"The dishes are done" is how London based collaborator Zoheb Iqubal put it as we walked over to the cocktail in the loby of the Blow Up Hotel held for the Art and Fashion Forum and Global Fashion Battle at Stary Browar in Poznan.
That expression of satisfaction felt totally accurate, although amplified exponentially, as almost a year's worth of planning culminated with this final event.
The winner of the Global Fashion Battle was Clother, the team from Paris led by Benoit Sabatier. Clother is an app that lets women curate men's fashion by responding to "Cries for Help" from their own contacts, or swiping approval or rejection on various looks aggregated by the app while gaining points towards shopping for the men in their lives (or themselves).
The competition was between SmArt from London, telling the online shopper whether they can find a better deal from a designer by shopping abroad, Unfiltered from New York, using a series of basic measurements to show online shoppers how people with similar body types wear an item the shopper is interested in, and Missing Link from Poznan, using beacon technology to convert lost brick and mortar sales into finalized online sales.
Starting the first weekend of September in conjunction with New York Fashion Week, Startup Weekend Fashion & Tech traveled the globe picking one winner in each fashion capital to face down at the Global Fashion Battle.
The GFB was hosted by Stary Browar and owner Graznya Kulczyk as part of the 8th annual Art & Fashion Forum. The Art & Fashion Forum consists of a series of workshops during which creative projects are developed in fashion design, illustration, photography, 3D animation, and writing. This years theme of Fashion & Tech inspired the festival's 'Chic Geek' name.
A series of keynotes and conferences lead up to the pitches and award ceremony addressing everything from Wearables to Fashion Entrepreneurship to a presentation from Neil Harbisson, the world's first cyborg.
Some highlights & take aways
Fashionable Gadgets or Technology Enhanced Fashion?
According to Steve Varnakis of Creative Lab at Google and Lynne Murray of London College of Fashion, Fashion & Tech, wearables in particular, will be about collaboration and partnerships. By challenging designers to approach a problem in a different way, they'll come back with a completely different solution. In fact, "It will probably be the most obvious thing," said Steve.
"Will there be room for startups or will brands own the space?" Asked Amalia Agathou, MC of the event and founder of Front Row I/O. The consensus: "We live in a world where it doesn't matter what a brand says." We listen to the people. Brands are rethinking what it means to be a brand (called to mind again in Manuel Diaz's keynote on creating experience before defining your brand).
"The best wearables are the ones that will protect you from technology. The tech should be so good that you are never distractes" SV
Key words: humanness, invisibility, safety, privacy
Key ideas: Technology without humanity will not take us very far. Think about the user. Think about the individual.
The designer CEO
Bradford Shellhammer of Fab.com, curator of this year's Art & Fashion Forum, called to action emboldened design leaders, stating that the world needs more designer CEOs. The myth that Designers need a business partner to be their more pragmatic half can be debunked by hard work and getting your hands dirty. CEOs and designers both build things for a living.
A cautionary tale from his experience at Fab: As a growing company, don't forget who you are and what makes you unique. "The goal is not to be something big it is to be something great."
Why Fashion Brands Have to Build Experiences Before Selling Products
Manuel Diaz of Paris base Emakina consultancy dove into digital store enhancements to convey the importance of creating an experience for the consumer before counting on sales. While the examples were Karl Lagerfeld and Burberry, the message resonates across all business scales, brick and mortar or online.
Consumers are smarter about advertising, and tend to respond more to their peers than to the voice of a brand. "Interrupting people doesn't work anymore," Diaz said. "you need to be magnetic. You need to attract people to you."
The brand story can also help create that experience. Conveying transparency is also key to building trust. "We are a non-fiction story," Angela Ahrendts said of Burberry's communication and brand narrative. A brand based in tradition but existing as a pioneer in modern business practices, Burberry uses the voice of history along with the voice of the customer to create their narrative. The equation: Customer experience = brand story.
Wearables for human enhancement
If you've been reading about or thinking about wearables as a tool for human enhancement, Neil Harbisson is a model of that future. I was so wrapped up in his story that I could hardly take notes. Harbisson was born color blind, and a musical prodigy. The image below shows, albeit simply, how he turned his world into a symphony of color by attributing notes across the color spectrum.
While Harbisson is the first recognized human cyborg and an advocate for cyborg rights, we don't all need to sign up for a connected appendage to understand the implications this technology has on the future of wearables. He has trained his brain to receive sensory information that enhances his human experience. What kind of 'super powers' might we be able to learn on a marketable scale by optimizing our brain power?
The breadth of Fashion & Tech continues to cause difficulty trying to hold tangible conversations. So let's forget about practical and tangible for a little while. I believe we need to talk in the language of Science Fiction in order to get past the obvious responses we have at the tips of our fingers. We need bold voices to pierce the barrier of our imaginations. Then a flood of innovation will show that Fashion can make sense of it's technological coming of age.
**Places to look for upending via technology in the Fashion Industry: Quality control, sustainability, health, economics, values, waste, education...beyond**