Snap your fashion desires

Jun 15

New ways to use smartphones to find great fashion continue to emerge, the latest launching last month in London combining scanning technologies with social networking that could threaten home-grown apps like Wear, while providing new ways to market fashion.

Anyone who loves fashion will identify with the frustration of seeing something great on someone in the street but not having the courage or time to ask where they got it. Asap54, a new app for smartphones, aims to solve just this problem, claiming to make it easier to identify the brand name of any fashion item by simply taking a picture.

Asap54 combines visual recognition technology with crowdsourcing and a team of personal stylists to identify clothing and accessories. Designed by Daniela Cecilio, formerly at Farfetch.com, Asap54 searches a rapidly expanding database to identify an item or recommend something similar. Users of the app can snap a picture of a fashion item or even just a colour they like and get recommendations that match it. Clicks to buy are the main planned source of revenue.

The app is available in iTunes Japan although the database does not as yet cover much of the domestic market’s merchandise. However, the start up has already ploughed US$3 million into the project and has backing from a multitude of investors with plans to widen the database.

Asap54 isn’t the first such attempt to make fashion identification easy. Within Japan, Dentsu tried a similar service but closed it down after a short time and overseas, Snap Fashion and The Hunt also offer similar services. What is different about Asap54 is the social network it is hoping to build into a global community of fashion lovers. It is this element that brings it closer to the aspirations of Start Today’s Wear app and other local competitors, and makes it a potentially useful tool to market fashion.

Wear was originally conceived as a showrooming app, allowing users to scan items in stores and then click to buy later. However, at the end of April Start Today disabled the scanning feature for consumers – only shop staff will be able to use it – due to heavy criticism from shopping centre operators such as Lumine who banned smartphone use in tenant stores as a result. Wear is now being positioned as a social fashion app, and fashion organisation tool – iTunes for your wardrobe. Without the scanning service, however, the app’s USP has been weakened as there are a host of other social fashion apps from iQon to Fukulog, albeit without Start Today’s reach.

International services like Asap54 will add to the level of competition in this space in Japan. To take the lead in social communities based on consumer categories like fashion requires either a huge marketing budget and existing database or clever technologies like Asap’s. Arguably Wear had both, but without the scanning will now have to rely on the former. New functions that make life easier for users have a power to disrupt that can quickly dethrone market leaders. Start Today should buy Asap or one of its rivals.

Sumally offers another CtoC option, iQon does magazines

Sumally is a start up social network which until now offered users a way to record and share their fashion wardrobes. Last month it launched a CtoC market place making it possible to trade items between registered users. Users can sell new and previously registered items on the site.

As with competitors like Line Mall there is no monthly fee or sales commission, although a 10% commission is planned for the future. There is intense competition in the CtoC market, but Sumally hopes its existing database of product and users developed since launching in 2011 will help it compete. It claims a database of 1.4 million items and around 400,000 users. Users can quickly find what they want by drilling down through a wish list.

Meanwhile Itochu-backed iQon has started selling digital magazines to its growing database of fashion fans. Called iQon Magazine, the online publication is edited by a former Ellegirl chief editor and will be published monthly at a price of ¥300. Aimed at women in their early 20s, content will include the usual fashion, cosmetics and cultural themes, but it hopes to differentiate itself from printed media by using iQon’s growing database of street and home snaps to deliver news on the latest fashion trends. iQon claims more than 800,000 ‘looks’ have been uploaded to iQon consisting of 3 million fashion items. As with these uploads the magazine contains direct links to stores to buy items as well as links to brand information.

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