Leave it to Lego, the legacy toy brand known for its plastic bricks and a penchant for new technology, to blend physical and digital retail in a creative way — by establishing an apparel pop-up without a stitch of actual clothes.
A collaboration with Snapchat in the U.K., the project used augmented reality to launch the limited-edition Lego Wear line of streetwear on Wednesday in a Fitzrovia, London, pop-up store.
“[Lego] wanted to experiment with the retail experience and create an innovative and immersive space,” WIll Scougal, director of creative strategy at Snapchat, told WWD.
Visitors initially enter an empty room and scan a Snapcode to access the AR venue. Then they could walk around and explore the space, seeing different areas of the virtual store show up on their phone screens — including a DJ booth, arcade machine and bouncer made of Legos.
Of course, shoppers could also see the clothes, primarily logoed sweatshirts, T-shirts and hats produced by Danish apparel company Kabooki for Lego. The items are available for sale directly to Snapchat users, without them having to leave the app.
The project is clearly no kiddie fare, with both the store and the clothes targeted toward adults. The nightclub scene creates a Millennial-friendly mood, and the products cast the iconic company logo in muted neutrals of gray, black and white.
Like the ephemeral messaging platform itself, the Wednesday pop-up in London was temporary, arriving just as London Fashion Week is about to get underway on Feb. 15. But as a digital experience, the AR Lens is available to users in the U.S., France and Germany, as well as the U.K.
The work comes courtesy of Lego’s creative agency, We Are Social, which just finished Snapchat’s “think in AR” workshop and became a Snapchat Lens Creative Partner. Working directly with Snap, the agency used the social media company’s Lens Studio software to create the project for its client.
“Once the Lens experience was built, we took the call to launch the shop that can open anywhere at anytime by opening a retail space that was empty, except for a Snapcode,” Scougal added. “This was a call to action and a symbol that told Snapchatters they could open the shop, explore and buy the new limited-edition collection wherever they were in the world.”
The toy maker could be a case study for how to make a heritage brand fresh and exciting. Lego invests in myriad projects that associate its company and products with current themes and references — from special-edition toys featuring popular action heroes and female scientists, to animated videos and films showcasing Lego characters.
As a cult favorite among many an engineer, developer and systems specialist, Lego naturally has an affinity for new technology, and it has become a regular in augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality development circles. But linking some of those tech efforts to shopping now feels particularly timely.
Today, stores of various stripes understand the need to combine their physical and digital efforts, but are vexed about how to hit the right blend.
AR pop-ups may or may not be the ultimate answer, but they do have a lot going for them: They fit into existing shopper behavior, in that consumers usually have their mobile devices in hand as they browse anyway. A purely virtual storefront also means there’s no physical merchandising or inventory to manage, and no displays to set up or break down. And because digital has no bounds, the pop-up can also go beyond a single location.
On the downside, however, digital retail doesn’t allow people to feel the fabric, as they so often want to do before they buy apparel. Too bad connected tactility is not yet a thing.
Still, it’s an intriguing exercise, even if it works better for branding than actual transactions. Lego and Snapchat will have a clearer picture once the final traffic or sales numbers roll in. If either are good, then this probably won’t be the last time shoppers see a clothes-less clothing store.