Japanese department store turns to high-tech fashion advice for shoppers

TOKYO - Japan's Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings plans to bring its fashion business into the digital age, introducing technology in its department stores to let shoppers digitally try on clothing and receive style suggestions from artificial intelligence.

Customers at Isetan's Shinjuku flagship in Tokyo will be able to sample new fashions virtually starting Aug. 26. After having their picture taken with a camera atop a large display screen, shoppers will be able to alter the colour and style of their clothing with simple, intuitive controls. Pictures of favourite outfits can be sent to users' smartphones and other devices.

After feedback from customers is gathered during a two-week trial period, Isetan Mitsukoshi will begin to introduce the device more widely, with the eventual aim of bringing the technology to stores across Japan.

Starting in September, Isetan will also bring to its Shinjuku store an artificial intelligence system that suggests clothing and accessories to shoppers. Customers will input their favourite styles, colors and other fashion preferences via tablet. After crunching the data and comparing it to that of other shoppers, the system will return fashions and products that it thinks will be a match.

The AI system will eventually be able to tease out shoppers' latent preferences to present them with something new and exciting, hitting the mark more often as it amasses user data. The company hopes that the unique tech offerings will help it draw in a new wave of Japanese customers.

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