with authenticity, were all referenced.

“Brands need to be worthy. We’re so busy today; there’s so much noise that no brand is going to be a part of your life if it’s not worthwhile,” was one of his key messages. Read on for the rest…


On connecting ideas to culture

“I focus not on campaigns, but connections,” Jay said with relation to finding the relevancy in local culture, or indeed current day pop culture, for any given brand he’s worked on. He emphasised how important it is to really do this properly. “Agencies are notorious for skimming the surface of culture: taking picture research of a neighborhood, sharing that in a conference room and feeling like they’ve tapped into [it],” he explained to the largely advertising crowd. “You’ve got to put the effort in and really really get to know the culture.”

On narrative spaces

This view of culture also carried over to the physical spaces a retailer owns. Jay explained how Uniqlo is turning its stores into rich playgrounds for cultural exchanges. Its latest London store has two floors dedicated to bringing the creative culture of the British capital to customers, for instance. “Agencies need to be choreographers for brands in physical spaces,” he explained in a call for the industry not just to focus on creating impacts via communications, but becoming designers of narrative in the retail environment. “This philosophy – collaboration with local communities – is more and more a part of our strategy going forward,” he added.

johnjay_uniqlo_authenticity

On valuable collaborations

“With our collaborations, we don’t choose by fame or how many hits [the individual] has, or friends they have; it’s really about values. It has to be true to them and true to us. We have to agree on what the values are. A lot of people we choose are not the most famous brands in the world,” Jay explained. Uniqlo has recently worked with graffiti artist Kaws, for instance, launching a line of t-shirts that Jay referred to as “extraordinary in terms of sales”. It has also had two very successful collections with Christophe Lemaire, former artistic director of Hermès. That partnership felt so true, Jay said, that they were “finishing each other’s sentences”. Lemaire has recently been announced as the new artistic director of Uniqlo’s R+D centre in Paris and the new Uniqlo U line, as a result.

On a tech-enabled future

Jay put any retail tech naysayers to rest with a bold statement on the importance of data and technology looking ahead. “Get on the boat or you’re never going to be a part of the future,” he said. “Data [particularly] is another way to be creative – it’s another way of finding insight. We have to adjust our mindsets to accepting there’s no foe part to it.” The new Uniqlo R+D centres will be very much dealing with technology, he added. “We’ll be looking at the issue of how to bring the physical and virtual together into one storytelling space.” A campaign run by Uniqlo in Australia called UMood, was also referenced. This neural project saw consumers wear a headset that could read their brain activity and help them choose suitable t-shirts as a result.

On authenticity at scale

Underpinning all of these lessons came authenticity. It’s this, said Jay, that has to be at the heart of everything a brand is trying to do, particularly when looking to growth. “I would argue that authenticity is the only way to scale, because brands will change and evolve, but [with authenticity] values will stay the same. It takes a lot of effort, but you just have to enjoy it.”