5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

By Georgia Buchanan

1. R/GA & Westfield Labs launch new Connected Commerce Accelerator

Last week, advertising agency R/GA opened up the application process for their new Connected Commerce Accelerator in partnership with Westfield Labs. The program will take place in San Francisco and will target companies creating the future of commerce, seeking to advance the retail industry in the digital age. The initiative is inviting applicants that can impact connected commerce, redefine the in-store experience, or enhance the consumer’s engagement with brands at any stage of the transaction process.

Not only will the selected startups have access to R/GA and Westfield Lab’s resources, they will also get access to a unique set of program partners like Macy’s, Shopify Plus, Bank of America Merchant Services and Verizon, all of whom are global leaders in the commerce space. The press release explains how “access to these diverse commerce leaders will provide unparalleled opportunities for startups seeking to create innovative experiences and technologies at the intersection of digital and physical commerce”.

Participating startups will be able to join roundtable sessions with both the above program partners and third party experts from around the globe to discuss cutting-edge innovations. Similarly to the way in which FashTech events work, this part of the program will invite contrasting thoughts and perspectives to meet/clash/blend thus creating a “dynamic and multi-dimensional conversation around relevant trends defining the future of commerce, and will help to identify potential market opportunities for the program startups”.

“At Westfield Labs we are committed to building digital experiences that connect consumers with our retail partners” said Kevin McKenzie, global chief digital officer at Westfield Corp. “Our team is thrilled to collaborate with top ranked agency R/GA and world-class retail partners to evangelise and promote talent and innovation in the commerce space”.

“R/GA is honoured to work with partners who are leading the discussion about the future of commerce” added Stephen Plumlee, global chief operating officer of R/GA and managing partner of R/GA Ventures, which is the division behind the R/GA Connected Commerce Accelerator. “We look forward to bringing the unique value of our award-winning global talent pool and client relationships to this program. Our model has proven that it creates incremental long-term value for founders, investors, and our program partners”.

If you are from a startup that focuses on in-store experiences, mobile commerce, payments, merchandising, customer service, analytics, CRM and loyalty, conversational and social commerce, blockchain, POS, delivery and distribution, VR/AR commerce experiences, inventory and workforce management (and/or so much more!) then apply here: www.rgacommerce.com
 

2. ‘#TechStyle’ Exhibit showcasing the Future of Fashion

The Museum of Fine Arts fashion exhibition, ‘#TechStyle’, is aiming for a “fierce to look at but gentler on the planet” future of clothing. With World Water Day this week, and an ever-growing global acknowledgement of the deterioration of our Earth, ‘gentler on the planet’ is a current and appealing selling point. We even made sure to include a panel discussion at our Summit next month on sustainability in fashion; discussing how advances in industrial enzymes can reduce chemical, water and energy consumption in the textile industry, amongst other relevant topics.

The #TechStyle show in Boston is equal parts wearables novelties (dresses that can tweet or solar-charge a mobile phone), pioneering sustainability, and designers who think in futuristic, norm-bending ways - Hussein Chalayan, Rei Kawakubo, Viktor & Rolf, Issey Miyake, and the late Alexander McQueen. “Fashion designers and scientists, mathematicians and engineers often collaborate to create very wearable designs” said Pamela Parmal, the MFA’s David and Roberta Logie curator of textile and fashion arts. “Many young designers like those at TheUnseen, Nervous System and Francis Bitonti are also scientists in their own right and have chosen to work in the fashion world.”

As our society becomes ever-growingly focused and reliant on electronics and tech, many designers are working to push the fashion boundaries in order to create pieces that reflect this evolution. Examples shown at the #TechStyle exhibit include an Akris tuxedo with pindot lighting, and London-based Cute Circuit who have made stage outfits for Katy Perry and U2.

Circling back to fashion that can be gentler on our planet, the show also demonstrated how technology can be implemented to lessen fashion’s eco-impact. “Traditional ways of processing natural fibres, weaving cloth and dyeing are among the world’s most wasteful manufacturing processes” Parmal said. The exhibit includes an answer to this problem - Kate Goldsworthy’s Zero Waste dress (2016), which proposes a closed-loop world where a recyclable fabric is cut, seamed and finished without waste.
 

3. A New Fashion Incubator in Paris to support French Emerging Creative Brands
Guest article by Noémie Balmat, Founding Editor-in-Chief of Clausette

On Tuesday, the Paris French Federation of Couture’s (the organization behind Paris Fashion Week) new President, Pascal Morand, announced a new partnership between French Public Bank of Investment (Bpifrance) and the French Institute of Fashion (IFM) to support French emerging creative brands.

The agreement aims to support and accompany the French creative brands and firms to merge their Savoir-Faire d’Excellence with the innovation capacity of the French Tech.

Bpifrance is involved in the creative & cultural industries through their funds, one of them is dedicated to Fashion (Mode et Finance). The fund was designed to help creative labels with high potential for international growth. Another fund is dedicated to promote the Savoir-Faire d’Excellence, through support of the businesses helping the French manufacturing sector to stay ahead of the game thanks to its historical luxury know-how.

The well-known IFM has its own program, IFM Labels, dedicated to support young designers with high potential. Amongst them our beloved Jacquemus, the it-brand Vetements and other successful young and dynamic labels shaking the Parisian creation such as Koché or the so-talented Yiqing Yin.

“The emergence of new French companies in the fashion and luxury industry is key for the economy as it represents a major economic driver for France and has always been a significant vehicle for its international outreach,” the two firms said on Tuesday.

Gathering their expertise and experience, IFM and Bpifrance will support young creative labels and help them grow. Needless to say it’s exciting news for French young fashion labels.


4. Is 3D Printing becoming more Wearable?

We’ve seen 3D printing on the catwalk for a little while now, but always in a fairly abstract, conceptual form, rather than something we’d actually take to the streets for normal wear. 3D printing and wearables can hold a bit of a stigma in the fashion world; often when someone says fashion tech, this is what people think of - and they think of it in a garish, unfavourable way. However, this association is starting to change, both as people start to realise the true scope of what fashion tech means and encompasses, and also as the technology behind 3D printing and wearables gets ever more sophisticated and starts to produce more widely approved pieces.

This week we’ve seen some amazing work from The University of Hertfordshire in the UK. Dr Shaun Borstock of The Digital Hack Lab at the uni, in collaboration with 3D specialist and designer Mark Bloomfield of Electrobloom, has created a concept collection of eight dresses and two headpieces that they say is both wearable and highly customisable. Made from “printed” textiles and assembled like traditional clothes through dyeing, weaving, stitching and knitting, the Modeclix collection holds a huge resemblance to ‘normal’ clothing.

“We have strived to create stylish 3D printer garments that have sufficient movement to ensure they are fluid, eye-catching and comfortable to wear. These prototypes are made, dyed and finished by hand and our aim now is to produce them for a wider market,” says Borstock. “It will only be a matter of time before we see 3D collections on the high street and 3D printing technology in stores as part of everyday life. We’re pleased to be part of the movement that is exploring how this might become a reality.”

Bloomfield added: “I’ve spent the last 25 years exploring how technology and 3D printing can enhance production techniques for jewellery and accessories, and this has been a fantastic opportunity to take this research even further. There is a huge amount of potential to develop complex construction techniques that defy traditional cutting and create garments that are multi-functional, customisable and wearable”.
 

5. Technology, Rewiring the Fashion Industry
Guest article by Muchaneta Kapfunde, fashnerd.com Founder and Editor-in-Chief

To some, technology has turned the ever evolving fashion industry upside down and to others technology has become the driving force behind the industry moving forward into a smarter future.

For technology to rewire the fashion industry, there must be a seamless meeting of minds.  The two industries need to come to an understanding and acceptance that “technology is now completely ingrained in our interaction and relationship with fashion and retail” (Arabella James, a Futures Consultant at The Future Laboratory). In the last few years, we have all witnessed how technology has become not only the new face of influence within the fashion industry, but also the biggest player in the evolution of fashion collaborations.

First established out of necessity, fashion x tech collaborations have played a significant role in fusing the two worlds together. With the excitement of new innovation growing, fashion labels and a tech companies have come to the realisation that working together is big business. Whether it be on the runway or offline/online retail store, one only has to look at the positive attention that Chromat x Intel and Hermes x Apple collaborations received to know that the future is going to be fashion technology.

When it comes to the number of collaboration opportunities on offer, designer Anouk Wipprecht believes that there is “lack of collaboration between fashion houses and engineering departments.” She continues, “The technology industry is really trying to pull strings but the fashion industry is not showing that much interest. Even though it’s clear that we need good conversations about topics like washability, energising and the maintenance of electronic designs”

Wipprecht makes a valid point, collaborations are not readily available to all. This could be because since fashion technology is still in its infancy, it not only affects the expense involved in financing a fashion tech collection, but also explains why the majority of fashion x tech collabs seem to exclusively be happening between luxury brands and technology companies, a trend known as a techno - luxury. Gone are the days when high end brands shunned the idea of introducing tech to their collections, nowadays you will find the most traditional of labels grasping at the opportunity to be in with the cool tech kids- a memorable example is DVF x Google Glass.

With Credit Suisse predicting that in three to five years £18-30 billion a year will be spent on wearables, it is no wonder luxury labels such as Aspinal of London, Zac Posen, Alexander Wang, Gareth Pugh and Hussein Chalayan are including technology in their collection. Although they are presently on the outside looking in, wouldn’t it be a refreshing change if some high street stores got in on the act as well?

As technology continues to prompt change, there has, in recent years, been an army of fashion tech start-ups creating a distinct brand that brings technology to fashion. A great example is EMEL + ARIS. They are part of a new breed of fashion tech of labels cutting out the middle man and doing all the designing and technology in house. These innovative creatives do not feel the need to collaborate with a tech company because they already possess the skills required to create a fashion tech collection. So what will this mean for the future of the merge?

Well, I am sure that as long as the merge continues to entice the Paul Deneve’s and Angela Ahrendts’ of the fashion world to join tech companies, that collaborations between traditional fashion labels and tech companies will continue to strengthen. For those who still find fashion technology to be a bit science fiction, then to you I quote Charles Kettering-“our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.” 

 

NEW PARTNERSHIP = FashTech x Highsnobiety

FashTech is very excited to announce the brilliant Highsnobiety as a media partner for our inaugural London Summit next month. The daily news website, based out of New York and Berlin, covers everything from streetwear to the arts, and we are thrilled to have such a cutting edge publication on board for our event. Make sure to check out their website here:
http://www.highsnobiety.com/