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Giorgio Armani in Sl: Virtual Brand Extension?

October 28, 2007 2 comments

This weekend I decided to check out the Armani site that I heard had opened in Second Life. I reviewed many of the opening announcements that are available by searching “Armani in Second Life.” Many of these announcements contained similar content but did not include a SL location.  After reading how Armani wanted to integrate RL with Sl I concluded that perhaps I could locate the SL Armani site by visiting the RL Emporia Armani site. I thought that perhaps Armani had a section devoted to the virtual site in SL similar to what the House of Nyla has. I was wrong – there was nothing at all I could locate on the RL Armani site about what and where the “virtual Armani” was all about. I thought this was really a strange “disconnect” considering all the splashy opening announcements I had easily located.

After digging a little deeper with my searches I finally found the Armani SL location on the map. I was kind of surprised to see only one large box-like structure and nothing else on the map and there were only 4 avatars on the entire island. (Note: I made several visits back since then and no other avatars were there.)

How do you locate the Armani store in SL to check it out for yourselves? You can use the SEARCH tool and type “Armani” under “PLACES.” On the map it is the “ARMANI via Manzoni” region. [138,79,26] Here is the  direct teleport SURL.

armani_store in SL

I teleported over and was again surprised to see what looked like a replica of a RL store in the middle of nothing else really. A section of road with no cars leading to what looks like a subway entrance leading to nowhere but a black room and a big parking lot that made absolutely no sense to me. I am sure this all makes perfect sense in RL.

I did locate a big screen that I was hoping would inform me about how the store was set up but it did not work and there were no signs around to inform a visitor about anything on the island or how the store concept was set up. I could not locate any informational area.

The store itself has lots of display windows but when I tried to “Touch” the doors nothing happened. It was not until much more exploration that I discovered by accident that the doors were actually set at “phantom” so I could just walk though. I flew up towards another avatar on the island and asked about the store – he seemed very disappointed in the building as well as the overall quality of the virtual merchandise.

door

That is when I was determined to locate an entrance and tried to simply walk through one of the doors and was pleasantly surprised that I could enter that way but I wondered how may others before me just gave up.

Here are my Flickr images from the visit.  Here is a general Flickr link to some other Armani SL images. Here is a Flickr image of Mr Armani’s profile in SL.

The inside of the store was kind of odd – it was obviously set up as a replica of RL – something that is not really acclimated to SL. The successful fashion boutiques’ I have visited in SL are set up differently then a RL store to merchandise in a virtual environment – this obviously was not. I did locate multiple rooms stocked with fashion merchandise but could not find anything at all that was available either to purchase or complimentary, hence my perception that this was another “disconnect” and an “odd” setup.

The Armani SL products for saleAt this point I decided to ask the avatar outside in the courtyard to assist me with locating the fashion products he  stated earlier he saw inside. It took him a bit of time to locate them again. He teleported me over to see a wall with about 10 products. [ Note: the exact location of the display is 86, 121, 26] Each dual image display had a SL product and a RL product that linked to the Emporia Armani Web page. After checking the links for the Rl products I discovered that very few links actually opened a comparable product page on the Emporia Armani Website and the same [Product] Red eyewear page links to many of the 10 fashion products.

 The two visitors I met there were very disappointed in the overall quality and I must say the presentation did seem kind of unprofessional. A visitor does expect the highest standards from an established RL fashion brand but it was painfully obvious that the RL brand was totally out of their element here and did not consider it important to establish stratigic partnerships with SL professionals that have successfully developed and marketed fashion products and brands in SL.

This effort in Sl by Armani seems disconnected from any knowledge or experience of what a virtual world like SL can offer. A virtual world is not simply a mirror of the RL brand.  A virtual world can serve as a “brand extension” for a successful RL brand.

After my visit I dug deeper for other reactions to the Armani store in SL. I discovered that the results were not pleasant to many that visited as this article in the SL Insider titled, “Armani Screws Up,” Posted Oct 18th 2007 2:30AM by Tateru Nino will tell you. The post titled “Ophelia’s Gaze: Iris explores (and deplores) Armani’s official site in Second Life,” on Monday, October 15, 2007 in New World Notes was particularly critical – but rightly so. The RL Armani brand is of the highest caliber – so the expectations for virtual brand extension naturally are equally high. Check out all the comments on Second Style Fashionista Blog entry by Grazia Horwitz titled,” Measuring With Different Standards?” posted October 17, 2007.

After my visit was over I did locate a YouTube video titled “Giorgio Armani Second Life Interview with Style.com” of Mr. Armani walking through the site – that’s when I discovered that walking through the entrance doors was the proper way to enter. I thought it was strange that the YouTube had no audio only text. Wouldn’t it have been better to have real audio? Here is the link to Style.com announcement of the Armani store in Sl.

Mr. Armani would have been well served to locate the top fashion professionals in SL to partner with him to develop virtual versions of his RL brand in SL. The first task on their list (there is still time to do this right) should be to make all the displayed products in SL into virtual fashions and not just empty prims. As a visitor to the store in SL, I totally did not get that at all? What’s the point?

SL prices for all products should be reasonable with all profits going to a charity Mr. Armani supports. Armani T-shirts should be offered as a [Product] Red item for a donated amount the user selects.

I noticed that other then the Armani store, the rest of the island is deserted. The RL Emporia Armani has a special section for the [Product] Red items to help fight AIDS in Africa. Isn’t it a logical step to integrate charitable causes in SL as well? Mr. Armani could easily start building a community for his SL venture by welcoming charitable causes he supports to establish a presence around the Armani store in SL.

SL is a “community” and all communities need involvement, dedication and patience to build. Charitable causes in addition to the [Product] Red Fight AIDS in Africa cause like maybe Fashion Fights Poverty and Aid to Artisans and perhaps fashion educational institutions from Italy can help to build the community and the virtual brand extension. It would not hurt to establish a MySpace and Facebook presence also to promote the communities. Everything needs to be connected with multi-directional informational channels to the RL Emporia Armani. Consideration should be given to removing the doors and roof (on the 2nd floor courtyard) in the Sl Armani Emporium – to make it more inviting for avatars, after all this is a virtual world not the real world. Oh and if you are going to expand your Website to include online services (as was mentioned in some of the articles announcing this venture into SL) – add something like the MVM  personal dressing room option for your users to try the garments on before they order.

In short – virtual partners, information, charity, education community and linking will lead to successful brand extension in SL. Please don’t give up Mr. Armani – it took a lot of courage to initiate a presence in the virtual world, you are to be commended for taking that step. You are a real pioneer. Your staff should learn from their initial missteps and work to understand and develop your virtual community to expand your brand and your charitable causes.

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Transformational Avatar Retailing: The Missing Link For Mass Customization?

October 19, 2007 6 comments

What I learned at the Mass Customization and Personalization Conference in Montreal last week was that an obstacle to wide industry use of Mass Customization and Personalization fashion garments was a standardized system to input the client’s measurements and store them on a smart card.  

As this issue was being discussed I remembered that it was announced last August 07′ that a strategic partnership between the i-Fashion Clothing Technology Centre at Konkuk University and FnC Kolon Corp. (clothing Manufacturer) along with some support from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy in Korea has resulted in development of a mass customization measurement system that is currently being pilot tested called i-Fashion. Perhaps i-Fashion could serve as the “missing link” for development of a standardized sizing system for industry. I-Fashion technology is rapidly positioning to become a global leader in transformational avatar retailing. 

Park Chang-kyu, a professor of textile and apparel engineering at Konkuk University spearheaded the development of the i-Fashion technology and is chief of the newly-opened center. So far, he will be working with 11 local clothing manufacturers on this technology. This technology can be used to try on and purchase clothing in-store or online but it is not yet developed to provide the client with custom made items.

Jung Dong-chang the head of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Energy, said that i-Fashion will help clothing companies create digital catalogs, virtual mirrors, mannequins and advanced radio frequency identification systems.  The ministry will invest more than 7 billion won ($7.6 million) through 2011 on the project.

The Shinsegae Department Store (Korea’s second largest department store chain) has placed the first test i-Fashion virtual reality store inside the Korean brand Elord golfwear shop in the main branch of their store as a special service to it’s customers. They claim to be the first retailer to offer this service.

The digital i-Fashion measurement system will scan a customers body in ten seconds and keep track of users measurements (on an encrypted smart card) as well as clothing a customer tries on to help retailers fine tune a specific marketing sector. Once the customer’s measurements are in the database, they get to meet their personalized avatar on a large screen. To virtually try on in-store clothing to see how it fits you simply scan the RFID tag on the item.Shinsegae plans to expand this service to it’s online store next year.  This mass customization measurement service is developed to be available to all retailers and the service includes footwear and accessories.

It’s a Reality: OptiTex Enables Total Integration 2D>3D>2D Fashion Product Development

October 19, 2007 5 comments

The system is here that does it all – OptiTex integrates all of my apparel/textile retooling addictions into one application. The user can draft a computerized sloper into the PDS (Pattern Design System) that can be endlessly modified to include original styling lines. A grading table can be easily applied to adding multiple sizing to enable marker making.

 

Modulate is an interactive parametric, one-of-a-kind, made –to-measure software engine that is truly unique.. Each parametric style fits a particular set of dimensions that belong to specific people or represent particular manufacturing requirements.

The user can visualize each step in real time while defining the model. 

No need to print off the prototype pattern and assemble a muslin sample to fit on to a dress form. This system has 3D virtual avatar that take the place of traditional dress forms. The 3D virtual avatar sample size can be easily customized.

  

3D Runway designer is a 3D draping cloth simulation and modeling engine that enables textile designs to be applied to a specific type of fabric and draping, weight, volume, density, etc. properties of the fabric can be programmed in to simulate the real thing. This is used for garment draping and 3D visualization. The fabric is simulated on to the garment pattern and the model can be placed into static poses that can be captured from a 360 degree angle.

3D Runway Creator for Modulate enables the user to use a wide range of parametric avatar mannequins that have 40 adjustable body measurements.The potential client gets to see either a layout containing multiple front, back, side views or an animated runway scene with the fashion avatar wearing the fashion prototype “before it’s manufactured.” Once the client receives the video clip of the fashion prototype – they can easily request modifications to the design prototype.

This fully integrated 2D>3D>2D system can transform the fashion product development process by saving valuable development time. 

I always like to “push” new technology developments into the “what if” dreams. What if the 3D fashion avatars created with this system could someday be uploaded into a virtual world like say – Second Life? Fashion designers could develop new disigns and market them in SL and RL. SL designers would have an application that can easily make their SL fashions a reality for production.

Here are some links to OptiTex Videos

OptiTex is a company (along with MVM) at the forefront of virtual product development and retailing movement. The company has developed a number of high profile strategic partnerships some were mentioned in the MCPC 2007 entry.  One partnership of note is  Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style show on Bravo, and there will be a really major upcoming product release with Bernina called Bernina MyLabel. Click this link to view the new 3D fashion pattern software for home sewers called MyLabel This product will provide home sewers with a library of garment templates. The user will be able to input their measurements into the system and a customized 3D avatar representing the user will appear. The selected garment template will automatically adjust to the users measurements and a pattern can be printed out. This system will transform the home sewing market!

One last note – OptiTex just released a new virtual avatar called Adam. “Beginning in November, Adam will appear within OptiTex’s 3D new Version 10 3D modules and related applications, serving as a complement to Jasmine, the female 3D supermodel and a large family of boy, girl and baby avatars. ” To read the entire press release click here.

Other Optitex Posts:

 

Highlights of MCPC 2007 in Montréal, Canada

October 19, 2007 2 comments

 What follows are highlights of the MCPC (Mass Customization and Personalization Conference) business seminar recently hosted by My Virtual Model and held at HEC in Montréal, Canada. My comments focus primarily on areas of interest for Virtual Fashion Technology Education. (Note: I arrived at the conference after it already started – here is a link to multiple viewpoints and the MCPC Blog.)

I really looked forward to the Avatar Marketing: An Extreme Makeover of the Self panel since avatars related to fashion education are my primary research interest. Not all the presenters spoke directly about avatars and some that did, did not focus on the direct impact avatars have on the marketing sector. One such presenter was Christospher Colosi: Second Life: Colossus Linder, Business Development.

Chris spoke primarily about universal avatars. Quite honestly, this Second Life presentation was a disappointment to me. The title of this panel presentation was “Avatar Marketing” and this is exactly the focus of my professional research. Mr. Colosi proceeded to make a very general presentation about what an avatar is and how they can be modified. He also alluded to the emerging partnership between I.B.M. and Linden Lab that I had read 10/10/07 in the NY Times story “Free the Avatars,” that will open standards to allow avatars to roam from one virtual community to another. He did not go on to discuss the potential impact that avatars that can freely move from one virtual world to another can have on business. The company he represents – Second Life is a rich visual 3D virtual world – and he was the only presenter without visuals. 

Sean Ryan: CEO of Donnerwood Media Inc. (Meez) had a highly informative presentation about Meez.com. I wrote about Meez in an earlier blog entry relating to the e-Me site they developed in partnership with MVM for Sears.

Sean stated that in 2008 Meez will give users tools to modify and upload content, he also added that the staff adds 40 3D items per week – 5000 were added so far. He announced that Meez games were launched at the beginning of October 2007. He seemed very pleased that there are about 400+ Meez on U-Tube.

The results of a recent survey surprised him by revealing that mothers are the top user group. He was disappointed in the research feedback that the 3d web is still considered hard to do but was pleasantly surprised at how readily users accepted an integrated activity like Meez.  

Gregory Saumier-Finch: Project Manager – MVM.com and Lousie Guay: Founding President of My Virtual Model spoke about user centric mobility – and the current industry need for a seamless experience. MVM had the technology to be seamless in the past but the industry was not ready. 

MVM’s  latest product BrandME, I am the brand lets users display several brands in their virtual wardrobe and post them on their personal page where visitors can comment on them. Lousie Guay states that BrandME is: a new tool that gives users the power to personalize and tailor-make their own look by manipulating collections from major brands such as H&M, Levis, and Adidas.  This tool is part of the current transformations that are reshaping retail trade.  Now everyone can follow fashion in their own way.”

She also spoke of the expanded uses of avatars and her presentation seemed to highlight the content of the “Free the Avatars” article in the NY Times. She spoke of the near future where users will own multiple avatars and move seamlessly throughout the virtual worlds.“ She feels that young people are not “stuck” with a perception of reality”

The primary presentation of interest from the Extreme Makeover for Product Creation and Merchandising panel was from Mr. Yoram Burg, President of OptiTex. But the OptiTex product is far to expansive for detailing in this summary and it deserves more then a mere mention. I will submit a separate entry focusing only on the OptiTex application.   Without a doubt, this product represents the future of fashion product development. In Mr. Burg’s words, “3D is not just a tool but the future.” I very much agree with him. The OptiTex product includes PDS – 3D modules – marker – modulate – interfaces (open architecture). 

Some examples of OptiTex partnerships can be found on Brides.com  where the user can create customized bridal gowns. Another on the Virtual Product Presentation  site where the user can order customized patterns. OptiTex worked with Nike to develop the Nike Team Uniform Builder site and the Nike Shoe Designer site. 

The conference was short, and jam packed with interesting presentations highlighting the latest developments in mass customization and personalization. Someone mentioned at the conference that an obstacle preventing wider scale use of mass customization and personalization was a system to input and save standardized measurements. As I listened to these comments I remembered that such a system was recently developed in Korea called i-fashion. I will submit a separate entry for it.     

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