Bespoke, a 37,000-square-foot space transforming a big section of the Westfield San Francisco Centre into “an incubator for innovation,” officially launches May 28 with a demo area with robots for videoconferencing; interactive digital walls; space to create pop-up shops; open seating, and private work areas for retailers and tech firms to brainstorm.
Among the companies taking pop-up space inside Bespoke for limited runs to demonstrate their concepts are Bow & Drape, a fashion brand that allows women to customize clothing and accessories online, and Shoes of Prey, the Australian firm enabling consumers to design their own shoes online as well as in-store at a handful of Nordstrom stores.
Fashion Incubator San Francisco, a nonprofit that helps emerging apparel and accessory businesses grow, will showcase five San Francisco designer collections, while Indiegogo, the crowdfunding platform, will host events about crowdfunding and what’s trending on its platform.
Rovio Entertainment Ltd. will demonstrate its Angry Birds game using Samsung virtual reality goggles, and Product Hunt, an online newsletter spotlighting new products every day, will create a physical presence at Bespoke.
Other Bespoke partnerships include OMsignal for wearable technology; RetailNext, the retail analytics platform; Suitable Technologies for beam mobility and video conferencing; StyleLend, a site that lets consumers rent clothes from people living in their area, and Zeepro for 3-D printing.
“We are creating an environment for both start-up companies and traditional retail companies that want to create new experiences for consumers,” Kevin McKenzie, chief digital officer at Westfield Corp., told WWD.
Another key element of the development, McKenzie explained, is to create some 3-D physical manifestations of what consumers have seen only in the digital world, such as with Product Hunt. Firms will be signing short-term leases to allow for constant change and incubating new concepts frequently, and to encourage repeat visits by the public.
The Bespoke concept, which is being considered for the Westfield World Trade Center mall in Manhattan, reflects an attempt by Westfield and its partner in the San Francisco Centre, Forest City, to rethink space in the malls and get the public more excited about visiting them. Across the country, malls are seeing smaller crowds as consumers flock to outlet centers or online sites, or just simply hold back from spending on apparel.
Westfield Corp.’s co-chief executive officer Steven Lowy said, “Bespoke is a unique space designed to support retail industry innovation and empower entrepreneurs and brands to explore the future of retail. We are creating a physical ecosystem for companies to create, learn and test all within the shopping center environment.”
Lowy added that Westfield San Francisco’s location, next to Silicon Valley and in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown shopping district, will help position Bespoke as “a hub and catalyst for innovation in the retail-tech space.”
In the spirit of keeping the idea exchange between retail and tech firms discrete, the Bespoke environment has private offices and storefront conference rooms. The rooms convert from meeting spaces into pop-up shops for public presentations.
Officials said event areas can accommodate from 30 to 1,200 guests, and there are facilities for conferences, demos, workshops, hackathons, runway shows and even trade shows.
“Bespoke shows how our companies are focused on creating new opportunities for commerce and community by building next-generation retail ecosystems and by improving our urban environments,” said Forest City president and ceo David LaRue.