For any Chicagoans who missed our July 20 event, or anyone else curious about what we talked about: enjoy!
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It's a wrap!
Thanks to everyone who came out to hear the presentation and panel discussion and ask your great questions. It was a thrilling evening, with new ideas and wild examples coming from all directions. ( Read about it here.) Looking forward to the upcoming events, that promise to expand on this discussion through different lenses of professional and personal experience. Each city has a unique culture, and heritage, and our goal is to reflect that through the panel members and the conversation.
Up next: Boston!
Save the date: November 2, 2017 at the Boston Design Center.
Until then, keep exploring!
connect the dots between technologies & mindsets currently being developed in both fashion & aerospace
Due to the format, this event will be invitation only. There will be a follow up event for general interest that will involve a Q&A with leaders of this converging space. If that's you: Please also register below to get a priority invitation to the upcoming Q&A
Talking fashion technology has become a largely consumer oriented dialogue. Wearables, customer experience, personalization, are all buzzwords that come up across topics and up and down market. Fashion and Tech (from both sides) are wrapped up in being of-the-moment, which takes away from the efforts put towards long-term change and realignment. So many of the more deep-rooted operational issues remain un-discussed and unchanged while we endlessly discuss the newest round of wearable devices that will be abandoned in turn.
Deep change takes more capital risk, and more bottom-up operational auditing. But when presented with an opportunity like this moment of flux in the fashion industry, those are the changes that reap the most benefit. We should all take the long-view.
So many of the press-oriented conversation pieces begin to feel like anecdotes for brands to become part of the discussion and to say they were among the first. The short-term gains experienced by certain brands are becoming too common for any brand to really stand out, but others are still wanting to participate for fear of being left behind. With all the transient and already outdated efforts we’ve seen in Fashion & Tech, it is that much more exciting when an idea or a project truly bringing us forward.
A couple of these bright moments occurred at the recent Decoded Fashion Summit in New York City, attended by an ever growing mix of fashion, business, and tech decision makers and innovators.
In a “fireside chat” with Symphony Commerce, a service for outsourcing certain infrastructure needs to get companies through their growing pains, the conversation shifted from product to back end. How can scaling business in fashion and retail make the leap in revenue growth without equally increasing their overhead? What does it look like when a five-person startup has the efficiency of a Yoox or an Amazon? These are the questions that lead to growth in an industry that needs to learn new ways of scaling while remaining agile.
Some examples of rock stars in the fashion and tech space growing their operations by scaling out their user experience are Rent the Runway and Rebecca Minkoff. Rent the Runway launched their subscription service which founder Jennifer Hoffman sees as her dream closet, constantly rotating. “Imagine there is a trap door in the back of your closet,” she suggested. “And it leads directly into the Rent The Runway warehouse.” The RTR philosophy of smarter consumption is also one of their great assets. It provides a compass for their business growth, and gives their customers a conscious alternative to fast fashion.
Rebecca Minkoff’s new retail location might be brick and mortar, but there is so much embedded tech that the segue from online to off becomes seamless, to their benefit and the customer’s. They have the advantage of having participated, with great foresight, in the Fashion & Tech dialogue from the beginning, giving them the knowledge and the access to partnerships that made the dream of this store to a reality. Uri Minkoff, CEO, spoke passionately about the choices they made in building their brand’s retail embodiment. They key moments they looked at started with the moment of entry, through to discovery, the approach and interaction with the stylist, lighting, fitting rooms, the checkout, and even getting into post-visit follow up.
When we think of fashion, we obviously think of product. These examples speak to the fact that technology can really enable us to reimagine not only our products and our sales strategies but also our systems. As brands and business we should be thinking about infrastructure and logistics, becoming better and more efficient within our own walls. This will inevitably align with an improved experience for our customers. And this is a place where technology can certainly enable change within fashion companies, most notably amongst startups who are still nimble and who rely more on experimentation than big data to inform their decisions.
While certain tech tools, including the media buzz generated by being aligned with tech, are enabling companies to make short-term gains, it is the companies that are looking at the long view who will get the most out of this mergence of Fashion and technology.
Kate Spade's Mary Beech –
Don’t divide the budget into print/digital/video – think of them synchronistically .
Growing up in brick & mortar, digital isn’t natural so hire people for whom it does come naturally because you know it’s important & that’s where the customer is going.
Print – “direct mail is absolutely critical” – email, digital optimization
Marketing digitally: Deliver the best brand story telling, customer service, unique experience.
*Not interesting to hear about big brands who were big when social media came out on how bit they are on social media. It’s obvious for people who know the brand to go and like or become a follower. What about unknown brands who emerged through social media? (Fashion Tech week)
Kate spade's E-bay sponsored shoppable windows were a big hit. They also informed new retail locations, where the most successful shoppable windows had been.
E-bay partnerships were a theme in omni channel retail. Rebecca Minkoff's store was also developed in partnership with e-bay.
The science project- a startup partner who helped get the algorithm right for question & answer through to product suggestions through to sale. First and foremost goal is to be a customer centered organization. If the best solution is a digital solution, then they go tech. If the best solution is analog, they forgo the tech.
Recurring theme: “We want to be wherever, and whenever, our customer wants to buy.”
Shoppable hoarding…? Terrible term
We see the brand as an “Ecosystem of innovation”
Kate Spade now has a director of Wearbles. As a brand they’re investing in the space. A suite of wearbles – not one size, one solution.
Startups to look out for:
Kairos (opportune time) watches – replace the band not the face. Does this solve the issue of sentimental value / timelessness of other watches?
“Make every moment an opportunity”
NORMAL. Says Liz @recode “3d printing isn’t about making products for everyone. It’s about making products for just one person.”
“Wearables are not just about quantification” Human to digital and back to human.
–Do not put the text before the human experience.
Invisibility : not even call is wearable tech. Call it clothing. Don’t brand it like it’s some bizarre thing. “If it’s called wearable tech then it’s not integrated seamlessly into our lives.”
–From the product design to the system that controls it
–Design for movement
–How to design for touch in the digital age?
–“Less is better” Deiter Rams
Wild West of Fashion & Tech
Q: “What does fashion have to do with technology?” and vice-versa
A: Almost always, technology has nothing to do with fashion. It’s just a tool. It’s part of the journey. SC
A: Actually, they’re both a part of our lives every day. They are totally linked. LG
Lawrence Lenihan has a problem with the term FashionTech – also saying that wearbles are tech pretending to be fashionable.
Google: user first – their customer isn’t necessarily fashion.
They have just as much a right to play in the fashion space as fashion has a right to play in the tech space.
Simon Collins the accountant? No, so why do tech companies say that just because it can be worn on your wrist it’s an accessory. It’s fashion?
FH: “The smarter technologists hire designers…It should start with the design first, and technology will be an enabler.”
LL: “Is fashion doing it’s job in looking to move forward.”
SC: “Fashion is constantly moving forward & using tons of tech, they just don’t promote it through boring products like all these tech nerds”
“We don’t need to focus just on product.” LG “Wearables is just answering one thing”
“Once tech allows us to do something we couldn’t do before, then it will start to be interesting for fashion designers. We embrace tech when tech becomes interesting enough to embrace” SC
My take: fashion brands are reactionary, not innovators & leaders.
“what are the bigger bets we’re going to make? And then go for it” FH
LL: we’re seeing a golden age of transition across these
One of the biggest places is in infrastructure –
Do existing companies get phased out? Then totally replaced by this new generation of innovative infrastructure brands?
“under-leveraged asset : billions of photos on social media.” FH
“If we could please use technology to make fashion a little more responsible– work on that” SC's call to action.
Still no one has figured out the mobile web. LG Forget about the bigger screens, focus on the mobile web.
“You have to be where the customer is” “there’s no greater antithesis to luxury than not giving the customer what she wants when she wants it.” LG
Two biggest issues: “what to I wear today?” and fit
Better than a fit algorithm is having an effective return policy. SC
LL – completely disagrees because the reverse logistics issues is hugely complex and expensive
The opposite of fit is customization.
“But given the options available to us now, yes I understand you have to optimize the reverse logistics.” LL
predictions for 5 years:
SC “no more ugly, please"
Virtual reality – practical applications FH
LL – the epic demise of all large retailers - the next 5-10-20 years is about startup brands who can create something unique, hold up that dialogue and scale that dialogue.
“If I could be anywhere I’d be a great product producer.” Lawrence Lenihan
"How do you protect yourself from a bear? You just have to run faster than your friend." On hw to manage your online presence and privacy
Protect your brand- read the ownership policies of the companies / content platforms / who owns the content? Who owns the customers?
Eventually you can own your own audience so that the data isn’t sold and shared with competitors
1,000,000 hacker budget
Consumer lifestyle, product, engagement
8.4% luxury pop up retail increase by next year (8 billion $/yr industry)
71% of consumers want brands to treat/activate their imagination
STORY (making things)– a reatail store that reinvents itself over an again.
Ephemeral retail- product as content
Pop up store solves a lot of issues – maybe it’s the future for small brands unless you have the overhead to invest in a store as technologically infused as the Rebecca minkoff, for example. Retrofitting later on might not feel as ‘invisible’
Think about the end goal of the brand or that time period.
Does this pop-up event create an experience worthy of instagram/twitter?
Pop up allows a mega corporation to break away from the logistical limitations of doing something in-house. Gives you confidence to go faster in expanding and distributing a brand or reaching a new audience.
The challenge for mainstream retailer is to continue to find ways to connect the consumer to the brand. WAS brand first, product second. NOW item to item – no brand loyalty, but platform loyalty.
“The way we use the physical space will continue to evolve” MG
Ryan Mathers – writer who coined the term “the instavidual,” meaning we are all different people many times during the day. You can’t any longer target a massive broad demographic. You have to think about the evolution of the individual throughout the day.” JB
Entrepreneurial Thinking / Digital Retail
How do you enhance the buyer’s strategy(knowledge) before going into a buying season?
Retailers say they are doing all of their data mining for the benefit of the customer, but it’s really out of self-interest. It’s a business at the end of the day. It would be nice if this was spoken honestly.
IE saks stragegy to have exclusives online and different exclusives offline, so they have a reason to go to both. That’s clearly not done for the customer.
Important to have this space where colleagues can discuss how uncomfortable this transition into technology is. Fashion is old fashioned & nostalgic & doesn’t want to let go for sentimental reasons.
What about small brands that don’t have the resources to access this predictive power via big data?
Are designers more free if they don’t have to focus on data?
The only way to absorb all of this information in a thoughtful article is to choose one topic and forget about the rest of it. I think these little soundbites might be a better way, as an experiment, for those of you who were not there to make your own analysis.
I have strong opinions on most of these issues, which might have biased the things I chose to note down, but I believe these are the richest parts of the content of the day.
Please leave your comments below if you have any thoughts on this format versus an opinion piece.