LONDON – In April, Selfridges London launched Body Studio, a new department designed by Neri&Hu with a dynamic vision for categorizing and selling womenswear. The concept centres on a lavish collection of apparel designed to be worn directly next to the skin. The result is Body Studio, a 3,500-m2 retail destination stocked with a selection of lingerie, underwear, swimwear and sportswear sourced from some 150 brands worldwide. Complementing the merchandise is a health-food café that serves balanced, nutritious meals; a workout studio; and a hair-and-beauty salon that offers conventional and organic treatments.

With emphasis on comfort, fit and wellbeing, Body Studio can be seen as a holistic space that encourages consumers to adopt the department store’s ‘healthy mind in a healthy body’ philosophy. Key to Body Studio’s customer service is a team of dedicated ‘Fit Experts’ trained to simply look at a woman, identify her body measurements and pinpoint her correct size.

While Lane Crawford and Selfridges take a low-tech approach that highlights the importance of human interaction, other fashion retailers add a layer of digital smart tools and mood-sensors to the physical shopping adventure. UK retailer New Look, for instance, invested in biometric scanners designed to help customers get a more accurate fit without having to try on multiple garments or ask experts to estimate their correct size. Radically reconfigured fitting rooms at Ralph Lauren’s Fifth Avenue Polo flagship are now smart spaces with touchscreens for contacting staff, tracking garments and adjusting lighting to the desired ‘mood enhancing’ level. Smart concepts also help multinational brands to manage large-scale inventories, ensuring that popular sizes remain in stock.

At a time when fashion retail threatens to dissolve into clouds of digital data, Body Studio signals that a return to tactile forms of human interaction may be crucial to consumer engagement. As a place where purchasing decisions are made, the fitting room could prove to be the final frontier of bricks-and-mortar retail.

Photos Andrew Meredith