Spot the dif­fer­ence

It’s skintight, it’s cov­ered in dig­i­tal sen­sors, and it’s at fash­ion’s cut­ting edge… Danielle Demetriou in­tro­duces the Zo­zo­suit, the new way to get mea­sured and buy be­spoke at the tap of a fin­ger

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - News -

Never mind ice-cream pas­tels or selvedge denim. The out­fit I’m squeez­ing my­self into in an empty board­room in Tokyo is, ap­par­ently, the mother of all Ja­pa­nese fash­ion trends: it is black, shiny and com­pletely skintight, stretch­ing un­for­giv­ingly from neck to toes, and it’s cov­ered in white polka dots. Once dressed, I feel like an unglam­orous cross be­tween a ninja and a dal­ma­tian – yet if its cre­ators are to be be­lieved, this slinky black num­ber could rev­o­lu­tionise the global fash­ion in­dus­try.

It’s called the Zo­zo­suit – com­pris­ing light­weight leg­gings and a top – and it has a pur­pose far more in­spired than it may ap­pear. The name is de­rived from the Ja­pa­nese word sozo, which means cre­ation and imag­i­na­tion. The suit it­self is cov­ered with roughly 300 hi-tech sen­sors (the polka dots) and, when linked up with a smart­phone app, can cap­ture dozens of pre­cise body mea­sure­ments. Rather than vis­it­ing a shop or brows­ing a web­site to buy new clothes, shop­pers just pull on their Zo­zo­suit, open the Zozo app on their smart­phone, and do a very slow twirl in front of their phone, while it takes a series of 12 pho­tographs mea­sur­ing 24 parts of their body. These mea­sure­ments can then be used to buy jeans, T-shirts, busi­ness suits and other clothes di­rect from the app that are cus­tom­made to their ex­act size.

If the suit catches on, the im­pli­ca­tions for the fash­ion in­dus­try will be enor­mous. Af­ter decades of ar­rang­ing gar­ments into rigid siz­ing sys­tems, dig­i­tally be­spoke cloth­ing would throw these re­stric­tions out of the win­dow. And imag­ine for one bliss­ful mo­ment a world where you don’t need to squash into a tiny chang­ing room with glar­ing light­ing and un­flat­ter­ing mir­rors, and squish your­self into off-the-peg clothes that never quite fit. Then there are the ben­e­fits for the re­tail­ers: re­duced re­turn ship­ping costs, fewer stor­age re­quire­ments and, ul­ti­mately, less waste. In the first 10 hours af­ter the Zo­zo­suit launched in Ja­pan in Novem­ber 2017, roughly 230,000 or­ders were placed and since then there have been more than a mil­lion. The com­pany says it ex­pects to dis­trib­ute up to 10 mil­lion suits by March 2019, not en­tirely un­re­al­is­tic given that Zo­zo­suit launches in the UK and 72 other coun­tries and re­gions (in­clud­ing In­dia, China, the US and Brazil) this Wed­nes­day.

As for the clothes them­selves, the Zozo col­lec­tion in Ja­pan com­prises eight gar­ments for men and six for women – mainly af­ford­able ba­sics a lit­tle rem­i­nis­cent of Uniqlo, such as T-shirts (priced from 1,200 yen, or £8) and jeans (from 3,800 yen, or £26), as well as a men’s busi­ness suit, which launched this month. Sim­i­larly, the UK cap­sule col­lec­tion will in­clude six items each for men and women. A global cam­paign is also un­der­way, of­fer­ing the next 100,000 cus­tomers who or­der the suit a free be­spoke T-shirt and pair of jeans, too.

The un­likely en­tre­pre­neur be­hind the con­cept is one of Ja­pan’s youngest bil­lion­aires, 42-year-old Yusaku Maezawa, a for­mer rock drum­mer who founded the coun­try’s big­gest e-com­merce fash­ion site, Zo­zo­town – and who last year broke art auc­tion records by buy­ing a Jean-michel Basquiat paint­ing for $110.5 mil­lion.

I first in­ter­viewed Maezawa last sum­mer, and found him pot­ter­ing bare­foot around his plush Tokyo du­plex, sur­rounded by art­works by Pi­casso, Yayoi Kusama and Gi­a­cometti. (The fol­low­ing day, he flew on his pri­vate jet to the south of France for a party with his friend Leonardo Dicaprio.) To­day he is in work mode, pre­fer­ring to meet at his Tokyo of­fices, a hip­ster-style space in the fash­ion­able Aoyama district, filled with hang­ing-bas­ket chairs, lush plants and round, trans­par­ent meet­ing rooms that re­sem­ble bub­bles. (The com­pany head­quar­ters are based near his home town of Chiba, just out­side Tokyo, and he also has of­fices in Los An­ge­les and Berlin.)

Maezawa sits on a red-leather chair at a vast, white, moon-like ta­ble in­side one of the meet­ing-room pods, tap­ping away on an iphone in a Louis Vuit­ton case. He’s not wear­ing a Zo­zo­suit but he points out that his grey T-shirt and blue jeans are from the Zozo col­lec­tion. ‘I have ev­ery sin­gle Zozo item, in ev­ery colour,’ he says. ‘Ac­tu­ally I can’t wear any other denim now be­cause these fit me so per­fectly.’

Later in the con­ver­sa­tion he ad­mits: ‘I’m quite short com­pared to av­er­age sizes, so it has al­ways been dif­fi­cult to find a per­fect fit. It’s some­thing that’s both­ered me for a long time. I re­alised that if I was hav­ing trou­ble find­ing per­fectly fit­ting cloth­ing, then many oth­ers must have the same prob­lem.’

So what was it like try­ing out the Zo­zo­suit him­self ? ‘I am not ex­ag­ger­at­ing, but I was re­ally very moved,’ he tells me, an­i­mated. ‘And when I tried on the first pair of denim pants, I was re­ally impressed.’

Now his com­pany motto is ‘Make the world a bet­ter place, bring smiles to the world’, though his own per­sonal goal is some­what more fo­cused: he wants to rev­o­lu­tionise the way that peo­ple shop for their clothes on­line, and to be­come one

46 per cent of UK women strug­gle to find clothes that fit

of the world’s top 10 ap­parel com­pa­nies. ‘I’m hop­ing to tar­get as many peo­ple as there are in the world – six or seven bil­lion,’ he says. ‘I want the idea of or­der­ing be­spoke on­line cloth­ing to be­come part of the in­fra­struc­ture of daily life – just like elec­tric­ity, water, gas.’

The Zo­zo­suits them­selves are largely made in China, us­ing au­to­mated pat­tern-cut­ting tech­niques based on thou­sands of tem­plates for var­i­ous body shapes, though he plans to open smaller pro­duc­tion bases around the world. The suits cost around 1,000 yen (about £6.70) to make but are sent to cus­tomers free of charge. Though it sounds like an odd busi­ness model, Maezawa is bank­ing on high Zozo sales to gen­er­ate a profit. The com­pany fore­casts 200 bil­lion yen (£1.35 bil­lion) in sales in the fi­nan­cial year start­ing in 2020, 40 per cent of which is ex­pected to be from out­side Ja­pan.

In the early days af­ter the launch of the Zo­zo­suit, Maezawa had a bumpy start. De­lays in de­liv­ery were re­ported in some of the lo­cal press and an ear­lier ver­sion of the Zo­zo­suit was re­placed with the cur­rent ‘im­proved’ ver­sion – but scroll through In­sta­gram to­day and it’s another story. Thou­sands of Ja­pa­nese own­ers have posted self­ies of them­selves dressed in the eye­pop­ping suits – a few have even dressed their dogs in them. There are pic­tures of peo­ple wear­ing Zo­zo­suits while work­ing in of­fices, drink­ing tea, even do­ing yoga (for­tu­nately the suit is ma­chine wash­able). And then there is ‘Isopp­men’, a for­mer break­dance cham­pion who posted a series of videos on­line, in­clud­ing one of a dance troupe per­form­ing bouncy, boy­band-style rou­tines while all wear­ing the suit.

Judg­ing by Ja­pan’s rep­u­ta­tion as an in­cu­ba­tor of trends, it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore the suit takes off in the UK, too – par­tic­u­larly given how many British women strug­gle to find well-fit­ting clothes on the high street. ‘The is­sue of dis­crep­an­cies in clothes sizes is not a new prob­lem, but it re­mains an on­go­ing is­sue for con­sumers,’ says Ta­mara Sender, se­nior fash­ion an­a­lyst at Min­tel. ‘As women are opt­ing to shop more on­line for clothes, prob­lems of fit are ex­ac­er­bated as they can’t try clothes on be­fore buy­ing them.’

Ac­cord­ing to Min­tel, 46 per cent of British women strug­gle to find clothes that fit them well. Sender also points out that 61 per cent of women shop­pers aged 16 to 34 re­turn clothes be­cause they don’t fit well. ‘In an in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive cloth­ing mar­ket, re­tail­ers that look to find so­lu­tions to the is­sue of siz­ing and fit for cus­tomers shop­ping both in-store and on­line will stand out from ri­vals.’

Maezawa and his dis­tinc­tive polka-dot suit have cer­tainly done that. ‘The era of small, medium and large siz­ing is com­ing to an end,’ he says. ‘I be­lieve that from now on, peo­ple should not have to try to fit into cloth­ing – cloth­ing should be made to fit peo­ple.’

Yusaku Maezawa is the bil­lion­aire with a Basquiat be­hind the Zo­zo­suit

Zo­zo­suit own­ers take to In­sta­gram to show off their spots

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