Wearable Clothing by Urban Research virtual dressing room vendor lets you try on clothing digitally, purchase online

Written by: William on July 7, 2014 at 9:29 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Wearable Clothing by Urban Research is a virtual dressing room interactive digital unit was recently installed for a trial run in Ikebukuro Parco department. The fashion brand Urban Research created the unit which can be set up anywhere there’s electricity and wifi, and enough space. Like the many next-generation smart touchscreen vendors now commonly found in central Tokyo train stations, it uses a camera to scan the user’s body and in this case lets you browser Urban Research products, “try” them on, and connect to the label’s e-commerce platform so you can purchase them online.

The first test unit was available as a pop-up for use by shoppers (in English, Chines or Japanese) in Ikebukuro from June 17th to 30th. Look out for similar machines in train stations, departments stores and airport terminals; Urban Research plans to install six virtual fitting room vendors in 2014 and to have around 100 units in operation by 2020, including overseas. The brand already has a showroom in Taipei and wants to push the new virtual dressing room to Asian markets in the future, since it is much cheaper than opening up actual branches in new regions. Its online retail arm also currently occupies roughly a 20% share of its sales and it is aggressively expanding on this.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

This kind of tryvertising technology has been developing in Japan for several years now. Past successes include Shiseido’s “digital cosmetic mirror”. Japan also has a well-established tradition of “unmanned shops”, from its thousands of varied vending machines to roadside vegetable stalls.

The Wearable Clothing system uses Kinect, a 60-inch LCD display, and an iPad. Kinect is increasingly the software of choice for these augmented reality virtual fitting units; a similar one for Topshop also utilized back in 2011. Urban Research spent a year working on the project with a web development company, spent some ¥20 million ($200,000) to create two initial vendors.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

It responds to the user’s movements in real time as you try on your selected item (3D “real-time fitting”, as the makers term it) and even promises to give you a virtual experience of the texture of the clothing materials (so-called “cloth simulation”). As the Time Out blogger put it, “way more satisfying than fiddling with zips and buttons and bad lighting in a real dressing room.” If what you browse or try on takes your fancy, you can then add it to your basket and use the QR code it prints to access the brand’s online store and complete your purchase of the item.

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

Urban Research is boasting that this is the first example in the apparel industry of a single unit offering a virtual fitting and retail service all in one, as well as coordination with users’ social media.

The Wearable Clothing virtual fitting room is planned to appear next at Tokyo Skytree’s Solamachi mall this August.

The question, though, is whether in Japan, a culture with a very strong customer service ethos, could these types of virtual vendors truly take off and replace staffed stores completely?

wearable clothing by urban research virtual digital dressing fitting room parco ikebukuro fashion retail

[Image sources: here and here]

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Scotch Kousaku by Sumitomo 3M: Kids make paper clothes online, design by their voices and shouting

Written by: William on July 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Sumitomo 3M has created a special website for creating fashion items online, controlled by the volume of your voice. The “Scotch Summer Holidays Family Kousaku Paper Fashion Kids” (or just Scotch Kousaku — “Scotch handicrafts”) allows users to design their own clothing using the internal mic in their computer and voice recognition. By printing the design out, budding fashionistas can then assemble the pieces together using scissors or paper cutters.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

Scotch Kousaku is live now and is available until August 31st, making it a cool activity for parents to give kids to do at home while they are off school.

The Scotch brand has been doing these kinds of online campaigns locally for kids and parents every summer since 2012 and 2014′s one is built around the idea of turning children into young designers.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

The site is only in Japanese but is fairly easy to navigate. 3M provides you with ten wallpaper designs — a few basic clothes (t-shirts, dresses etc) and accessories (bags, hats) that are plain to get you started. You then supply the colors and patterns by selecting certain options — and shouting! The colors then respond to the volume and tone of your voice. For example, the more noise you make the more various multicolored leaves, splashes, circles and other patterns will appear.

Since kids are well-known for being loud, this is the perfect way to vent their vocal and creative skills.

Here is one we tried making… All right, we’re not natural fashion designers! Clearly we aren’t loud enough.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

Here are some examples that 3M have put on the website to give you inspiration. They are downloadable as PDFs.

scotch kousaku 3m kids make design clothes fashion items voice shouting

The clothes come in three sizes: Small (100-110cm), medium (110-120cm) and large (120-130cm).

Sumitomo 3M likes to do these kinds of campaigns to liven up the potentially mundane world of adhesive tape and Post-its. A few years ago they even had a very funky pop-up store in Omotesando that was more like an arts and crafts outlet than a shop to buy stationery.

There are no details available at present but the Scotch Kousaku website also promises a bricks-and-mortar store from late August where kids can try their hand at designing clothes.

For really releasing the need to shout, though, we recommend the Shouting Vase!

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Zoo Jeans see lions, tigers and bears “design” denim clothes for zoo charity fashion brand

Written by: William on July 3, 2014 at 12:04 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

We’ve already seen the Animal Face Pack, which took animals from Tokyo’s famous Ueno Zoo and turned them into beauty tools.

Now how about taking this fashion idea even further?

Zoo Jeans is a range of clothing designed by tigers and other animals. Huh? Yes, we’re not lying.

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

Zoo Jeans, the maker say, are “the only jeans on earth designed by dangerous animals”.

The denim materials have been wrapped around tires and rubber balls and then given to the animals to play with. They “roar, gnaw and claw at their toys,” as the organizers say! The materials are carefully reclaimed from the creatures and, complete with claw and bite marks, are made into the final jeans by a small factory in Okayama.

There are three models, each with the scratches and bites of their respective “designers”: lions, Ussuri brown bears and Bengal tigers.

Here’s a kind of making-of gallery…

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

You can then wear jeans that make you look like you have survived a battle with nature’s most fearsome beasts… and lived to tell the tale.

An initiative by the zoo’s volunteer suppporters’ club, all the clothes will be displayed at Kamine Zoo in Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture, from July 6th to July 21st.

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

zoo jeans made by animals design scratch bite tiger bear lion charity

The tiger and lion jeans will be available for one week only on Yahoo! Auction, starting on July 7th. Profits from the sales will be donated to the WWF and Kamine Zoo.

Here’s a video showing how they did it.

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GU opens at Shibuya Parco with new GU Fitting service, lets you try out unpaid clothes around Shibuya

Written by: William on June 23, 2014 at 9:05 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

UNIQLO’s spin-off casual wear brand GU has opened a major new branch at Parco Part 3 in Shibuya.

In fitting with its name GU — pronounced “gee you”, a play on the word jiyu in Japan meaning “free” — a new service lets customers really see how their potential purchases look on them. Not only can you try the clothes on, you are then allowed to wear them outside so you can see how you look in a more natural context and can also check out other clothes in Shibuya to coordinate your fashion.

gu fitting free service shibuya parco 3 unpaid clothes

Of course, you still have to return the clothes and/or pay for them (when we said that “GU” meant “free”, it’s not the “no cost” meaning!) on the same day.

The new GU Shibuya Parco branch is located in the baseball floor of Parco 3 and, appropriately for Shibuya, specializes in women’s wear. The new shopping-fitting room service is apparently inspired by the concept of providing a “Girls Special Shop”.

gu fitting free service shibuya parco 3 unpaid clothes

The GU Fitting service will be a trial initially available until the end of June only for 30 customers per day. There is also free shipping for purchases over ¥3,000, in case you don’t want to be burdened by heavy shopping bags during your later jaunt around Shibuya.

All you have to do is go up to the GU Fitting counter with your choice of clothes (up to three items), give your name and phone number, and then you can saunter out of the store with the clothes on. You can then check out other apparel and try to find the right item to match your new GU wear, or even go home and see how the clothes fit in with the rest of your wardrobe.

gu fitting free service shibuya parco 3 unpaid clothes

The only condition is that you have to return the clothes within business hours of the same day but you are under no obligation to buy them. GU says that items returned but ultimately not purchased will then be used for mannequins and won’t be sold.

No photo ID is required. GU trusts shoppers to give a real name and phone number, and of course return the items to pay!

I think we can safely say that this service would never work outside of Japan!

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Colombian embassy in Japan holds origami fashion show at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills

Written by: William on June 19, 2014 at 8:58 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

The Embassy of the Republic of Colombia in Tokyo put on a show for shoppers at the Roppongi Hills on a summer evening this week. These models performed in a fashion show wearing dresses and other accessories inspired by origami, reports Shingetsu News.

origami fashion show diana gamboa roppongi hills tokyo japan  cyclops a love story

Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper, though here the designers are not Japanese. Diana Gamboa, a visual artist, created the origami dresses while the metallic animal sculptures the models are dragging behind them in the performance were courtesy of Luis Fernando Bohorquez. The soundtrack is also traditional Colombian music.

While it looks very pretty, what does it all mean? Shingetsu reports that “the audience was told [the performance expressed] a love story between a man and a woman.” The performance was called “The Cyclops: a Love Story” and took place at 66 Plaza on the evening of June 14th.

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Where to Buy a Kimono Without Breaking the Bank

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on June 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm | In CULTURE | 1 Comment

This article by Yulia Mizushima first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

Some outfits never go out of fashion. Kimonos are a prime example – they’ve been making people look elegant for centuries. These stylish rags certainly aren’t cheap though – unless you know where to look…

buy kimono tokyo heap
Kimono girls image via Shutterstock

If you stand in the middle of a scramble at Shibuya crossing, how many internationally-renowned, high-fashion outfits can you spot? I bet it wouldn’t take even a minute to spot at least a dozen without turning your head. Tokyo might be glorified as a fashion capital of the world, but no matter how “it” the handbag or how tailored the suit, chances are there’ll be someone else with the same outfit somewhere nearby. Next time, before you waste money on another unfulfilling retail therapy session, think about checking out your local second-hand kimono shop instead.

In today’s fashion world where unique stands above all, what’s more exclusive than the kimono? Leaders of the time-honored industry have traditionally catered to the status-conscious elite, but modern-day kimono designers and manufacturers are having a hard time selling what typically costs thousands of dollars to anyone who isn’t a refined and wealthy middle-aged Japanese woman. As a result, while most of today’s kimono industry is struggling to stay above water, budget second-hand shops are gaining popularity.

furugiya kimono shop tokyo
Local furugiya. Image by Chris Gladis, used under a Creative Commons Licence

You can pick up an authentic kimono for $100 or under, if you rustle around the right places. Your local furugiya (the name for a second-hand clothing store) is your first stop when looking for kimonos at an affordable price.

If you don’t know where to look, don’t stress — a lot of second-hand kimono shopping can be done online. Rakuten’s kimono page is a cheap, mix-and-match stop for easy access to inventory from hundreds of shops from all over Japan. it also gives you a quick and informative overlook of the different types of kimono and accessories out there. Random fact — Rakuten apparently is responsible for a full 10% of the kimono industry’s sales these days. Kimonos on Rakuten range from below a hundred dollars up to a couple of thousand — keep an eye out for special deals.

Another competitive option is Ichiroya, an online flea market that sells genuine, family-owned kimonos from Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe, with the goods ranging from vintage to practically new. Their kimonos cost anything from 28 to 1 800 dollars, but most seem to range in the low hundreds. They have a handy Youtube page with short guide videos on kimono purchasing and wearing too.

If you can speak decent Japanese and are more inclined towards brick and mortar shops, any of the numerous Tansuya stores are ideal places to score a routinely-offered discount, as well as face-to-face kimono dressing assistance. A popular chain that sells new and recycled kimonos, Tansuya is a go-to choice for both kimono experts and newbies. Their prices are known to be a bit higher; second-hand kimonos usually cost a couple of hundred dollars, but if you’re just after the experience, you can rent one for around ¥8,000 a day. Depending on the branch, you can complement your shopping by exploring Japanese tea culture at the historic tea house district in Kagurazaka, ride a rickshaw in Asakusa, or do a bunch of equally cool stuff near the 38 other stores scattered around Tokyo.

inside a kimono shop tokyo buy cheap
Inside a kimono shop. Image by Okinawa Soba, used under a Creative Commons licence

Lastly, my favorite second-hand kimono shop is only a five-minute walk away from JR Harajuku Station. The family that has been running Sakaeya for over 50 years is now on Facebook and Tumblr (in English), making their social media a great place to start your kimono quest. The ultimate in cheapo kimono, Sakaeya not only sells second-hand kimono for as low as ¥1,000 (yes, you read that right), they also rent starting at ¥5,000, which includes dressing assistance and a tea ceremony. For a little extra, you can join their dance and photo shoot events as well. Plus, their CEO is an adorable cat named Totoro and their bucho, or department chief, is a raccoon who lives at the nearby Meiji Shrine. Why aren’t you trying on a kimono already?

sword bamboo buy ninja princess kimono warrior knife japan
Ed’s note: Once you’ve got your cheapo kimono, all you need is a sword and bit of bamboo to complete your experience. Death stare optional. Woman in bamboo forest pic via Shutterstock.

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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UTme! lets customers design own Uniqlo UT t-shirts on their phone

Written by: William on May 22, 2014 at 11:30 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

UTme! is a new service by Uniqlo, the Japanese apparel retailing chain with its sights set on world domination. UTme!, as its name suggests, lets consumers design their very own UT t-shirts.

utme! uniqlo t-shirt ut service design customize personalize order phone all smartphone

The customized UT tees can be ordered by the special app. After you have finished “having fun with t-shirts” via your smartphone screen, they are then delivered to your home or you can go along and pick up your order from Uniqlo’s Ginza branch, which until August has an in-store T-shirt printer to demonstrate the service.

As the retailer says:

Uniqlo presents a whole new way to have fun with T-shirts. “UTme!” allows you to design and purchase your original T-shirt. Using this app is easy. Just draw a picture and shake your smartphone!

Love it or hate it, we all shop at Uniqlo. Uniqlo may well be the most ubiquitous apparel brand in Japan and most of its clothes fairly generic, but now they are saying Uniqlo can be unique.

The service is available only in Japan and costs ¥1,990 per shirt (about $19.60), plus ¥450 for delivery, excluding tax. Delivery is free for orders of three or more t-shirts.

utme! uniqlo t-shirt ut service design customize personalize order phone all smartphone

UT are the special range of Uniqlo t-shirts which have become a phenomenon in their own right. They regularly feature collaborations with international designers and iconic brands and pop culture characters, including from science fiction, anime, video games, and household products.

The t-shirt range even has its own concept store, UT Project, in Harajuku, and associating itself with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Nobuyoshi Araki et al has done much to lift Uniqlo up from its suburban mall image to some semblance of streetwear fashion status. And then for the people who just want characters, there are always Moomin, Disney and Gundam tees.

While the designs may be eye-catching and some of the collaborations jaw-dropping (Nigo and Uniqlo! huh?), the UT tees have become so successful that they are as generic now as the rest of Uniqlo’s clothes. UTme! presumably will put some of the spice back into the mix.

utme! uniqlo t-shirt ut service design customize personalize order phone all smartphone

There is one snag. By designing your t-shirt via UTme!, you currently hand over all data and copyright to Uniqlo for free, meaning they can use it as they see fit (officially, sharing on their website and so on, but they might even make it into a product). So think twice before you use the service to make a prototype of a genuine fashion design idea you have. This has already been criticized by many local netizens and Uniqlo is reported to be considering updating the terms and conditions.

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Monomane Make-Up: Zawachin and “impersonation cosmetics” makes copying culture in Japanese fashion

Written by: William on May 16, 2014 at 10:35 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Do you remember in the 1990′s when everyone wanted to have Jennifer Aniston’s “The Rachel” haircut? Well, right now in Japan girls are also trying to copy a look. Nothing new in that, except this “copying” itself has become the trend.

It is called monomane meiku, literally “imitation make-up”, and involves the use of both cosmetics, hair styles and strategic face masks to turn yourself into popular models or celebrities.

TV personality Zawachin (21), aka Kaori Ozawa, started things off by posting pictures on her official blog where she impersonated famous people’s look, especially former AKB48 idol Tomomi Itano. She attracted such a following that a talk event in late April attracted 300 women, many of whom were wearing her signature face mask and make-up.

zawachin monemane blog

Japan is an imitation culture. The idea of mane is ingrained, from cosplay (dressing up as characters, typically from anime or manga) to fake food samples in restaurants and the way Japan has long imported, assimilated and then reproduced (with changes) foreign ideas and objects, from weapons to cooking.

Combine this with a strong native idol culture, where on top of “idols” like AKB48, models, actresses and singers also attract a following for being talented or attractive, but also for representing a certain kind of look that female fans want to acquire. This means that fashion models regularly release books and get thousands of hits on their blogs where they post pictures of their look that day (along with their lunch).

zawachin monomane make-up cosmetic itano tomomi kyary pamyu pamyu

Zawachin can transform herself into actress Keiko Kitagawa, singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, figure skater Mao Asada, model Miranda Kerr (who is very popular in Japan), and more. Her book “Zawachin Make Magic”, released in January and in which she gives tips on cosmetics, has sold 120,000 copies. Her blog, in which goes into detail about the transformation process, has at times attracted over 1 million hits a day.

zawachin monomane make-up copy impersonate namie amuro miranda kerr

Zawachin has a repertoire of 60 people, including even male pop idol group Arashi. She says that “monomane meiku is different to ‘monomane‘ (impersonation) since anyone can do it”. With the right techniques and know-how, apparently you can become a star.

zawachin monemane make-up arashi

According to the Nikkei Marketing Journal, Zawachin is inspiring people as young as five years old to get in on the trend.

So next time you see someone on the streets of Tokyo who looks like a famous singer or actress, think twice before asking for their autograph. It might just be Zawachin or one of her many disciples.

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Gyaru magazine egg closes: Is gyaru fashion culture on the way out?

Written by: William on May 8, 2014 at 9:16 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Following the high-profile end of hostess magazine Koakuma now comes the closure of egg, another magazine that was a symbol of 1990′s and 2000′s fashion for teenaged and twenty-something females in Japan.

The collapse of publishing company In Forest did it in for Koakuma, though its figures were clearly on the decline. What about Taiyo Taisho’s egg? The company itself is not going bankrupt but it is jettisoning its fashion magazine arm.

The next issue of egg, issue 213 (the July issue), will be the last. It goes on sale on May 31st, bringing to a close a history just shy of 20 years.

egg magazine shibuya gyaru gal culture fashion japan close down end

In 1999 egg was said to be selling 500,000 copies packed with fashion and make-up tips for how to be a Shibuya gyaru, though it actually shut down briefly at the height of its popularity. A spin-off for male readers, men’s egg, was founded in 1999 at the height of the egg boom but closed in October last year.

Why is this happening? The simple answer is the overall decline of the publishing and media industries in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, a decline which has left so many casualties around the world. Japanese magazines have been slow to make digital platforms and find new readers. Magazines have also produced too many spin-offs and new titles, potentially diluting their readership into ever more niches.

egg magazine shibuya gyaru gal culture fashion japan close down end

Another reason is the changing tastes of fashion. In its very nature, a fashion is, well, fashionable for a time only and magazines have to adapt to the vicissitudes — but when your entire niche is disappearing, that doesn’t leave you much leverage.

egg magazine shibuya gyaru gal culture fashion japan close down end

Gyaru or gal culture is on the way out and Shibuya is no longer the fashion capital it once was. Gyaru culture magazines employed too many “reader models” and with the numbers of youngsters in Japan going down, high costs and declining readership is a bad combination.

Egg, we salute your reign and wonder what the future holds for the gyaru.

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