Attracting the industry’s leading experts and innovators, the inaugural FashTech Summit covered hot topics from virtual reality to the future of sustainability. We round up what you need to know from the two-day event:

Wearables are still a hot topic, but it’s more about intelligent fabrics

The summit reminded us that while wearables will still form part of the future of the industry, they’ll be part of the fabric of our clothes rather than gimmicky accessories that light up when our phone rings. Remember when brands were launching smart watches and tablets, asked Dean Johnson, head of innovation at creative agency Brandwidth. “Now we’re seeing the decline in growth of products like the Apple Watch.” Across several panels, experts emphasised what a powerful force smart clothing could be. Both Nick Carvell, associate style editor of and Wired assistant editor Oliver Franklin-Wallis, were firmly of the view that clothing in the future would feature intelligent fabrics.

Debera Johnson, executive director of Pratt Institute, the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, built on this in a later panel discussion, forecasting that 10% of our clothing will be connected to the cloud by 2026.

The power is firmly in the hands of the consumer

A key message underpinning much of the two-day FashTech Summit, was that the balance of power has shifted from the retailer to the customer, whose knowledge and expectations have never been greater. Everything needs to be at the convenience of the customer and when it comes to deliveries, that means offering a range of choices, agreed a panel discussing fulfilment. In fact, when Glossybox’s customers complained about issues with their deliveries, the beauty subscription service quickly shifted to another carrier, said its UK and Ireland managing director Charlotte Abercon.

In another panel discussion, experts honed in the necessity of offering a frictionless experience. After realising that its customers were more interested in photography than detailed product descriptions, Finery London invested in expensive photography, said Luca Marini, its co-founder and chief operating officer. Also, as consumers demand more, brands need to personalise content and product to the customer. Brands need to be able to “talk to individuals rather than audiences”, claimed Nicholas Oliver, founder of data marketplace

Use storytelling to engage your audience

Paper Magazine chief creative officer Drew Elliot drew the audience in with a compelling presentation on how the title’s controversial Kim Kardashian cover created a worldwide phenomenon. The captivating Elliot told the audience how engineering a story was part of the journey in “breaking the internet”. He said: “We wanted to use the printed magazine to create a digital sensation. We devoted the entire issue to it and created an important theme and built an entire story around it and worked with all kinds of other people to make it viral in nature. We knew this image, this cover, and the famous butt would create a huge sensation.”

Creating a story was a key message underpinning several other presentations including one from Philip Handford, founder and creative director of design agency Campaign Designs, who highlighted the importance of creating a destination store with a story in order to attract and engage consumers. This was a subject further explored by the travel and ecommerce panel, with deputy editor Hazel Lubbock believing brands could be more successful by following the travel industry in harnessing the power of storytelling. She highlighted this by pointing to brands such as Chanel who were trying to attach themselves to the festival experience.

Cater to millennials valuing experiences over ownership

There’s been many studies thrown about in the past six months on how millennials are fuelling the experience economy and how this is expected to have a knock-on effect on clothing. Nina Faulhaber, co-founder of activewear startup brand Aday, said 77% of millennials prefer to have fewer possessions and spend money on experiences. She said consumers will become more interested in “cost per use” – owning fewer items, but wearing them more. She asked: “What if we had apparel that we could do so much more with?” The future, she sees, is product that serves a multipurpose, such as performance wear combined with a fashion focus.

The physical store will also become more important in engaging consumers seeking experiences, said Handford, who highlighted his client Selfridges as a retailer punching above its weight when it comes to providing an interactive and mesmerising store presence, citing its interactive perfume experience, Fragrance Lab, as one example.

Luxury brands’ digital activity still amiss

While Burberry continues to be referred to as the luxury digital trailblazer, its peers are still lagging behind when it comes to offering a super slick, online experience across all channels, several speakers agreed. Lubna Keawpanna, co-founder and creative director of digital creative agency Smack Agency, spoke of how some brands have “stores and products that are inherently beautiful but the experience doesn’t carry through into digital and social”.

In another discussion focusing on luxury online, Zoe Patoff, senior director of digital at international PR firm Karla Otto, said that while luxury brands are starting to invest in ecommerce, they’re not investing the level of money into the team or activity needed to drive traffic to their websites.