Tech is the New Black: Decoded Fashion at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week


When you think fashion, Dennis Crowley is not the first name to come to mind. Brilliant when it comes to tech, but hardly known for his sartorial splendor. But his roots in tech helped him to check-in at one of the most exclusive fashion events of the season, where the two worlds met and even collided a bit.


Decoded Fashion, hosted by Condé Nast, took place at Lincoln Center and focused on how the tech and fashion industries can work together to the benefit of both industries, lest we forget that fashion is a trillion dollar a year industry where they create tangible products that you see on the streets every day, and if you didn’t, there would be a lot more arrests for public indecency.

The event was preceded by The Fashion Hackathon, which was held on February 2-3 at The AlleyNYC. 550 registered participants and 78 teams competed to build a technology to help American fashion designers. A hackathon is a new concept to the fashion world and could have been more readily understood by the fashionistas in attendance under the Fashion Week tent had it been described as Project Runway on steroids, using tech instead of fabric. The finalists were:

42 personalizes the in-store experience by using the best intelligence of online commerce. Founders: Cathy Han, Sarah Hum, Lucas Lemanowicz, Nicolas Porter

Coveted is a 1-click platform for brands to sell their products through shareable tumblr images. Founders: Ian Culley, Michael Dizon, Jason Fertel

SWATCHit is a peer-to-peer platform connecting global designers with emerging market artisans and overseas producers. Founders: Ramzi Abdoch, Jagjeet Gill, Jackson Lin, Henrika Makilya, Paul Yun

And the winner was…SWATCHit, although the tech world was not represented at all among the panel of judges, and from the murmurs in the room, it seemed the techies had favored Coveted.

From the fashion side, keynote speaker and coutourier Zac Posen admitted that he’s “completely addicted to social media,” particularly Twitter and Instagram (Pinterest was not mentioned). “I’m able to be as honest and personal as possible while building my brand,” he said. He prefers mobile to desktop image sharing.  “It’s like the difference between oil painting and Photoshop.” Nor does he have any privacy concerns regarding social media. Au contraire: “It protects my privacy,” he posited.  “I’m supplying the demand for interest. People don’t have to search.”

When asked what advice he would give to a young startup founder, Posen, who was 21 when he founded his company, answered, “Keep it very small. Build your integrity. In a culture that wants speed and immediacy, you have to put the brakes on and rein it in.”

So what’s the fashion advantage of Foursquare? They’re very well suited to each other, Crowley felt, since Foursquare is a discovery engine. The company has partnerships with brands such as the Gap and H&M, and while luxury brands like Louis Vuitton use Foursquare without relying on a discount model. Instead, they give VIP access to check in.  “They might take them in the back to see merchandise that only celebrities get to see,” Crowley said.

Crowley mentioned that 30% of Foursquare check-ins are retail and feels that Foursquare itself can be considered wearable tech, when you get down to it. “Google talks about Google Glass and Apple might have a watch coming, but this is the thing that everyone has in their pocket,” he noted, referring to his smartphone, on which, of course, Foursquare resides.

Between the connected closet (as represented by Stylitics) and 3-D printing (shapeways, the 3D printing marketplace), tech is very much moving into the domain of fashion. And speaking of wearable tech, with 3D printing getting more sophisticated and being capable of utilizing more materials all the time, it won’t be long before, if it can be scanned, it can be printed and worn on the runways.

It took long enough for consumers to get comfortable with buying retail online. Is the world ready for Downloaded Fashion?

About the author: Bonnie Halper

Bonnie Halper curates the StartupOneStop.com newsletter, which focuses on startups and entrepreneurs, and is currently being read in 50+ countries around the world.

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