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Fashion & Tech Week Paris

There's a new platform in town for disruption and discovery in the mergence of fashion & technology. Startup Weekend's Fashion & Tech vertical is encouraging entrepreneurs to see opportunity in the fashion industry through technology enabled solutions.

This is the last day of the New York Fashion & Tech Startup Weekend, leading into London then Milan and then Paris, following the major fashion weeks. Poznan will also host a startup weekend in preparation for the Global Fashion Battle that will take place during Poznan's Art & Fashion Forum on October 18. 

Starkweather has been involved in the conception of the Global Fashion Battle and organization of the Paris event as well as the round table on sustainability and technology in fashion on September 23. 

We'll keep you updated here on the details and discussions of the event. Sign up for the newsletter to make sure you don't miss anything!

Here's the program, that will be updated as it is finalized: 

(en cours de publication)



:: Conferences ::

# Le 22/09 @numa

:: Is the Technology Industry ready to embrace the Fashion World ? ::
Avec Amy Puliafito, VP Communication, Misfit ; June by Netatmo
Organisée par Eliane Fiolet, éditrice et cofondatrice d’Ubergizmo


# Le 23/09 @numa

:: The Future of Sustainability in Fashion ::
Cécile LochardCitizen Luxury, HUMUS ; Jeanne Bloch, Artist, researcher, Sustainability Expert ; R3i Lab
Animée par Lee Anderson, Founder & Designer, Starkweathe

:: Parsons Paris (New School) ::
(en cours)


:: Meet-ups ::

# Le 24/09 @numa
:: Tomorrow creation, 5 start-ups rencontrent 5 créateurs de mode ::
Showroom + Meet-up + Table ronde
Céline LippiFashion Technology LabFashion Capital Partner ;  Stéphanie Tramicheck,Pinterest ; Alexandre DiarI Am La Mode
Organisé par Hall Couture & - ICONITY -

:: Competition ::

# Le 26-28/09 @numa

:: Global Fashion & Tech battle : Paris ::
Edition parisienne d’un événement international organisé à NYC, Londres, Milan et Poznan

:: Talks ::
# Le 25/09 @numa
:: Cahier de tendance par Peclers Paris ::
:: Elisabeth de Senneville ::




Decoded Fashion Summit London

Decoded Fashion Summit, London May 13, 2014

There You Have It : from Sarah Watson presenting as Group Mobile Leader,  Net-a-Porter

There You Have It : from Sarah Watson presenting as Group Mobile Leader, Net-a-Porter

It’s like guys who signed up for women’s lit classes in college just to be surrounded by a room full of girls. No other tech conference will gather together so many women, much less see as many beautifully styled outfits and high heels, than Decoded Fashion, the Fashion & Tech conference and hackathon series founded by Liz Bacelar.

Yesterday’s summit in London, held at the Somerset House, brought to the table a diverse set of profiles from both sectors (during lunch, introductions were followed with: “are you from the fashion side or the tech side?”) and a group of innovative entrepreneurs who pitched the result of 24 hours of business development with the chance of earning a great opportunity to implement their idea with AllSaints. The unofficial, yet recurring themes of the day were mobile, mobile, mobile, and the power of imagery as a vessel for tech and for brand identity.

Photo May 13, 4 34 48 PM (1).jpg

In the first panel of the day, on the new challenges in ecommerce, LYST founder Chris Morton insisted on the power of storytelling within brands’ own ecommerce platforms versus pure utility of a site like Amazon with which we associate words like  “cheapest” and “fastest,” and the idea of offering everything, not luxury. And Charlotte O’Sullivan, Head of Group Online at Mulberry, reminds us to “think bigger than your online store.” Adding, it might not be sexy, but “my stuff arrived on time” is one of the best moments to engage the customer in a positive emotional experience.

A brief mention of CRM and linking the consumer experience in store and online alluded to some omni channel efforts, but there was a general evasiveness towards the technical questions that moderator Mike Butcher (TechCrunch) kept trying to steer towards. It feels that luxury is behind contemporary fashion in this regard. The conversation felt a bit old fashioned and manual in regards to personalization as well, the idea of hand written notes and brand ‘insider-ship’ via Instagram, which begs the question: How do you scale personalization?  LYST seemed to have an answer in their staffing strategy: 30/50 employees are data scientists and engineers, providing them the knowledge necessary to personalize in new ways through tech, which is infinitely scalable. The argument: if the service is refined enough, tech strategies can feel as personal as a hand written note.


Imagery was credited in many contexts, from both the tech side and the fashion side, as a critical tool for brand engagement and customer retention. Because both consumers and brands create images, imagery becomes a dialogue rather than a brand monologue. Olapic, a disruptive, image-based content aggregator, enables brands to engage their consumers by gathering images from across the web for brands to then reintegrate into their communication. The power of the image has, thus, made it a full 360 degrees, just as we are moving into the 3D space becoming more prevalent in brand experience.

Lulu Guinness brought along a lip clutch, saying that as long as strict quality control is in place she would embrace 3D printing, using code as a distribution method. Leap Motion (control the digital world through hand gestures, rather than touch) and Inition (think Oculus Rift and the Topshop virtual reality live stream) are already offering ways to navigate online and move through the world, also providing access to the inaccessible through virtual and augmented reality.

Fashion struggles, understandably, to integrate these tools into their brand experience, but as the technologies become more affordable and adoption more pervasive, we can imagine the idea of going shopping in brick and mortar meaning something very different for today's youth and coming generations.

LuLu Guinness and Liz Bacelar

LuLu Guinness and Liz Bacelar

The prevailing issue of ecommerce affecting everyone from high-street to luxury, order returns, was addressed by four competitors in the fit technology space in a conversation that covered the importance of visualization, how they gather their data, and how technology can help companies “be more profitable in a more efficient way.” True Fit uses a comparative data system, taking specs of key body areas to put variable brand sizing in context; Metail bases their fit tech off of a physical body model of the customer; Virtuesize compares the specs of something you already own to something you want to buy. 

Of the four companies, the only one not to use some kind of visualization is True Fit. The decision, co-founder Jessica Murphy explained, is that they don’t want to “oversell the client (brand)” whose imagery is so personal to their narrative. The fit tech visualization might break the spell and “get in the way of the Buy button.” She argues that the purity of their tool “gets at the subjectivity not just the utility” and thus does not interfere with the emotional connection brands work hard to create with the customer through to purchase.

William Kim, CEO,  AllSaints  breaks down the components of a brand

William Kim, CEO, AllSaints breaks down the components of a brand

The ultimate highlight for me personally was the panel led by Juliet Warkentin (Amazon Fashion UK), including Frederic Court (Advent Ventures), Daniel Bobroff (ASOS), and Ben Jones (CTO AKQA). Their cumulative experience in the tech industry across platforms, from gaming to investments, provided rich dimension and insight into how successful tech principles can be applied to fashion businesses, and how tech can be a powerfully scalable tool in building out service, experience, and using intelligence (i.e. big data).

While there was an agreement that mobile is a direction of the future (it is the main portal to the Internet in China, for example), Jones reminded us that mobile is not always right: “it depends on the context.” And that in regards to mobile and all other decisions, “everyone should take the approach of experimentation.”

The summation of their discussion came in the contradictory yet complimentary assertions from Frederic Court, “it’s all about product,” and Daniel Bobroff, “you need to provide a service,” after which he added: “the definition of a brand is going to change.” It doesn’t seem new that brands are defined by the identity narrated through their products and the experience of their service, but therein lies the enigma of tech: inventing totally new ways to systemize and aggregate, on a global scale, networks that already exist but are invisible – that is until an innovator manifests them through a platform or design and our world is forever changed.

This thought gets to the meat of the issue, which lies in the disparity between the concept of a brand in the experience-centric tech world, and the concept of a brand in the product-centric fashion world. It is only through these conversations, and much experimentation, that the two will find their common ground. Decoded Fashion has created a space for that to develop. What remained unanswered, although fruitfully explored throughout the day, was the question that concluded the summit, from William Kim, CEO of All Saints: “Why don’t fashion companies think like digital brands?” The aesthetics of front-end design (i.e. digital) are more easily compatible with fashion than the futuristic aesthetic pervasive in wearable tech (a term Liz predicts will evolve into something more fitting as the products themselves evolve) so in the meantime, the challenge goes out to fashion brands to embrace change, to experiment, and to be a part of this inevitable and exciting future of the industry.

Carrie Tyler, Editor,  Never Under Dressed

Carrie Tyler, Editor, Never Under Dressed

Three of the five hackaton pitches included two runners up: Bespoky, a social media concept connecting shoppers to sales associates based on personal style profiles in the app, and Suffro, a fitting room browser to pull new pieces and different sizes without having to search for the sales associate while half dressed, respectively. Both proposed pushing brand content to the device while the customer waits. The winning team, Loop, enables the customer to create an active wish list, scanning products they want to purchase to receive alerts when stock gets low. The implications of the tool are great for the customer, empowering them to buy when they want, and for the data collection of the retailer. I love their 360 degree taglines: Helping the customer “stay in the loop” and the retailer “close the loop.” Well done.

Sound bites:

“Let’s get geeky.” – Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large, TechCrunch, reminding panelists to get to the tech-of-the matter: a little more geek, a little less fashionista.

“The words “big data” and “emotion” don’t really go hand in hand, do they?” – Mike Butcher

“Be fearless or you’ll be left behind.” – Lulu Guinness, Designer, on embracing technology

“Free consumer experience is eating your profit margins like a monster” – Jeroen Vanderhaeghen, CEO & Co-Founder, Hyghlyne

“The boring things will define the brands of the future…you build your foundation and then you build your castle.” – Ben Jones, CTO, AKQA

“We need to move to a stage where technology is more invisible…we are all still uncomfortable with the amount of time [the smart phone] is present in our lives…” Maybe wearables have an answer here. – Daniel Bobroff, Investment Director, ASOS

“It pains my heart to see people waiting.” – William Kim, AllSaints, on his desire to streamline the purchase process in store.

“Awareness creates intent. Forward thinking brands are catching on” – Alicia Navarro, Founder, Skimlinks



'Designer' and 'Entrepreneur' Have Become Synonymous but are still Divergent

While working on a writing project, on Starting Somewhere, the words ‘artist’ or ‘designer,’ and the word ‘entrepreneur’ kept popping into my writing interchangeably. It occurred to me that I should be addressing one or the other, as it might get confusing and certain thoughts might be misconstrued as exclusive to one or the other. I realized the dilemma: that I’m trying to reach both with the same message because both are functioning in much the same way these days, we just don’t recognize it yet in our rhetoric or in our communities. I know this because I actually consider myself a hybrid of these categories, and but have had a hell of a time coming to terms with that and communicating to people where I fit in this disjointed system.

Although their activities are very similar, just packaged differently, it still challenging for an artist or a designer to be seen as an entrepreneur. The worlds are entirely separate, although the values and experiences are often the same. For artists, as for entrepreneurs the goal is to connect with an audience to sell your product or service. The term ‘design’ is being used more often to describe business practices and in job titles as industries evolve. The relevance, therefore, of the artist in the business world is understood now not to be a purely aesthetic thing. Design is systems and programs and infrastructure and interface. Startups use design skills everyday, employing their creativity and their inner artist.

Because artists are always expected to make choices for the sake of their art rather than to make money, they do not fit our conventional idea of an entrepreneur, whose primary pursuit is commerce. But this line has been blurred now that artists run businesses of their own and have access to many of the same outlets as businesses through which to reach their community, some of whom might be other businesses looking to outsource artwork or design work. Artists have had to learn to become entrepreneurs to promote themselves and build a following. And so a conversation with an entrepreneur and another with an artist might have many parallels. The startup and the artist pass through the same phases of discovery, experimentation and diffusion.

When starting out after graduating from Parsons in 2009, it took me years to understand that the language I was speaking was not the language of a fashion designer, but rather a hybrid of a fashion designer and an entrepreneur. It meant me meeting the right people at the right time, having conversations that I never thought I would have, and stepping off of a path that had been laid out in front of me since my first taste of fashion industry at the age of 18. In doing so, I had to step away from what I knew and into an abyss, hoping to find my voice and my people.

Once you decide to be a designer there is only one path to take, whether you have your own design business or you have a job with another brand: you must keep up with the cycle of all of the other fashion businesses. When you are in a startup you are basically required to do something totally different than what already exists. There is a huge dichotomy here, and for anyone who is interested in change and progress, fashion as it exists is quite suffocating.

 There is a real opportunity here to start considering the business of fashion at all of its levels and in all of its shapes and sizes, and accepting entrepreneur as synonymous with designer.

There are bridges forming between the fashion world and the startup world, but they are all being built from the land of technology towards the land of fashion. The land of fashion has little moments celebrating the innovations of technology, but mostly through content creation and in various novel ways. They know how to create buzz, but they aren’t changing the world. Even an example like Burberry, celebrated for their embracing of all things digital, are only dressing up a business that remains tied to the cycle.

The innovation in these big companies has to be in communication and marketing, because they are too big and working too well to alter from the bottom up. The problem is not that heritage companies all function in the same way, but that all fashion businesses starting out head down the same path by default, without questioning it. that's just the way it's done. We celebrate unique aesthetics and content creation, but new business models cannot take off because they are rejected by the gatekeepers. Our innovation comes in marketing strategies and commercial channels, but not in business models. And where would we go to find a mentor to guide us through innovation? Likely to tech land, where a new idea can be flushed out and developed rather than scoffed at. 

When you are a startup in tech land, you have access to long list of incubators, accelerator programs, and mentors. New ideas are encouraged and plentiful, and are up for grabs to the one who does it best. As a designer our options are limited to competitions, show room sponsorships, and a select few programs, like the CFDA incubator in New York, where the focus on the business is a bit more long term. But these tend to focus on businesses that already have some traction, whereas for a startup you find support from, well, the moment you start up.

This is not a question of fairness, or of all designers deserving a shot. It is an argument that I’ll eventually (in another article) bridge into how fashion can be more sustainable as an industry if we learn a little something from the startup model. And this is speaking to both designers and industry decision makers: we need to start building the bridge back towards tech land. Young designers should consider business models that break from the rules of the gatekeepers, and industry decision makers should encourage this dialogue for future change.

Why are the most exciting things about Fashion the ones happening in underground movements like those of ethics, sustainability and tech?

There is a real opportunity here to start considering the business of fashion at all of its levels and in all of its shapes and sizes, and accepting entrepreneur as synonymous with designer. Conversations on Omni channel retail and Omni channel marketing, interest from big tech companies to collaborate with fashion brands, and organizations like Decoded Fashion are all breaking down the barriers that have restricted movement within the fashion industry for so long.

What I’ve learned is simply that in order to find a place in the no-mans-land that I linger in, somewhere on the fringes of fashion and the fringes of tech, the conversation must continue. Every new discovery leads to a new opportunity, a new idea, and a new door. This is the thrill of innovation and newness that has always inspired entrepreneurs, and has begun to cause fashion to loose its edge. Why are the most exciting things about Fashion the ones happening in underground movements like those of ethics, sustainability and tech? The beauty of the garments becomes, at a certain point, obscured by their detachment from reality.

It’s not just in regards to fashion; the future of all industries is going to be a hybrid way of thinking. To think like an entrepreneur and designer means being capable of imagining new platforms for communication and ways of exchanging and engaging with information, products, and our environments. It means to face problems in the market with a viable solution and become responsible for creating a new way. Not all of us need to be both, but we need to build our businesses and our industries in a way that cultivates this mergence of ideals. We, the individuals to drive that movement already exist and are taking our own steps in that direction. But our real achievement will be showing that it’s possible for us to remove the stigma of classification and adjust perceptions now engrained by adjusting the rhetoric.



Another Tick on the Measuring Stick: 2013

You’ll see articles and lists from almost every blog for the next few weeks on how to stick to your New Year’s resolutions, or what kinds of resolutions you should make if you want to be ‘X’ kind of person. But rather than looking at this day as a time to fabricate change, I prefer to look at it as a means of assessment, a unit of measurement. Imagine each year as a tick on the measuring stick. Marks growing higher and higher on the wall. Some years you grow a centimeter, other years several inches. It is an erratic system that is never identical between individuals or predictable within oneself. However, unlike the growth analogy where we have little if no control over the rate of our body’s vertical climb, we do have control over the growth that the New Year’s measuring tape evaluates.

Our lives look rather strange in yearly snapshots; imagine it as an infographic assessing the previous 365 days from different angles, with different hypotheses and with different quantifiers. For example, think of your professional life and personal life as two pillars that strengthen each other by growing side by side. If one becomes neglected, the other risks blowing over. Strength is not always in the sum of two parts, but in their equilibrium. And so there is an active participation required in cultivating that balanced growth.

This principle is never more true than in growing a business. When a year goes by, a business goes through the same kind of self-discovery as an individual. As with any moment of assessment, it is a time to address pain points, improve communication and strengthen infrastructure. This can also mean eliminating time wasters and inessentials. It is a moment to realign ones practices in the direction of reestablished goals, and to reinforce core values in so doing.

In the year 2013, Starkweather made great progress in many ways, ultimately leading to an important pivot that will take place during 2014. These alterations are all a function of customer feedback, recommitting to essential founding ideals, and a better understanding of where Starkweather fits into the market. This pivot takes into account the short and long-term goals of the company, and the customer’s best interest. There will be a lot of exciting news in the coming 12 months. We look forward to sharing new products, new projects, and now collaborations with you, and receiving your feedback in the coming year.

Here's to hard work, and new horizons.

All the best for a happy and prosperous 2014!

Hard Work Starkweather New Year.png
Starkweather New Year.png



Fashion Education : What is it teaching us?

With a couple of articles coming out recently about fashion interns and assistants (links below), and an emphasis on fashion as a viable career choice, the subject of fashion education has been on my mind. These two main themes have lead several publishing houses to shutter their internship programs, and spurred leading fashion schools to develop their programs into wider, more business minded curriculum to attract legal and business people to the industry. Looking around the fashion industry these days, there are some great disruptive businesses taking off. But if you look at the people behind them, one thing that stands out is that formal studies in Fashion are little involved in the conception, execution, or success of these companies.

The sector has become so diverse in its business models that it attracts people from all different backgrounds, not only those who trained in fashion schools or fashion companies. We are not experiencing a shortage of creative talent, but rather a lack of creativity in distribution models and sourcing that isn’t coming from within our schools. To start a business, like Rent the Runway or Moda Operandi for example, does not require an education in fashion, but rather a business savvy team (most likely coming out of business school, not fashion school) who understand their customer, and who know how to make the right connections in the industry. So what is more valuable: A fashion education or a business school rolodex?  

Fashion internships are also problematic. Whether in PR, publishing, or design, fashion interns are never really learning the ins and outs of the business. It is easy to float through a three-six month experience without really digging deep, either because your peers don’t challenge the limits by asking for more responsibility, or because the company culture keeps interns limited to grunt work. Running errands and getting coffee might be an obligatory right of passage for any first rung employee, not just in fashion, however many fields lean more towards a program of apprenticeship. Wouldn’t the industry as a whole benefit from more transparency about the daily operations so that as the young move forward they gain skills and knowledge, not just another name for their resume? Yes, I’m a bit of an idealist. But I think this would help young people identify issues with the industry and use their internship experience to think critically about how to instigate changes once they gain momentum in their careers.  

In a way, it’s become part of my own fashion education, post-grad, to learn about and conceive creative and sustainable business models. How does the future of the fashion industry look for a business like mine? And what can I do now to set it up to thrive long into the future? Can you learn this in any fashion school today? Maybe in the years since my graduating things have changed. Can such a shift happen in five years? I would be very interested to hear the perspective of the students at Parsons, my alma matter, and what options they consider available to them upon graduating. If they plan to start a business, do they think of themselves as entrepreneurs, or simply designers? This was a word that I only identified with years after leaving, and it was a scary step to take. We are not encouraged to be business people, we are conditioned to believe that we are innately un-business-minded, and we’ll never survive without a more pragmatic business partner.

After so many decades of this being proven true for designers like Calvin Klein and Yves Saint Laurent, can we break away from it now? Look at Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer of Burberry, now also named CEO. Time will tell if he is successful, and if so, will this set a new standard that the two aren’t mutually exclusive? Or maybe fashion is meant to pass into the hands of the businessperson, while the designer, who until now has been the face and identity of a brand, will take a back seat to the people who oil the machine. Or at least stand equal to them. Or begin to place more value on what it means to really make a business of a creative vision.

So the question is out there: can our schools adjust their curriculum to encourage the next generation of Fashion entrepreneurs? Can internships turn into valuable experience rather than law suits waiting to happen? Can fashion schools adapt to produce the players who will change the world, or just those who add more stuff to it? 

Assistants can be powerful 

The lawsuits that shut down internship programs

News on development in fashion education