Tech and fashion, together, took over the runway to close out Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, yesterday, at the first forum in the Tents to discuss the future of fashion from a technology standpoint. The Stage was packed with 500 attendees for Decoded Fashion Forum, presented by Conde Nast, with a lineup of top speakers including designer Zac Posen, Candy Pratts Price, Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley, and the finale of the Fashion Hackathon.
Fab.com’s founders talked about selling 25 products a minute, Vogue invited Crowley to the Calvin Klein show and Gilt Groupe’s founder said “API” under the Tents. Tumblr’s Fashion Evangelist called the event “brilliant,” and Stylitics’ Founder Rohan Deuskar described the mergence of fashion and tech as “just the beginning of something incredible.”
Several attendees noted the diversity of the crowd, which included fashion editors, early-stage startup founders, and executives from brands including Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Stuart Weitzman, and Michael Kors. Social media proves it, with top Tweets and Instagrams from LaForce + Stevens, Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive, Council of Fashion Designers of America, Fab.com founder Jason Goldberg, and Startup Bus engineers. (Check the hashtags #DFNYC and #FashionHack!)
The conversations touched on major topics, from e-commerce best practices to advancements in production processes with 3-D printing.
The defining thread among all the speakers was the importance of customer engagement to drive business, whether that be incorporating content with commerce, building partnerships with a brand with a similar mission, or being the first to conquer a platform. As much as data plays a major role in the business aspect, brands must also focus on relationships.
“We have always looked at content through data and analytics, but also embracing relationships with influencers,” explained Refinery 29’s Co-Founder and CEO Philippe von Borries. His fashion website has grown 1,936 percent in the past three years and made $8.6 million in 2011, not something easily accomplished by just looking at spreadsheets.
Foursquare is working on building new partnerships with luxury influencers to move toward becoming a destination for social discovery. Many simplify the company to check-ins and rewards. Crowley defied the simplification that Foursquare is just check-ins and rewards with details on their development of VIP programs for high fashion brands and collaborations with style magazines, including Lucky.
Model Coco Rocha has built a fan base by showcasing a behind-the-scenes look at the modeling and fashion industry through 13 different social media platforms she runs herself. Most recently, her Vine—short videos you can create on your smartphone—has given even Decoded Fashion an insiders look at NYFW’s Fall 2013 collections.
Posen offered a different perspective on his use of technology. “Social media allows me to control my privacy, by supplying the demand for information about my brand,” he told WIRED’s Editor-in-Chief Scott Dadich during the Fashion Keynote.
His advice to young founders, however, transcends fashion and tech boundaries: “Keep it small. It’s really important to build integrity and keep your hands on every part of it.”