FashionTech. What is it or what defines fashiontech? There are over 1,4 billion Google search results, endless dedicated meetup groups with thousands of attendees, hundreds of ‘innovation in fashion’ conferences, and many specialised startup accelerators. This innovative space exploring the intersection of tech fashion has exploded, and yet, what is “fashiontech” in these contexts?
In short, fashiontech encapsulates all startups and innovations directed at the fashion realm. However, it is not that simple. Using a three-legged stool analogy to be considered a fashion tech innovator, startup or company you must have at least two of the following three qualities: social impact, disruptive technologies, and innovative business models.
FashionTech Is – Big Data
Back in 2010, the trend was revolving around big data and sophisticated algorithms. Nowadays, almost every startup that we see utilises ‘cutting-edge technologies’ in some way or another. Then early fashiontech startups existed only online. These days, thanks to the advances of experiential marketing, most fashiontech businesses combine offline elements as well.
Poshmark hosts offline parties to complement their online events, Warby Parker lets you try on glasses before you buy them, and Bonobos invites customers into their Guideshops. Another, Shoptiques, lets you purchase merchandise online and pick it up in the store the same day.
Fashiontech is blowing away the traditional relationships between consumers and brands. Direct-to-consumer brands have exploded, including Everlane, the Mint family, Elizabeth & Clarke, and Frank & Oak. Smart brands can now speak and engage with consumers thanks to exciting new platforms such as Olapic.
FashionTech Is – Co-Creation
In co-creative processes, consumers also help brands decide which items to design and produce; Moda Operandi takes pre-orders for designers, and ModCloth and Stitch Collective allow consumers to vote on designs.
As Lawrence Lenihan, founder and Managing Director of First Mark Capital said: “Every brand must figure out how to connect with its customers and structure their business around the relationships they want to have with their customer rather than letting their distribution channels define them.”
Moreover, fashiontech startups are erasing the line between brands and publishers. NET-A-PORTER and Style.com are best known for their approach and adoption of these fast-changing trend in their magazines.
Fashiontech startups let users tap into existing networks or join new like-minded communities. For instance, Stylitics allows users to track how often they wear clothing, while Chloe + Isabel have taken the Avon model and applied it to funky jewellery for the college set, and StyleOwner lets anyone set up their shop. Fashiontech also marks the beginning of a new type of consumer tribe, the empowered user.
Fashiontech startups are also building and making useful large data sets. Stylitics sells granular data back to brands, ‘Shop It To Me’ uses customers’ preferences to send them customised sale information, and new beauty tech startup, Poshly, is creating an exhaustive database of each customer’s physical characteristics and product preferences. In some ways, algorithms, curators, and ‘discovery platforms’ have merged to become the new recommendation engines for fashion buyers.
FashionTech Is – Future Driven
In many aspects, fashiontech is a great match: both industries are future-driven, consumer-focused and when combined appeal to the fast-growing segment of young consumers.
However, there are many opinions about what fashiontech is: We have reached out to some experts in the space, and it seems that there is no agreement on what fashiontech is. Here is what some of them had to say when asked about their take on ‘what is fashiontech.’
Charlie O’Donnell, Founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures and VC extraordinaire, says:
“There is no such thing… Technology is both a channel and a best practice around delivering a product. It could mean a unique and convenient purchase experience, or it could mean a means to acquire a customer, but unless you’re experimenting with materials science, you’re just following your customer.”
Hilary Peterson, VP of Business Development at Lyst eschews the complexities and sees it as a broad proposition:
“Technology is all about using scientific knowledge to improve or solve a problem. Fashion technology is a specific area in which technology finds new usage. In my mind, fashion technology covers everything from using nanotechnology to improving fabrics, to sites like Lyst which improve shopping online.”
Jennifer Margolin, Founder of the Social Edge Summit, believes that the issue is more complicated:
“In the most basic explanation, fashion tech is the space where technology and fashion have merged to create faster and more innovative ways to shop, market, educate and experience fashion. In the past, the only way to be a part of the fashion industry was to live in a fashion city such as Paris and work at a publication house, PR firm or with a designer and work your way up. Technology has opened the fashion industry wide open.
Bloggers sit in the front row at Fashion Weeks and partner with prominent fashion brands. It was less than ten years ago, publications such as WWD and others were saying that e-commerce was a fad and wouldn’t stick as people needed to touch the items they were purchasing. To be successful the fashiontech companies must always solve a problem or address a need.”
Rob Sanchez, the founder of the Fashioning Our Industry Conference, sees some separation:
“A fashion technology company and a technology company in the fashion vertical are distinct entities. A technology company may make a product for the fashion space or that targets at the fashion vertical. A fashion technology company works with and builds upon the fashion universe by enabling, modifying, or enhancing some unique aspect of the industry.
The best way to explain this is through illustration: An e-commerce solution is a technology company. A curated e-commerce store specialising in women’s wear for the tween crowd is a fashion retailer if using traditional e-commerce solutions and not fashiontech. An e-commerce store selling custom-made dresses that use crowd-sourced design coupled with geographical data and an algorithm that scans public Facebook photos to determine the current season’s dominant colour trend is a fashion technology company.
A company that creates a social network that identifies fashion trends and monetises the system by building an e-commerce platform that integrates with their community is a fashion technology company. Fashion technology companies are rethinking how we shop, purchase, design, source, manufacture, alter, swap, try on, or otherwise engage in the fashion world.”
Laura Zapata, Co-founder of the Future of Fashion series at Projective Space, concludes that:
“In a broad sense, it’s when fashion, what we wear, what we aspire to be, how we present ourselves to society through clothing, meets tech innovation, digital presence and engaging online content. It is when fashion embraces a new and digital component to sell/present their business model.”
So, what is fashiontech? It is many things to different people. However, tricky defining fashiontech might be, there is no doubt that it has the interest of entrepreneurs, investors, media, and most important, new generations of fashion consumers. Nevertheless, fashiontech is the blending that will keep this space interesting for many years to come.
This article has minor changes for readability and to match the format of our website. Original Article