Morinaga Yoshimi, founder and CEO of poupeegirl.poupeegirl is one part social network and another part fashion game. And while both have their audiences, it is not a combination that would work well on paper. Yet this week, the Japanese social application celebrates its 5th successful year. poupeegirl has managed to attract over 1 million users and with 46% of its users coming from overseas, poupeegirl is doing what few other Japanese networks can, tackling an international audience.
It has always been the case that Japanese social sites tend to be a lot more interest specific. Mobage found an audience through casual gamers and the 2ch BBS is well known for its otaku connections. This is something that seems to extend to the rest of Asia too, with the Singaporean Hardware Zone Forums being far more popular than the general SGForums. In Japan, poupeegirl fills this niche for fashion and has provided a fun and novel system to bring fashion lovers together for years.
These days the popularity of micro-blogging platforms in the west have finally paved the way for similarly close knit, targeted social platforms like Tumblr for fashion and Pinterest for self styled hipsters. Which is funny, because there was a time when the western world was rather disappointed in Japan’s unwillingness to adopt Facebook. Perhaps Japan had already found a more evolved state of social networks years ago.
But poupeegirl’s concept is something that usually would not have left the drawing board. In poupee (which is french for doll):
1. Users create a virtual avatar to represent themselves
2. Users upload photographs of clothes they buy in real life to earn “ribbons”, the game currency
3. Users uses ribbons to purchase virtual clothing to dress up their avatar
Through the use of a rather intuitive system, poupeegirl has managed the cumbersome task of integrating real life fashion with virtual rewards elegantly. poupee’s odd concept ended up working perfectly with its primarily female audience, who enjoy the opportunity to inventory their fashion collection while showing off their latest purchases. Such was poupee’s success, that by the time I was chanced upon it during my research years ago they had already brought a spin-off to the Nintendo DS.
The gaming aspect of poupee is an integral part of its success, which is built around the customizable avatars. Users can get a limited amount of ribbons each day by visiting the site or participating in social interactions but to get any more they will need to upload pictures of their clothing. Not any picture will do, it has to be photographs taken by the user of clothing they actually own. Administrating this sounds like a nightmare but they seem to have it figured.
There are a ridiculous number of customizations in poupeegirl. Users can choose from thousands of variations for each piece of clothing and also minor details like how their eyelashes look. Dozens of new clothing items and accessories are released every week in the form of seasonal “collections” and are only sold for a limited time.
One such example. A Little Twin Stars promotion.These virtual clothes are designed after whatever real-life trends or occasions are currently taking place. In typical fashion, poupeegirl also limits certain pieces from each collection to be purchased with “jewels”, a currency that can only be obtained with real cash. From what I can tell, there are surprisingly many people who are willing to pay the 350 yen or $5 it costs to purchase a virtual dress for their paper doll.
On the social side of things, thanks to all the uploads, poupeegirl boasts an infinite amount of user generated content. Users will be able to find fashion tips or spend hours browsing the endless collection of photographs. Other users are able to “vote” on their favorite pieces of clothing and are recommended to take part in discussions through rewards. There is also a whole economy under the hood involving the sale and purchase of clothing between players in poupeegirl’s marketplace. All of provides poupeegirl with valuable data no doubt.
Nozomi Tsuji in poupee form.Users are able to make friends or accumulate fans, as a number of celebrity users can be found at poupeegirl. The site has tie-ins with models or talents like Suzuki Aya, Nozomi Tsuji and Hirayama Aya among others. You’ll be able to see their latest fashion purchases and some celebrities also have virtual clothing lines for sale. At the same time, poupee also works together with popular fashion brands to bring those labels to the site’s audience.
poupeegirl is available in multiple language including English. Membership is free and costs nothing to play as long as you stay away from the premium imaginary clothing. You can learn more at the staff blog here, or visit poupeegirl directly.