Fashiontech: the name itself is a combination between two industries, the intersections of a venn diagram, each circle owning innovation and creativity in their fields. However, the scope of fashiontech is rapidly expanding, as newer technologies present multifold opportunities for retail, design, and branding sectors of the fashion industry.
The #FASHIONTECH conference at Kraftwerk as part of the whirlwind of Berlin Fashion Week was the ultimate space for industry leaders to come together to share their experiences. Everyone there was primed to explore the boundaries of the venn diagram and broaden those overlapping layers of fabric and code. It was a chance to discuss learnings and successes while connecting tech and fashion.
Tech to the core
Spryker CEO Alexander Graf discussed the need for modern eCommerce brands to ‘Innovate or Die’. He illustrated the fact that growth in the industry is “about selling better, and not about selling better products” anymore. He expressed the importance for businesses to develop an internal structure where ‘data and technology are the most important’ decision-drivers, positioning big-data companies like Berlin-based Zalando and retail mammoth Amazon at the top of the food chain, as they have the ability to not only adapt to, but drive market changes and adopt cutting edge technologies in the blink of an eye. From AI influencers like Lil Miquela (whose company is currently closing a $20+ million financing round), through to the taste-profiling algorithms on eCommerce and social media pages, new developments in technology has significantly altered the factors affecting our purchase decisions. His arguably bleak prediction that there would be “a fashion retail eCommerce monopoly by 2030” as a consequence of market incumbents’ inability to innovate and compete with e-tail market leaders like ASOS, Amazon, and Zalando.
Sofia Wingren from Hyper Island spoke on how ‘digital killed average’ – brands can no longer afford to be average and in her experience ‘learning to turn a world of (digital) change into opportunity’ was the key to success. She agreed with Blackboat CEO Christoph Magnussen that adopting new approaches is key to getting ahead or, as he put it, avoiding the ‘oh sh*t’ moments when a competitor makes a success of their ‘risky’ decisions.
Ana Andjelic, Chief Brand Officer at Rebecca Minkoff and one of Forbes’ Top 50 CMOs for 2018, shared her insights on how to “beat the algorithm” as a fashion brand. Her central message was that human emotional connection can’t be replaced by digital convenience, that successful “[fashion] brands need to create a passion and purpose” to cut through the noise, something that cannot be generated by an algorithm.
From her perspective, Alexander Graf’s predicted market monopoly by 2030 is something only possible for goods where brand affinity was never an element of the purchase decision-making process.
Bumble’s Louise Roen discussed how connecting your brand’s on and offline worlds is the only way to truly resonate with people and have credibility as a product and brand. For them to exist purely as a tech product and brand wouldn’t make sense to the consumer due to the diminished emotional connection.
Wear the Future
Deutsche Telekom is committed to “shaping a digital society and driving digital lifestyle trends” through their Fashion Fusion program, which helps designer develop, manufacture, and bring their innovative products to market.
Fashion Fusion 2018 participant and Interknitting designer Zsofi Levai held a masterclass “Wear the Future” where she shared her experience as fashiontech designer. She integrated LED lighting into thick-knit sweaters, visually representing our social media data, communicating our digital personality and footprint to the outside world.
For Levai, fashiontech is about finding similarities and points of collaboration between the two spheres. At the end of the day, they should learn from each other.
The digitization of the fashion industry is nothing new – the integration of tech into elements of the business, from operations, branding to creation is a natural progression. So the message here is that the world of fashiontech is not mutually exclusive. Both realms interact and continuously collaborate to set new trends.
It is not so much about what fashion is able to absorb from the tech world, but how both tech and fashion, and how these industries can share knowledge and learn from each other.