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  • Marc Bain

Japanese retailer is using this polka-dot suit to bring its custom-fit clothes to the world

Start Today may not be a household name around the world yet, but the retailer is huge in Japan.

It’s best known for operating Zozotown, Japan’s largest fashion e-commerce marketplace, which played host to a couple billion dollars worth of transactions last year (pdf). This year, Start Today officially launched its own private label brand, Zozo, which sells inexpensive basics, including plain crewneck t-shirts for 1,200 yen (about $11) and jeans for 3,800 yen (about $34.50). What separates Zozo’s clothes from others in their price range, though, is that they’re custom-fit.

Start Today spent seven years developing its clothes-sizing process, which begins with the Zozosuit—a bodysuit covered in more than 300 stretchable markers that the Zozo app reads to come up with detailed measurements of your body. Today, the company announced that it’s expanding Zozo and its unique sizing solution to 72 different countries around the world. Right now it’s running a campaign to give away 100,000 custom-fit denim and t-shirt sets to promote the global rollout. Full, shoppable sites will go live in all the countries, which include Australia, China, Brazil, India, the US, the UK, and more, on July 30.

Zozo sends out its Zozosuit for free, though shipping charges apply in certain regions. Once you’ve put it on and measured yourself with the Zozo app, algorithms process all the data to determine the fit of your clothes. Zozo says to create all the clothing patterns it uses—meaning the various flat shapes that fabric is cut into before it’s assembled into a three-dimensional garment—it considered thousands of different body shapes.

The company has previously tried to bring its e-commerce business to other markets, including China and the US (paywall), and now appears to be making a run to compete with global clothing giants such as Uniqlo and Gap. It says the response in Japan so far is encouraging. Pre-orders for Zozosuits in its home country started in November of last year, and Zozo tallied a million orders within six months.

Its sales pitch is that the standardized sizing that almost all brands use makes no sense when human bodies aren’t standardized. (And those standardized sizes fluctuate wildly from brand to brand anyway.) “The time where people adapt to clothing is over,” Yusaku Maezawa, Start Today’s founder and CEO, said in a press conference. “This is the new era where clothes adapt to people.”

It’s a major challenge to make individual items of clothing for every customer when you’re producing for countries around the world, but Zozo says it has developed an automated, made-to-order production line. The company uses the body data it collects to calculate how much demand there is for different pattern sizes, allowing it to hold the correct amount of stock for each. Rather than weeks to produce and ship a custom-fit item of clothing, Zozo said when it launched that it can deliver its clothes within two weeks, and in some cases as soon as the following day.

This story has been updated to clarify that the current campaign is focused on a giveaway of custom-fit t-shirts and denim rather than Zozosuits.

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