A startup after our own heart, the recently opened The Dandy Lab in London’s Spitalfields Market pegs itself as ‘a lifestyle shop enhanced by technology’. It’s garnered quite a bit of press in the retail, marketing and tech spheres, and we’d been keeping an eye on it for several weeks before we visited on the opening day. Unfortunately the store was still under construction, so we went back for the full experience a couple of weeks later when the basement level was completed.
A map and guide to the store is what immediately catches your eye as you enter, as well as all of the partnerships – other startups as well as University College London, of which the founders are alumni. All products are NFC-tagged, and there are handy terminals throughout the store where you can scan the tag and learn more about the product, brand and availability – neat! To the back of the ground floor is a larger digital screen with a camera…what does this do? The shop assistant tells me that the camera can capture the colour of clothing that I’m currently wearing and make product and styling suggestions based on that – how Cher from Clueless! Let’s try it then…the camera starts registering, and suddenly I’m popping up not only on the digital screen but also being projected (giant size) onto the back wall of the store! If I had know, I would’ve dressed a bit better… As luck would have it (store tech never seems to work for me) I’m wearing black – and the camera does not like black. I try something else (my pink wallet)…it’s still not biting. “It’s still being developed”, says the assistant – no matter, she picks up a pale blue shirt from a nearby rail and holds it up to the camera, which now works perfectly well!
Up pops an outfit builder on screen – exactly like Cher from Clueless! We’re in heaven. You can scroll through options that are similar to the colour you’ve scanned, complementary, clash, etc. The product bank features not only garments that are currently available in-store, but also products that will be stocked in future. This tech is a definite must for the discerning gentleman who needs a little inspiration – we just want to know when the women’s version will be created!
Having exhausted all of the activities available on the ground floor, we made our way downstairs. Representative of the startup nature of The Dandy Lab, the basement not only features more products but also offers hot desks, smartphone charging stations and a bar area. By a stroke of luck, we met one of the founding members of the Lab sitting at the bar working. He talked us through the backgrounds of the founders (one product development, one engineering) and the laboratory concept – the store is going to be continuously developing and trialing new retail technology. Testing different concepts to see what works. Why hasn’t somewhere like this been launched before, we ask? And when is the women’s version coming (possibly in the future, we’re told). The next addition to the store? Ethernet lighting that can be controlled from customers’ smartphones. We’ll be back.