5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

by Georgia Buchanan

1.     Apple sponsors “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” at the MET

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s theme for their Costume Institute 2016 exhibition is “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”. How very FashTech of them.

Sponsored by Apple, the annual event will explore the traditionally dichotomous relationship between fashion’s handmade and machine-made garments, and the crossover of the two disciplines to create haute couture and ready-to-wear ranges. At the press preview for the exhibit this week, head curator Andrew Bolton described how the presentation hopes to “suggest a spectrum of practices whereby the hand and the machine are mutual protagonists in solving design problems”.

Whilst the exhibit doesn’t open until May, but there are already a number of sneak peaks appearing across social media. The presentation features more than 100 pieces from a wide variety of designers, from Christopher Kane to Iris van Herpen, and will showcase a mixture of embroidery, pleating, and lacework and new technologies like laser cutting, thermo shaping, and circular knitting.

A key piece, on show at the press preview, is a machine-sewn, hand-finished white synthetic scuba knit Chanel haute couture wedding ensemble, which according to Bolton, served as the inspiration for the exhibition. Another, a Chanel haute couture suit with 3-D printed white polyamide overlay.

Apple’s sponsorship indicates their applause of technology’s presence in the fashion world, and also their desire to find a place within the hugely profitable industry. Apple believes that “technology and craft go hand in hand” and Chief Design Officer Jony Ive said of the partnership: “More than ever, we believe that it is fundamentally important to personally work with materials as a means to truly understand their physical nature and to design authentic objects”. So now it seems even the biggest tech on the block wants a sizeable piece of fashion tech’s growing appeal.

For those fortunate enough to be in New York over the summer, the exhibition runs from 5th May to 14th August. For those this side of the pond who wish they could go (ourselves included), make sure you get your hands on tickets to our inaugural April Summit for some equally fascinating and innovative presentations from some of FashTech’s most focal thought-leaders.

2.     Karlie Kloss x Elle UK: Knowledge is Power

We’ve mentioned Karlie Kloss in previous digests as a brilliant pioneer for women in FashTech. This month she met with Elle UK to discuss her life as a supermodel/coder, and her basic overall world domination.

Kloss is a fantastic role model for women in tech. She is currently studying computer coding herself whilst also running a scholarship called Kode with Karlie which has given 21 young women across the US the opportunity to take the Flatiron School’s two week pre-college coding class. She says of coding: “Every industry is being transformed by technology and you either adapt or get left behind. So I think why coding has grown to be so powerful, especially for young women, is that it gives you the understanding and the skills to be a part of the change and a part of writing the future”.

As a coder AND a supermodel, Kloss is essentially FashTech in human form. Having worked within the fashion industry for years now, she describes how “Fashion is very intertwined with tech - they interact on every level. It’s how consumers shop, it’s how people absorb media and content.” To read the full interview with Lotte Jeffs here

3.     Interview with Lennard Minderhoud, CEO of Fashion United

FashionUnited is one of our precious partners for the upcoming FashTech London summit.

Meet Lennard Minderhoud, CEO of FashionUnited…

Lennard, please tell us more about FashionUnited, what is it that you do?

As an online B2B platform we provide fashion professionals with various services that simplify their busy lives. You could call us a “one­stop­shop destination”, as FashionUnited offers fashion news, career opportunities, business intelligence and other important features all on one platform. We also support the fashion future with our Fashion Education Network that stimulates the interaction between schools, students and industry leaders.

As well as being the CEO, you also founded FashionUnited. How did everything start?

I was working in the fashion industry myself. A platform like FashionUnited didn’t exist yet, one place where fashion professionals could find everything they need. I filled this gap by starting up FashionUnited and it quickly became the international industry network where idea’s, companies, jobs and industry information are combined.

Why did you want to partner with FashTech?

There are several reasons why we are excited about our partnership. The bottom line might be “we have a lot in common”. I’m a tech guy at heart. Even as student back in the ‘90s, the world wide web and everything “tech” caught my attention. That’s why we were pioneers with FashionUnited in 1998, there was not much going on in the digital fashion world. FashionUnited combines both technical innovation in more than 20 countries, and essential services for the fashion industry on one platform, two things that I like! Therefore, it made no surprise that I’m a huge fan of the FashTech! FashTech connects leaders in retail and fashion with new technology. Connecting the fashion industry is something we are doing since almost 20 years, which is also reflected in our company name. If this was tinder I would say we are a match!

What are you most looking forward to about the FashTech April Summit?

Looking at the agenda it’s difficult to pick what I like best, everything sounds pretty exciting. “Bringing Retail into the Digital age” and also “Retailers won’t be the only ones retailing” are interesting topics. I recently discussed “Economies of Scale and the next steps for large and small retailers” during a Pure London Hangout session.

4.     Snapchat Rules the Roost at NYFW

Couldn’t get in to the most high profile New York Fashion Week shows this week? You had no need to fear, Snapchat is here! A large number of retailers and fashion houses have taken note of the change in consumer relationships with fashion week, and responded accordingly, becoming overly active on the latest and greatest social media platform, Snapchat. With almost half of the app’s audience consisting of 18-24 year olds, and rates at least double those of Instagram and Twitter, it is the ideal platform for reaching a consumptive audience.

With Snapchat stories giving viewers a virtually limitless live feed into the world of the Snapchatter, it is easy to see why this platform is the perfect means for retailers to engage with their consumers. The average fashion fan can be given the previously unimaginable opportunity of seeing the catwalks and behind-the-scenes footage of the most high-profile and impossible-to-access fashion shows.

The fashion designers (such as Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, Alexander Wang and Michael Kors) have been embracing the media platform for some time now, allowing various ‘it’ models to take the reigns of the account for different sections of their ‘story’. And now the retailers are following suit. Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Moda Operandi have all created accounts in recent weeks, joining Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s on the network, allowing consumers to get sneak peaks of various label’s collections as they see them. This can also give retailers the opportunity to hint at which labels they may carry in the coming months.

Not only are the brands and retailers themselves showcasing the goods in their stories, but Snapchat itself has featured two live stories throughout the week; “New York Fashion Week” and “This Is Fashion”. These are montages of the best snaps taken by Snapchat users over the course of the week, curated together to pull in the best bits of each event with overlaid info about which collection they’re screening.

All stories also provide the consumer with the inevitable famous faces in attendance at each show, from Kylie Jenner at Alexander Wang to Emily Ratajkowski at Altuzarra. If you’re on Snapchat, you needn’t miss a thing! 

5.     Influencers: The Other Side of the Debate

Ana Andjelic wrote an article for The Guardian this week titled “Marketers should be hunting for a perfect product, not influencers”… Raising the opposing argument to my previous digest piece on the importance of influencers and celebrity endorsement.

Andjelic cites the Rihanna D&G headphones example, as I did, in which a single selfie prompted the product to fly off the shelves within 24 hours of uploading. This is obviously great news for D&G - or so you’d think. The flip side of this apparent success is that, aside from revenue, the brand is actually gaining very little from this marketing strategy. With regards to understanding the formula linking social influence to product sales, it is impossible, because there is none. They will be no more well informed on business strategy for their next campaign because they can’t know whether the product was worthy of selling out on its own merit. It is impossible to know the extent to which the sales were affected by Rihanna’s photo. Was the product really that great? Or were the sales purely down to superficial fan buys.

By relying on influencer and celebrity endorsements, brands are paying for reach, not for influence, and reach doesn’t build a marketplace. Social media likes give little in the way of substance or longevity. Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, describes a more substantial business strategy: “Build your business one person at a time. Just focus on 100 people. If they love you, they will market the product for you and tell everyone else”. You need loyalty and love, not associative popularity and ‘likes’.

Andjelic argues that this more intimate and curated style of consumer-brand relationship could prove to be very viable in the fashion business, as the dynamics of the fashion world often works on the basis that an item is more attractive if fewer people own it. With the use of media platforms like Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram, brands and labels can easily access micro-communities of consumers to target, who they know will be more interested in the product and the opinions of the other like-minded people in the community than in the mass-market-style post of a celebrity. 

If you want to acquire loyal, returning customers, micro-targeting and capitalising on ‘ordinary’ people may just be your best bet. So for any FashTech start-ups out there, remember to consider both sides to this argument when outlining your marketing strategy. If you have influencers interested in your product then by all means utilise those assets, but be aware of the pitfalls, build a great product and a loyal network and make sure you are catering to your returning customers.