All The Jeans Fit To Print
I’ve seen this before, but I will not name names. A woman of delightful and sensible figure, who looks quite gorgeous from any angle, cranes her neck around to the mirror and asks, to nobody in particular, “Does this make my butt look big?”
You look around. Actually, she is asking you. There really is only one answer to that question that one can publicly deliver. But the truth is, yes, it does make the posterior look a bit…plump. BUT I LOVE YOU!
Alas, here is the problem with shopping. It’s uniquely personal, yet the massive mainstream retailers who offer such brands have to be massively impersonal and personal at the same time. So, what you often get is messaging – advertising that convinces you of what is actually untrue.
And jeans or outfits that really don’t quite fit. The brand slogan and the advertising campaign is supposed to convince you that you are in love with something that you are not quite in love with, but you settle.
That may be changing, in two very distinct ways.
Moving From Impersonal Bricks-and-Mortar Purgatory to Curated and Personal Retail Nirvana
Several interviews – and two in the space of a week – are developing different tactics. And one of the women I have interviewed is a retail hobbyist. The endgame is customization and shift from messaging and campaigns that kind of fit, to actual products that really do fit either a lifestyle or a body.
The customization could be through the telling of narratives and the sharing of unique global experiences that allow shoppers to live vicariously through the exploits of a fashion-seeking nomad. Customization could also come to the retail browser at home, in the form of a 3-D imaging tool that will allow women and men to try on clothes and then shape them to fit exactly their body.
These are two remarkable ideas I have come from through conversations with Geetanjali Dhillon, who runs Republic of Brown, a media content site for the hip Indian diaspora that is making a pivot to customized global shopping, and Ali Finn, who is in charge of marketing for the custom-jeans outfit Indi Jeans.
The curated shopping crazy swept Dhillon off her feet. She says she realized the potential for Republic of Brown when she would casually share saris or other items she would buy on a visit back to India. She would be pelted with many direct messages ad tweets for people who wanted the same items.
“People don’t just want to be told about something, they want to buy it,” Dhillon tells me on a call earlier in February. “It’s like people are going on a journey and rather than being told about an object and or a place, they are allowed to shop for it in real time as an experience.”
There has been some friction in setting this up. Republic of Brown was started as a window into the hippest of the hip in the Indian diaspora. Moving from media to e-commerce has its sticking points.
For one, consider global logistical supply chain management.
“I feel good around data gathering. How is stuff going to get shipped from India, what is the wait time, how do I build that in?” says Dhillon. “Will people do what they say they are going to do? Beyond that [personal and trusted business] network, what happens? What happens in customs?”
Previous conversations with retail innovators have shown us that content and context seem to be the things that are missing in most retail experiences. Confronted with a barrage of advertising messaging and broadly swathed campaigns enticing women to buy, female consumers are eagerly trying to hunt down shopping experiences that connect them to something nurturing, real, and individual to their lifestyle.
Shopping is becoming more curated, more honest, and more personalized. In these days of retail, you can’t think big to be big. You have to think small to get big.
Targeted approaches that are about the shopper as much as they are about the retailer are crucial must-haves.
“I’m doing commerce plus. It’s curated. It all has to be curated, right? So, it’s like commerce plus, plus a story, plus an emotional experience, plus authenticity,” says Dhillon.
A Three-Dimensional Butt Imager In Your Studio Apartment?
So, back to the…back.
This is the video that Ali Fenn sent me after our conversation about customized shopping and fitting experiences for women in the jeans category.
Fenn, who manages marketing for Indi Jeans, a customized jeans shop out of San Francisco, agrees that the real opportunity for female shoppers is finding real jeans that fit on real bodies, and to deliver that category in a way that is not manipulative.
Retailers depend on fit models. Those are those predictable looking models who come into design shops while designers take her body and then idealize a fit that will fit – they hope – most women.
Says Fenn, “Jeans shopping is tough. 70% of women and 40% of men say they wish they had jeans that fit.”
“It’s also emotional for people. People have their own body issues. There’s something about being able to go through this process online in a way that you wouldn’t go through in a brick and mortar.”
The Indi Process, as they call it, helps women and men use high tech and the e-commerce shopping model to find jeans that fit them. The video explains it pretty well.
Are retailers like Saks, Macy’s or even K-Mart in trouble? Will they be able to offer this same customization?
Fenn isn’t critical of the big shops, but she says that the opportunity exists to change the current model, if people can grow comfortable with scanning technology and what’s “new.”
The evolution would be, eventually, a highly personal fitting room in your own apartment, set up with basic software and a Kinect by Microsoft, for example.
“The friction is that it’s new,” says Fenn. “There’s a slight hesitation about not knowing exactly what it’s looking like.”
Still, Fenn expects the future of offline major retail brand shopping experiences to look like a mix of the highly customized version one can get using e-commerce at home or on the mobile, and the convenience and reach of bricks-and-mortar. She even thinks there will be pairings of couture online-only brands that will do pop-up stores within the major chains, like Macy’s.
“Ultimately, they need to merge,” says Fenn. “On the one hand, going and trying on a bunch of clothes with friends…is a good thing. On the other hand, you don’t find something that fits great, or you are twenty pounds heavier than someone else, it can be not so fun.”
“You can do it online, but it can be tailored to you,” she says.