'We met on Twitter,' says Peter Jeun Ho Tsang, co-founder of Spitalfields' new tech-enabled menswear store Dandy Lab. A digital conversation that turned into a real life partnership - how very modern. And if Peter and his business partner Julia Bainiaksinaite are right, very much how our relationship with fashion looks set to develop: a blend of face-to-face and digital interactions.
'Peter is a former fashion product developer and I am a knitwear designer,' says Julia, whose background as an engineer makes her the techier of the two. 'We were thinking of ways that smaller brands and designers could use technology to tell their product stories in-store, and this led us to think about the future of retail.'
So what does this brave new world of shopping look like? To be honest, it's not too far removed from what we have already. Dandy Lab stocks a small and exclusive selection of cult brands boasting a 'Made in Britain' provenance. Shirts by Northern Irish manufacturer Smyth & Gibson sit alongside simple leather bags and rucksacks made from stout British leather, courtesy of designer Alfie Douglas. And of course, no menswear store would be complete without a careful edit of gentlemanly knick-knacks - this is where the 'Dandy' bit comes in.
The 'Lab' is where things get a bit more interesting. There's the 'Story Wall' - an interactive display allowing you to scan a product, which in turn activates a video with information about its provenance, performance capabilities and the craftsman who produced it. Without the Story Wall, a simple white shirt is just that. But with this technology you get an insight into the factory where it was made, the amount of work that went into its production and ultimately a better sense of what you're spending your money on. Dandy Lab also boasts Snap Fashion technology, whereby a camera takes your photo and then a screen suggests items in-store that would complement or even purposefully clash with what you're wearing. It's not too dissimilar to the search algorithms user by e-tailers.
The store allows you to broadcast all of this activity on your social networks - handy if you want your friends to know how much you splash on shirts. As Peter says, 'It's all about discovering, learning, and sharing. The shop is packed with innovation, but it also caters for those who like quality products, value British design and want more from their shopping experience.'