When you think about the future of fashion tech – sure, ecommerce, mobile accessibility, even 3D printing might come to mind. But, what about a 1940s Singer machine?
“At the end of the day, I’m still sitting at a Singer from the 1940’s that I had refurbished because it’s the best for leather out of all the machines I had,” said Bob Bland, CEO of Manufacture NY to a room full of fashion entrepreneurs gathered to discuss fashion tech. With Fashion Week just wrapped, it’s the perfect time to get the yarn ball rolling on discussing tech’s role in reshaping the fashion industry and why that Singer will continue to be a vital piece to the puzzle. New Yorkers were treated to not one but two events discussing fashion tech’s future, hosted by Gotham Media and the LeadDog Marketing Group, respectively.
The Gotham Media Ventures panel held at the Wix Lounge included moderator Scott Kurnit, founder of Keep Holdings, Bob Bland, Founder of Manufacture NY, Daniella Cagol, Managing Editor at Imagine Fashion, Dalia Strum, Instructor at FIT and Jason Wagg, Operations Coordinator at Tom Ford.
LeadDog Media Group’s #Barkfashion event, held at the Yotel hotel, featured Soraya Darabi, co-founder of Zady, Woldy A. Reyes, Retail Brand Specialist at 3.1. Philip Lim and Amy Gruenhut, Fashion and Luxury Consultant.
How Tech is Reshaping the Industry
Despite the fact that Amy Gruenhut used to work for Vogue, she said she never got to visit Fashion Week during her time there. Today, Fashion Week comes to us, with companies such as ToryBurch providing customer access to their show and creating products for them, direct from Fashion Week.
“There are so many brands that are doing that right now. They’ll put it up on Facebook [and ask] do you like the pink version or the purple version…whatever it may be. Brands are producing products that are based on input from customers,” said Gruenhut.
Other companies that panelists at both events mentioned as effectively using the social media side of tech well include:
Burberry – Daniella Cagol noted Burberry’s ability to show creative or original content across multiple social media channels
Net-a-porter – Mentioned for its ability to go from digital to print, after growing its audience.
Style - Jason Wagg commented on the transparency and communicability of the organization, which also managed to expand from digital to print.
NastyGal- Starting out by taking snapshots of clothes to be sold on eBay, founder Sophia Amaruso eventually gained enough of a following to launch her own site and was one of the first to sign with Olapic, a company that pulls an Instagram feed onto the homepage of people who purchased on NastyGal.
Stylesaint – The site uses repins from its users to help create their next designs, and are therefore heavily reliant on user input.
Modaoperandi - Lets users pre-order selections from the runway and buy an item that you might not ever see in a store.
Using Tech Well
While many fashion companies are using social media effectively to build an audience, panelists noted that careful thought and attention must also go into the development of the software and hardware. When addressing ways to make tech more dynamic for mobile Soraya Darabi said that providing information in a clean, simple and quick way is always essential, but one also needed to consider which tech tools, or an app, you might really need.
“The trick is…if you’re going to do a native application…there needs to be a hook, something on that app that no other application does…and that hook is where real innovation is emerging.” For her, a feature such as geolocation, which might help you locate stores when abroad, is an example of innovation converging with fashion and editorial.
At the Gotham Media event, panelists addressed the disconnect customers might have with internet time and real production time.
“My biggest issue is that tech isn’t moving fast enough for our demand. It took me six months to get my pebble,” said guest Dalia Strum. For Strum, when companies produce prototypes such as Google Glass, there’s a tendency to create a lot of hype, but the demand starts to fall off before they can start supplying it.
“There has to be a middle ground for time frames and reasonable expectations.”
Finding Tech that Works for You
For someone such as Tom Ford’s Jason Wagg, that misunderstanding with internet time versus real time is not really an issue.
“I use the term ‘dark media’,” he said when asked about why many in the industry see Tom Ford as being “anti-social media.” Wagg prefers to maintain the air of mystery that surrounds their company, which is notorious for their lack of social media usage. For a brand that deals with custom-fitted pieces priced at $10,000, that might require alterations six months later, regular marketing on social media isn’t necessary, nor is concern over time constraints. What works for his particular brand is the free celebrity endorsements Tom Ford receives, whether it’s in a rap lyric or a tweet.
In today’s tech-savvy world, companies such as Tom Ford are still thriving on their reputation, a factor Soraya Darabi finds is key for surviving in an ever-increasing competitive marketplace of next-day delivery.
“We’re living in a hyper-saturated, hyper-curated and hyper-connected world and it’s more difficult than ever to get real feeling across. The brands that will survive are the ones that have a true story to tell and the ones that tell it the best…the ones that are genuine.”
Image credit: Bark Fashion Photo by Pablo Gnecco