Entering the new adidas Knit-for-You concept store, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little disoriented. Have you just stepped into an art installation, a design studio, a tech powerhouse or a craftworkshop? There are large, clearly curated displays of uniformly varied sweaters, arty mood-boards, interactive customisation screens and a knitting bench.
Which is, of course, precisely the point. Only to be found within the purposefully edgy Bikini Berlin – itself an experiential feat, adepartment store it is actively pleasant to be in – adidas are using Knit-for-You as a way to experiment with emerging trends in retail, fashion and research.
In recent years, adidas have been working hard to present themselves as a creative, modern and responsible brand, from their recyclable shoes to their creativity focused campaigns. This may be their most convincing manifestation yet.
A clearly emerging trend in retail spaces is the blurring of physical and virtual spaces (driven by the much-lauded Amazon Go). But with Knit-for-You, adidas is experimenting with the different forms that these heightened consumer experiences could take.
By moving in front of a projector screen, augmented reality patterns shimmer and undulate, creating styles unique to the individual. Dozens of random patterns are displayed on high-tech screens and customers pick their favourite – totally unique – design. The sweater is then hand-knitted, ready for same-day collection.
At this point, it feels like the price-tag is far less about the clothing itself than it is about being part of this immersive, interactive experience. adidas have turned a shopping trip into an event – you could be playing at the science museum.
If stores are going to tempt people away from the ease and convenience of online shopping, they’re going to have to find ways to make it worth the trip – and this mixture of technological efficiency and aesthetic atmosphere could be one of the more exciting solutions.
We’re all used to customisation and personalisation – making a product ‘individual’ through the tailoring of certain pre-selected elements. Over time, this process has evolved; consider the implications of a pre-internet ‘bespoke’, a quality which some brands are now trying to bring back with ever-more nuanced and personal iterations. Yet it can sometimes feel like these online customisation programs are like a game, playing with virtual reality without ever requiring an actual purchase.
Knit-for-You takes this one step further, whilst actively fore-fronting the elements of play. The end result is an interesting blend of two emerging trends in the fashion and design world: gamification and co-creation. This could be a real game-changer in the way that consumers interact with their fashion choices.
What, then, is the purpose of this installation? The staff are very open in their answer: adidas are using the store to research the ways in which customers react to new and different spaces and shopping experiences. How engaged are they in interactive processes? How important is the choice of colour; will they select from those available or wait two weeks for a different selection? Does the body scanning for fit make things easier, or do people want to factor in weight fluctuations?
At Hall & Partners, we’re constantly innovating and exploring new ways to research and immerse ourselves in the lives and minds of customers. It’s heartening to see that the industry is beginningto want the same things, and we continue to work with many clients who are open to creative, encompassing and surprising forms of research.