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Custom-fit clothes retailer Zozo launches in 72 countries

Japanese online company challenges Uniqlo, Amazon with global rollout

Start Today founder and CEO Yusaku Maezawa unveils Zozo's new business suits, wearing one himself during a news conference in Tokyo on July 3. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- Japan’s largest online fashion retailer Start Today said Tuesday it has rolled out its innovative custom-fit private label Zozo in 72 countries, marking the first major step it has taken to fulfill its ambition of breaking into the industry’s global ranks.

In a news conference, Start Today founder and CEO Yusaku Maezawa said consumers in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas can now sign up to receive free Zozosuits. These dotted bodysuits allow a smartphone camera Zozo app to take precise measurements. The company then uses that data to make and sell to consumers custom-made clothes, removing the uncertainty of choosing sizes over the internet that may not fit in real life.

“The time where people adapt to clothing is over,” Maezawa said. “This is the new era where clothes adapt to people.” 

Little known outside Japan, the company is embarking on a global campaign to offer its products for free -- 100,000 Zozosuits, Zozo T-shirts and jeans will be given out to overseas customers.

“Unfortunately up until now, our business has been domestic. We haven’t been able to do anything globally,” Maezawa said. “I am happy that we now have the chance to bring this service to 72 countries.” 

Maezawa speaks about the global launch of Zozo in 72 countries. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

Start Today’s fashion e-commerce platform Zozotown has become the dominant player in the Japanese market, logging $2.4 billion in transactions in the year ended March. In November, the company launched Zozosuits with an aim of joining the ranks of Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing and Spanish fast fashion group Inditex.

Maezawa said 553,179 Zozosuits have already been delivered by Tuesday for the domestic market. It aims to deliver up to 10 million by March 2019.

Maezawa did not disclose other plans to sell Zozo abroad. Zozo is sold on Zozotown in Japan, but there is "no plan to launch Zozotown globally,” he said.

Start Today also announced the domestic launch of tailor made private-label suits, along with formal business shirts and ties. The total price of a suit and shirt will be 24,800 yen ($223) under an initial offer. Suits are patterned and sewn based on individual measurements, to be delivered as fast as within a week. The first deliveries will be made in August.

The stock price of Japan’s largest listed suit makers, AOKI Holdings and Aoyama Trading, fell sharply on the announcement, while Start Today’s shares ended the day 2% higher. 

Some analysts see the brand as a direct competitor to Uniqlo due to its affordability and the simplicity of its styles. Uniqlo has been selling business suits in recent years. Its owner Fast Retailing recently said it wants to double overseas revenue by 2022 by ramping up e-commerce sales. 

Maezawa said he would focus on basic items, to avoid competition with mostly middle priced brands that are sold on Zozotown. “Items that everyone owns at home,” as he described, would directly compete with Uniqlo. E-commerce giant Amazon is also strengthening its fashion sales, through its private label ranging from basic “Amazon Essentials” to more creative pieces.


Start Today employees line up to showcase Zozo's new business suits at a news conference in Tokyo on July 3. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

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