The mountains of little used clothing and accessories piling up in the back of closets across Japan is suddenly an area ripe for exploration in the new online sharing boom. A new start up aims to help people clean-up, while another is offering rental services based on expert advice from stylists. There is even a crowd-sourced advisory service helping you find fresh ideas on outfits. All offer new marketing opportunities for fashion and lifestyle brands.
Renting out fashion items like expensive handbags is no new idea, but most services rent new product. Omnis (www.omnisinc.co), a start up, has launched a new service that aims to exploit a greatly underused Japanese asset, if not national treasure: the closets of its women. Omnis’ app, Sustina, aims to hook up those who want to rent fashion with those with have too much – although the two groups are in no way mutually exclusive in Japan.
Launched last month on both iOS and Android, Sustina is simple to operate. Users pay a flat ¥5,800 a month which lets them rent up to five items at any one time. Users can buy product too. All the transactions are handled within the app and the monthly price includes shipping and cleaning fees, although the customer has to pay return shipping charges. As soon as the user returns the five items, she can rent five more. Those who sell or rent clothes and accessories receive vouchers to pay for rentals or purchases within the Sustina app. Already 40 brands are on offer including Snidel, Estnation and Aquagirl.
A similar service, Air Closet (www.air-closet.com), targets women who aren’t sure what to buy or what best suits them. Priced at ¥6,800 a month, Air Closet offers users the chance to have a stylist select fashion for them. Air Closet stylists send three items of clothing personally selected for the user (so it claims), which can be worn for as long as she likes. After returning them – cleaning costs are included in the fee – the user can then request three more items. As well as the fees, Air Closet also makes money from selling the items.
Fashion guidance is behind another venture launched late last year. Called XZ, the service offers crowd-sourced styling tips. Users upload fashion outfits – or can even ask a logistics company to photograph their entire wardrobe if they want – itemising the products featured so that every outfit is searchable. Other users can then type in an item they own and look for other users’ ideas on how to create new looks from their own clothes. This is both a helpful service as well as a way to up-sell new items – a neat form of peer recommendation.
XZ claims some 140,000 fashion items in its database already and more than 23,000 outfits uploaded. On average a user uploads images of 30 items. In addition to user tips, the app also includes a calendar function allowing users to schedule outfits for each day of the coming week; this means, of course, more items being registered by more users, deepening the value of the database and creating more opportunities for advertising. The app also notifies users when an item they own is used to create a new outfit by another user, and allows them to connect with others with similar tastes. Last month additional functionality was added to help users pick the best of their wardrobes for a first date.
As well as advertising, XZ plans to allow brands and retailers to create their own ‘closets’ on the app to show off new collections. It is also considering allowing recruitment through the site – fashion companies can use the app to assess potential employees for their fashion sense.
Future applications aside, XZ is already a useful window for foreign fashion firms, offering the chance to understand the ways Japanese use their product and get an understanding of fashion trends in real time.
LINE looks to hook up designers, brands and artists with retail buyers
LINE will launch a new service this month aimed at linking retail buyers with little known but talented designers, artists and brands. Called LINE Collection (collection.line.me), the service will be run by LINE subsidiary Bonsai Garage.
Essentially LINE will act as a digital wholesaler between producers and retailers, aiming to create a hub that will make it much simpler for buyers to access up and coming creators without having to travel around the world to find them – and of course be a platform for designers with limited budgets to reach store buyers. The team at LINE collection consists of stylists and former buyers at select shops such as Restir and Andaman, and they have already signed the first 30 brands. LINE is requiring designers to contract with it on an exclusive basis in the countries where it operates. To promote the new service and its first 30 brands, LINE opened a pop-up store within Laforest Harajuku in April which will run through July 20. Those signed up so far include fashion designers, a brand of stick on tattoos, and jewellery designers, although the majority are accessories brands. In the future, LINE says it will also start selling directly to consumers through a dedicated online store.