Last week we attended a fabulous event in NYC held by FashTech, a company that supports the partnership between fashion and technology through a series of events worldwide. The organization serves as a platform for the latest innovations to be showcased by leading brands and retailers. In an effort to forge a global community, FashTech has been sponsoring events for the fashion technology industry since February of 2014. What started as one event in London has since spread to numerous gatherings across Europe and the United States. FashTech NYC launched in September of 2014 as the community reached over 10,000 members and continues to empower and inspire those within the burgeoning industry.
Brooke Roberts discusses 'How Technology and Fashion Design Mix' at FashTechLND London Technology Week
We were particularly excited to be attending this event as Brooke gave the opening talk at the FashTechLND London Technology Week event last June where she discussed 'How Technology and Fashion Design Mix.' FashTech's videographer caught up with Brooke at the event and she commented, "It's a great community. It's great to be involved with other up and coming and really innovative FashTech people." We are so pleased to see this organization continue to grow and extend it's reach to include those involved in fashion technology worldwide.
The event on February 17th served as both a panel discussion as well as a platform for a variety of startup businesses looking to get the word out about their ideas. We were able to peruse the booths before the discussion and were able to learn more about some of the exciting new ventures happening in New York. Drizly is an alcohol delivery service smartphone app that scouts liquor stores in your neighborhood giving you a local price list and then delivers to your door. Thanks to investors, the company has raised almost $5 million dollars in an effort to become the premier alcohol delivery service in almost all major cities across the United States. Drizly was behind the bar at the event and were serving a slew of fantastic cocktails -- unfortunately drinks won't be delivered pre-mixed but with no price mark up who are we to be complaining!
LookBooker was also present and they clued us in to how they are revolutionizing the way we book hair and beauty appointments. Started in Singapore, LookBooker has now made its entry to the US and have developed a trusted marketplace allowing you to search, select and confirm appointments in your neighborhood online. The service is currently in beta testing but don't let that fool you -- they are 100% fully functional and have a wide variety of salon partners for you to choose from!
We were also able to chat with the lovely Emily Cohen, Chief Marketing Officer for Stylinity, a new app that makes selfies shoppable! With the 100 million selfies that are taken daily, Stylinity decided to create a social commerce platform that allows users to tag the brands behind their clothing. The user generated content drives sales and through that retailers can identify their best brand ambassadors, creating real-time, beneficial relationships between buyer and seller.
As the night continued we lucked out majorly by scoring a front row seat to the main attraction. The panel discussion was mediated by FashTech founder Alex Semenzato and featured a seriously knowledgable (and fashionable!) group of women including Jessica Murphy Co-Founder of True Fit, Emily Culp SVP E-Commerce & Omni-Channel Marketing at Rebecca Minkoff, Billie Whitehouse Co-Founder & Creative Director at Wearable Experiments, and Rachel Arthur Global Senior Editor at WGSN & Founder of fashionandmash.com. Semenzato kicked off the discussion by posing the question of whether the rapid technological advancements within the industry will ultimately be the death of High Street. The panel unanimously concluded that no, we won't be attending High Street's funeral any time soon but that it is clearly time for some evolution as in-store innovations are lacking. Brand experience must be made consistent and resonate with the customer wherever she is -- be that online or in the store itself. There is plenty of space within the industry for new in-store formats -- like smart fitting rooms where a different size for a particular item can be requested digitally and brought in quickly by a team member. Concepts like this require that the technology in place is seamless and that the stores and their workers are streamlined. Efficiency is key when the goal is a unified experience and brands will need to make sure that their workers on the floor are kept in the loop and up to date on all the new formats.
Alex Semenzato welcoming the audience
Smart fitting rooms are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new in-store technologies that are possible today. Jessica Murphy cited True Fit as another revolution that's taking place online. The company uses billions of rich data points in order to show shoppers how items they view on screen will fit them in real life. Personalized fit ratings and style profiles help consumers make smart purchasing decisions without having to see the reality of their body type or take time to input their measurements. It's been found that women do not want to share their body stats nor do they want to take the time to confirm their measurements or type them into a program. True Fit accepts this and works around it successfully.
Wearable Tech is another part of the changing in-store landscape and Billie Whitehouse commented that we really need to work on renaming this booming new industry. "Wearable" suggests that style is an afterthought. Changing our point of view on wearables and seeing them as just an extension of Ready to Wear will make much more sense in the long run -- and lend the credit they deserve. Rachel Arthur was somewhat cynical about this though -- and about wearables in general. She believes that fashion has been abandoned in the creation of these tech pieces and has yet to be convinced that anyone will want to wear them longterm. In fact, the current average wear time of wearable pieces is only 4-6 weeks. Rachel definitely has a point but it is only the beginning for wearables, there is so much more to come.
The lovely panelists from left to right: Rachel Arthur, Billie Whitehouse, Emily Culp, Jessica Murphy
Semenzato then steered the conversation toward social media, which the panel agreed serves as a "learning lab" for brands, providing hugely valuable information from the consumer. Above all in this realm engagement outweighs quantity -- the best information comes from those who are truly invested in the brand, so having a million followers who rarely check in won't be very beneficial. The current platforms -- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc -- are used for a brand to stay relevant, and many of the panel members mentioned how the new platforms are not of a huge concern to them. It seems there is a structure in place now, consumers know where to look for the best information about a brand and though new social networks and apps are always popping up, the original heavy hitters are here to stay.
As the discussion wound down, Semenzato posed a final question for the panel: what is the future of fashion technology? Discovery was the very first response -- meaning that brands will be focused on finding new ways to personalize for the consumer. Beyond that, developing and pushing the idea of the ecosystem of the brand, making it more lifestyle and expanding will also likely be of great importance. And finally, transforming the shopping experience -- be it online or in-store -- change is coming. The panelists heavily emphasized how emotional the experience of shopping really is; it's not an activity meant to be assembly line style efficient. It is a wandering, all senses locked and loaded, personal event and as more brands come to recognize this, the better the experience will be made.
The merging of fashion and technology -- from wearables to ecommerce to 3-D printing and scanning -- has made the past year incredibly exciting and we can't wait to see what new revolutionizing ideas come next!