Some aim to create a global fashion tech hub, some want to assist designers in the process of brand building. Overall, they are all shaping the future of fashion. We have caught up with industry insiders knowledgeable about fashion tech and the most recent innovations in the field. If there is one conclusion to be drawn, it can be put shortly – fashion and technology go hand in hand.
CHANGING THE BRICK AND MORTAR EXPERIENCE
When speaking of fashion technology, one might immediately think of the digital sphere but let’s start from a slightly different place – brick and mortar store. Trevor Sumner is the CEO of Perch Interactive, a retail marketing platform reimagining retail in-store experience by marrying the physical with the digital, working for clients such as Nivea, La Mer, La Prairie, Sephora or Neiman Marcus. The agency was listed as one of the 15 Technology Companies To Watch In 2018 by Forbes. “ At Jo Malone, when you pick up a fragrance, the physical bottle animates into honeysuckle and lemon or sage and wood or whatever the fragrance smells like. It’s simply magical. At Neiman Marcus, when you pick up a shoe, Perch tells you about the shoe, pricing and sizing, similar styles and shows runway videos and styling tips. And it’s not just luxury. We just launched with Johnson & Johnson at Shoprite, messaging brands such as Tylenol, Aveeno, Neosphorin and Benadryl. Everywhere you go, you can build these joyful shopping experiences that end up driving 30-80% sales lift.”
As a generation of digital natives, we expect interactions on every level. From interactive displays that use computer vision and sensing to detect which products you touch so that a brand can deliver you the digital content to explore the product to augmented reality that allows you to try various lipstick colours virtually, Trevor points it all can now happen seamlessly in the retail environment.
CREATING A TECH COMMUNITY
Who stands behind these innovations? Let us introduce you to fashion start-ups – some of the most important players in the industry. Ryan Clott is the Managing Director at Fashioneers Accelerator, a global fashion tech hub that offers practical educational platforms for entrepreneurs. Fashioneers’ programmes, such as the recent 3-month one in Barcelona, invite 12 start-ups from Europe, the US and Asia where they connect with mentors and learn the essential tools to achieve the product-market fit within the fashion industry. Clott thinks that most of the fashion innovation that we will see in the nearby future will come from start-ups: “From a pragmatic point of view, they are able to move faster and have less variables to deal with, which makes it easier for them to innovate and more immediately affect the way we consume fashion.”
Jodi Goodfellow, the Executive Producer of StartUp Fashion Week based in Montreal that helps to establish and build the visibility of some of the most promising start-ups, also believes in the disrupting power of new tech players: “They are generally driven by identifying a unique value proposition, which often encourages change or some sort of disruption to tradition. That said, start-ups are generally tapping in to new strategies that bigger brands have yet to adopt or are slowly embracing.”
This is probably why initiatives like Fashionners Accelerator and StartUp Fashion Week has gained recognition. By creating a new tech community, they serve as innovation hunters. But they’re not the only ones. Fashion Technology Accelerator is yet another infrastructure dedicated to start-ups: “We start with the selection and analysis of the most interesting international start-ups in fashion technology, who can either apply for our acceleration program or be contacted by us. Once they enter in our acceleration program, we give them funds but most importantly, we support them in their growth. We provide assistance in terms of business strategy and marketing strategy, with a particular focus on the digital world and the operations,” says Marco Filocamo, the Head of StartUps.
#FASHIONTECH BERLIN is yet another platform aiming to educate fashion professionals on the power of technology. Bringing together relevant international players in the lifestyle and tech industry, the bi-annual event traces the progress in the digital transformation. Michael Stracke is the Chief Business Development Officer #FASHIONTECH BERLIN. He also points that start-ups are fashion’s innovation drivers: “They can develop and bring new ideas to the market more swiftly and simply try things out. It is also exciting for companies to invest in start-ups and use them as speedboats circling the rather more ponderous mother ship or tanker, for the purposes of experimentation.”
Having understood the unquestionable influence of start-ups on the shape of the modern fashion industry, it is important to navigate the emerging tech trends. There is no doubt sustainability is a significant topic of conversation some of the tech companies are a looking into.
“One of the greatest opportunities in sustainability is through the reduction of output,” says Clott. “There is already significant emphasis on recycling and reusing but with an increasing shift towards digital commerce, we can use tools such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Lean Manufacturing to make better informed decisions in the production process.”
Nicole Giordano, the Founder of StartUp FASHION, a community for emerging designers offering support in building their business, names innovators such as the Queen of Raw as relevant to small, independent fashion players: “That team is making it possible for brands to source sustainable materials in smaller quantities, offering a place for them to sell their excess materials, and educates them on how to get creative with new materials.”
Filocamo adds another innovation to the sustainable list: 3D printing that can reduce the material waste, customization and 1:1 personalization that reduces the risks of returns and the number of produced stock, modernizing the blokchain that will allow full traceability of the supply chain, leading to transparent production practices. Apart from eco-friendly solutions, there are many other fields for development. From Augmented Reality through contactless payments to smart textiles, fashion has arrived at a moment when revolution seems inevitable. It will surely be driven by technology.