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 With all the transient and already outdated efforts we’ve seen in Fashion & Tech, it is that much more exciting when an idea or a project truly bringing us forward.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.
Please excuse the slap-dash format of this post. These are the highlights from my notes on Day One of the Decoded Fashion New York Summit.
Brick and mortar retail:
“They need to change everything about everything they do.” – Dick Lockard The Big Space
“Nimble, innovative” takeaway words from Dick Lockard "Agility:" takeaway word from Glen Schanen, Macy's
“We want to be wherever the consumer is” whether it’s a department store, a mom & pop shop, or online. – Andrew Fletcher VF Sportswear
Renting allows RTR to introduce people to new brands & transition a potential designer customer out of fast fashion into better shopping habits.
Zara and H&M are essentially rentals. You know it’s going to last 2-3 wears and then fall apart. “Rent the things you’ll only wear one-three times. Then take the money you save and invest in better shoes, a better purse, etc.”
On their new Brick & Mortar location:
Now that there is a store – if you ever have a problem, we can solve it within an hour. Also, there is an “element of security going into a physical store that will never be achieved online” JH
Online (thanks to data) you can service the customer in more ways than brick and mortar. More about personalization.
45 min with a stylist and you’re outfitted for the entire season (social calendar is integrated in personal info)
On their new "Unlimited" subscription service:
“What woman doesn’t have a dream of a constantly rotating closet? What if there was a trap door in the back of your closet that took you into the rent the runway warehouse.” Hyman's dream for the "unlimited" subscription service.
What is RTR Unlimited? Very similar to Netflix à la 1998, you pay a monthly fee & then are sent 3 things from your queue at a time.
On the trajectory of the company:
The mission has evolved from delivering “Cinderella Moments” because that idea really relates to a guy. The 5 million customers have shown that they are dressing up for so many other reasons than just occasions involving men. That they are cooler, more diverse than they originally anticipated.
Will RTR segue into menswear, too? Probably not. Sticking to their value proposition: Self confidence, fun with fashion, - doesn’t resonate as much with men, so the service will continue to focus on women for now.
Keep every year and every chapter in the story of the business full of new entrepreneurial experiences.
First we were disrupting others and now we’re constantly disrupting ourselves, internally.
Average woman dresses up for 28 special occasions per year. (dates included) – 5 yrs later, 34 occasions per year (because rent the runway is a cheap & easy solution to dressing up. So the mentality has shifted.) increasing the size of the designer market. Be smart about the way we consume.
On speaking to VCs:
Make it clear how massive of a market potential there is, if the immediate reflex which is to relate the concept to their wives, does not hit home.
Symphony Commerce gave a presentation on their approach to re-fashioning fashion business infrastructure.
Notes from that presentation:
How tech can help / or not / scale a business
100 times cheaper to build a tech company now from 10 years ago
how to bring the same scale & efficiency to fashion & retail?
Internet= cost, intelligence, reach
Disintermediation (Everlane), intelligence (stitch fix), infrastructure (Yoox)
“Take the same sophistication of infrastructure of an Amazon and apply it to emerging and fast growing brands” &
“How do you bring yoox.com infrastructure to an emerging brand?”
It might be easy to START a brand today, but it’s much more competitive to SCALE a brand.
How much time (forget money for a second) is spend on order related issues? Logistics issues. (right now growing startups are spending 50% + of their time on these issues)
It’s a business operations issue – one client scaled from 4-40 million over 18 months with the same employee count. Just better organized. Usually adding employees every million you grow, but there are more efficient ways to grow.
Iteration on store front. “It’s not a one time build”
Their insourcing vs outsourcing timeline:
1-2-5 million your in-sourcing because you’re non-stop iterating (nimble & agile in your business) then around 5-50 million you can outsource much more (definitely fulfillment and maybe store front) so the team can focus on making a better product. Then upwards of 50 you have enough scale to bring it back in. You’re in a new phase of iterative process. Investing in R&D.
Understanding the inventory velocity across channels – online and offline inventory fulfillment is handled separately. Marry the relationship of online and offline fulfillment of inventory
Omni channel retailing REQUIRES omni channel fulfillment. (Requirements of wholesale shipments that have heavy charge backs for miss-packaged orders)
How do yo go back from outsource to insource? Fashion Digital in LA – Clarins is an example: They left marketing outsourced but they brought the operational side back in-house.
Customer service is one factor that should always be in-sourced for certain types of brands.
Rebecca and Uri Minkoff talked about their new retail location which is the most advanced tech-oriented Brick and Mortar store this shopper has ever heard of.
The editors' response after the preview: "You gave me something I didn't know I wanted but now I know I need."
Others said that it preemptively ruined every other store shopping experience. Or that it is like a new kind of therapy.
They highlighted these considerations for the foundation of their design and interactive components:
The moment of entry
The fitting room
Their goal, as they stated, is to constantly be pushing the boundaries of how technology can serve their business. Their version of the customer experience seems to be actually customer oriented and not data oriented. They have considered the human aspect of everything they do, which makes the technology feel natural and intuitive.
I have lots of love for the values of this company, granted all I know of it is how active Uri and Rebecca are in their transparency about the brand and their communication for the benefit of their business but also those with whom they share.
Smart Manufacturing Panel:
Why have fashion brands been slow to adopt technology?
Because: technology is inaccessible & expensive- Francis Bitonti
Specialized manufacturers are necessary for a lot of these technologies (integrated tech in textiles, etc) Manufacturers must become very hybrid.
“We have to create tools that enable the hybrid experience from both sides” AP
Software that is enabling & engaging for designers – pattern makers understanding the translation of 3d-2d back to 3d. They aren’t yet trained to think from 3d to 3d.
“There is a 3D printing aesthetic that is coming from the materials and capabilities that are available to us” but bringing artisanship into the 21st century can result in a product where people say “How did you achieve that form?”
“3D printing has the potential to be sustainable but right now isn’t” Amanda Parkes
Would love to create a line of garments that literally disintegrates after 3 months.
“Either it’s meant to stay, or it’s not meant to stay” Let’s not make more clothes that are destined for the landfill. AR
We need to look outside of the fashion industry for the innovation that will inform our future choices. (tomato farmers in California using biodegradable mulch, for example)
“It’s very important to us not to see the technology” SS
Then the tech is completely seamless – this will make it easier for brands to connect it to the consumer.
“I want my garment to be my computer. We need to relearn the human-computer interaction to evolve this idea.”
“The further we go, the more biology + tech will go into these products. We are actually at the height of exposure now” AR responding to a question on heath concerns in wearables & smart textiles.
You can’t think about the limitations you have to look at the solutions and define your business around that process. – FB
Tesla, for example, they realized they have to make batteries. It’s not enough to make a solar car.
One last thought that came up on both days is about the division between fashion and technology: many people were saying you have to choose which one you are, but isn't this a mixed message? Here we are at a conference promoting the mergence of fashion & technology, and all of these speakers are insisting that you can't be both. But of course we then demand everyone be both.
Simon Collins “You’re either a designer or a startup founder.”
When you take the tech out is the product still something the consumer will want? If no, then look into the licensing route – collaborate with designers.
“Be tech or be design – you need to choose one or the other.”
The point is clear, and it's a valid one: collaborate, don't fake it. If you don't know design, find a designer. If you don't know technology, find an engineer. We might not have many who can do both right now but we do have a few and that number will grow. But in the meantime, cross-disciplinary cooperation is our best tool.