technology

Decoded Fashion - Fashion Tech Daily - Andrea
Image source: LUISAVIAROMA

Andrea Panconesi, the CEO of LUISAVIAROMA, doesn’t have an actual office at his headquarters, where young techies are clickety-clacking on their keyboards and processing thousands of orders from all over the world. When he isn’t traveling, he is roaming about the office – moving from the graphic department to the customer service desk, observing how his international business is progressing.

The grandson of the original Luisa Jaquin, Panconesi guided his grandmother’s company into the 21st century by jumping on the Internet wave as soon as it began to crest. As a result and through his online business, the United States and China are the family-run company’s top two markets.

“I adopted a lot from the Americans. In fact, the whole reason why we put Via Roma into the store’s name, is because I loved Saks Fifth Avenue so much. I implemented Via Roma to give the name more personality.”

Because of Panconesi, LUISAVIAROMA is still 100 % privately owned and has about 4 million clicks per day on the website. Today, Panconesi is working on enhancing the customer experience to make it both more social and virtual. The goal is to get as close as possible to touching the clothes inside the Luisa Via Roma store while sharing the charm and history founded by his grandmother in 1930.

Fairplay’s Editor-in-Chief Sofia Celeste sits down with the exuberant online executive in the hub of his Florentine Fashion Tech empire.

Sofia: What would your grandmother have said about this e-commerce business?

AP: She wouldn’t have been surprised. I came back from New York once, already married without telling anyone and she didn’t even bat an eyelash. It was very normal to them.

Sofia: They were used to being surprised by you?

AP: Probably (laughter).

Sofia: You said in a recent interview that the future of online shopping is neither physical nor an online shop? What did you mean by that?

AP: There has been such a dramatic change in the last ten years. Our strategy is not to open new stores in the future. I came to the conclusion that the future involves two parallel lines that get closer and closer until one day they come together. With the help of technology, I think you will be able to touch the clothes almost better than in a physical environment. The technology is there but the applications need to be developed. You will be able to feel like you are trying on a jacket at home. There will be no need to take out your car, park it, get into the city, and spend the whole day shopping.

Sofia: What is the main caveat of joining those two parallel but not yet intersecting lines?

AP: The problem is socializing. Online is lonely, there is no socializing. That is why all the social networks exist. The social networks try to link the web with the physical world and that will eventually be the same with e-commerce.

Sofia: Are you working on such a project for LUISAVIAROMA.COM?

AP: We have a strategy that I can’t tell you 100 % about, but hopefully we will realize the first example really soon. We are working on something along those lines, but we can’t reveal it yet. We want to bridge the gap between the web and the actual shop. Our strategy will involve combining physical shopping online and socializing at the same time, all in the context of e-commerce.

Sofia: Are you working with any big tech companies?

AP: Yes a lot. We first want to do a capsule to see the result and how people will react.

AP: We need to make the experience more social, like you are going with your friends. The shop will get closer and closer. You won’t have the jacket at home but you will have the technology that will make you feel like you do. You will still need something else with this technology and you will need a place where you can physicaly socialize. Otherwise, it will be a lonely experience.

Sofia: So, like Virtual Reality?

AP: Not yet, unfortunately the technology is not available for practical use yet. It will be a concept, but it will be a place where people can meet each other and integrate the virtual e-commerce with physical meeting, interpersonal interaction and socializing.

Sofia: Does it involve new technology that you are developing?

AP: The technology necessary to build the project is available to anybody. What is going to be the difference, is how you use technology. I think technology by itself is not going to be enough to fill the needs of the future advanced customers. They will want to experience something more, not just sitting at home doing their purchase.

Sofia: Do you enjoy online shopping more or do you enjoy going into a store?

AP: Forget what I enjoy. I look at what everyone else does. For example my children, I have one girl and boy around the same age – 17 to 20. The girl is more social, she loves to go to the shop and she is perfectly technologically advanced. She likes going to the shop for the beauty of it. My son doesn’t want to waste his time. He doesn’t bother to go to the shop. He buys everything from shirts to pants on the web.

AP: We have clients that buy from our website and they are 50 meters away from the shop. Maybe they buy at night, maybe they don’t like coming to the store, but they prefer shopping online. Others enjoy the aspect of socialization. We need to find a way to merge these two behaviors into one place where we can meet and use new technology. Which is what we have been doing for 10 or 15 years. We were one of the first to put the big screen in the store where any client with the help of the assistants can shop through the system, go on the website and get the size they need.

Sofia: Does this new tech capsule you are working on – have anything to do with what the new e-commerce features Facebook has introduced, for example?

AP: No. All these companies are missing the physical reality. They don’t have a shop. Our tradition is our shop and that is what is making us different.

Sofia: Do you ever define yourself as a boutique?

AP: The e-commerce reality is separate from the store. But we have the same buying team for both. We don’t take all the looks from one collection. We take a look and chose the top items from a collection and we pride ourselves on our selection process.

We have always been a specialty store. It is not comparable to a department store or a big e-commerce. We have a specialty store, which means that we blend all the brands together in a special way and something unique will come out.

Sofia: In what direction is Fashion and Tech moving, in your opinion?

AP: Suppliers of technology and people who use the service need to come together more. The Decoded Fashion Conference is very important and is making people aware by giving them the chance to meet physically. It’s one thing if the technology is presented to you online, but it is quite another if you have people presenting it to you face-to-face and speaking to you about their experiences.

This is why we have Firenze4Ever [the three day event that welcomes the world’s top bloggers and journalists to the Florentine stores and gives them the opportunity to photograph the latest collections].

The idea is to make everybody meet physically, twice a year, at the beginning of the fashion season. It is a moment where you are physically able to touch the collections you have seen six months before in the fashion show. At that moment, I want people that work with us from a marketing point of view, to meet with each other and with the tech people to help us develop our business. The bloggers need technology and these two moments of the year are magical. Firenze4Ever is a big marketing and communication event, where all the bloggers, magazines, journalists are invited. We also hold a Fashion Technology Summit where people from Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google are invited as well.

Andrea Panconesi will be sharing more insight about succeeding in e-commerce and LUISAVIAROMA’s journey at our Milan Summit on November 17-18. Join the conversation by booking your ticket here.

Guest Blog by Sofia Celeste FAIRPLAY Editor-in-Chief at e-PITTI.com

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Magnetic Dress Collab
Image source: Iris Van Herpen

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘craftsman’? Perhaps an elderly, bespectacled man hunched over a kiln; perhaps a more fashion-fitting scenario, featuring a Hermès Birkin being carefully hand-stitched by a pair of expert hands. Either way, when considering the concept of craft, most of us automatically think of something slightly antiquated and nostalgic. So how can craftsmanship – and the luxury goods that go hand-in-hand with it – possibly survive in 2015?

As a society, we keep wanting more. Social media has benefited us a lot, but it has done nothing for our buying habits. Thanks to the internet, new sartorial temptation is only a click away; apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Depop and Villoid can easily pique your interest in things you never knew you needed. Furthermore, high street stores and low-cost e-tailers now have a lot of advertising tools at their fingertips. They may not be able to rival Chanel or Saint Laurent in terms of expenditures on glossy magazine advertising space, but it’s 2015 – who reads magazines now, anyway? A backlash against disposable, poorly made fashion has started to make small waves across the industry, but for each individual flying the flag for quality over quantity, there is an army of 100 people hopelessly devoted to refreshing the Topshop website every morning.

“Digital technology brings to the craftsman and artist a range of tools that offer creative opportunities that, before, were too expensive for an individual making one-offs, or too time-consuming or just plain impossible,” Grayson Perry has noted. He has a point: technological advances can only ever be a good thing for the creative industries, expanding the paradigms of craftsmanship. An increased demand for cheap thrills shouldn’t mean it’s game over for the luxury goods sector – it’s time for some fashion houses to stop romanticising the past and recognise that the talented craftsman can still exist in our digitised society, but it’s time for him to change his tools.

Take Iris van Herpen, for example, who has collaborated with a variety of talents in order to produce some exciting, fully future-ready garments. From creating magnetic dresses in collaboration with product designer Jólan van der Wiel to conjuring up a 3D-printed water dress for Show Studio, van Herpen clearly isn’t scared of the future. On a less dramatic scale, many fashion designers are enjoying playing around with fabrics, as textile technology has allowed them to innovate and push the boundaries of their craft. Remember Christopher Kane’s delightful über-fine aluminium organza back in S/S 12? And what about Stella McCartney’s continuing dedication to research and develop animal-friendly leather alternatives (which are then stitched in Italy, mostly by hand, to create the brand’s latest shoes and bags)? With a luxury brand’s budget, the sky should be the limit when it comes to utilising tech. It is a shame, then, that some parts of the fashion industry still have a narrow-minded view of what classifies as craft.

An argument exists for tech being soulless. The average consumer will find it more appealing to hear that their new shoes were lovingly hand-stitched than if they heard they were created by a 3D printer, but it’s important to remember that (most of) the robots have some form of human influence behind them. Anyone can operate the basics of Photoshop, but learning how to use the software like a pro takes a lot of time and effort. While it’s obviously not comparable to spending weeks creating a garment by hand, surely using a 3D printer to create a one-of-a-kind, out-of-this-world luxury product counts as craftsmanship too?

We’re exploring how digital technologies can enhance craftsmanship at our Milan Summit on November 17-18 with Rene Caovilla. Join us, by booking your ticket here.

Reported by Grace Howard

A Kickstarter project is seeking funding to create the world’s first 3D fabric printer. Electroloom’s fundraising page states: “Design and create seamless, ready-to-wear garments based on custom 3D geometries. All from your desktop. No sewing required.”

Based in San Francisco, the start-up’s technology will enable consumers to design and manufacture garments from scratch, with only basic computer-aided design skills needed to create patterns for the Electroloom 3D fabric printer.

Electric fields guide a polyester and cotton blend solution over the user’s custom-made mould, where the nano-fibres bind together to create the fabric. Once removed, it behaves exactly like traditionally woven material – flexing, draping and folding as desired. Early demonstrations have so far produced skirts, shift dresses and a men’s tank top.

As more 3D printers enter consumers’ homes, we expect further advances in the field to drastically alter the way we engage with brands, fostering co-creation and disrupting the traditional supply chain.

At this year’s Decoded Fashion London Summit, speakers such as Joel Freeman, co-founder and chief executive of fashion shopping app Grabble, spoke enthusiastically about the future impact of 3D printing on how fashion will soon be bought and produced. Electroloom’s technology could facilitate the downloading and printing of fashion designs at home.

Belgian fashion designer Bruno Pieters has also detailed plans to provide downloadable garments for his 100% transparent fashion company Honest By. “I’m more and more intrigued by 3D printing,” he said in an interview on the brand’s website, highlighting the ethical and sustainable practices afforded by the technology. “We’re going to have our design online; you will be able to download it, and if you have a 3D printer at home you will be able to print it out, or you can go to a 3D printer shop near you. So all the issues of child labour, animal abuse – they all disappear with 3D printing.”

However, at the moment, the process relies on synthetic or blended synthetic and natural fibres, raising issues regarding garment end-of-life solutions. Currently, mixed fibres are notoriously difficult to recycle and polyester, while recyclable, is non-biodegradable.

Guest post Stylus.com by Lisa Payne

Sam Lowe is the Chief Technology Officer and head of technology at MatchesFashion.com, one of the most exciting and fastest-growing e-commerce destinations globally. At our London Summit, Sam will be talking through the tech journey of the company, offering insight into how business model innovation and improved customer experience can be achieved through digital technology. Before catching him speak on the 21 May, we caught up with Sam for a preview – and asked him why he thinks MatchesFashion.com stands out from the crowd.

Could you tell us a little about your background? How did you come to be CTO at Matchesfashion.com?

Throughout my career I have worked within the business-to-consumer private sector across retail, consumer products, travel and media, with a particular focus on digital technologies and enterprise systems: for improved efficiency and information, better customer experience, and product and business model innovation. Prior to joining Matchesfashion.com I led Capgemini’s digital technology practice in the UK working with leading UK and global organisations, including Burberry, Sky, Eurostar, Morrison’s, Marks and Spencer and ITV, to design and deliver their web platforms, e-commerce operations, digital media, and cloud-computing and enterprise systems.

How important is it for retail sites to invest in new technologies? Are customers attracted to change, or is brand loyalty more important?
Matchesfashion.com is renowned for its unique position in the market as a global luxury-shopping destination, with bricks and mortar stores, a modern edit of over 400 international established and emerging designer collections and a loyal and growing customer base. Our customers themselves are evolving, and expect retailers and brands to evolve in the same way: becoming more digitally able and keeping up with any demand in real time. It should be no different digitally than it is in the luxury retail market, and customers should be able to find great modern digital experiences that do justice to the luxury market. The online luxury industry is relatively late to invest in new technologies primarily as it has had to wait for technologies to do it justice. In the past it was which products keep you engaged and the service you receive in the store, but now it’s about being notified when your favourite designers become available, being able to deliver the product you buy fast and keeping customers inspired. What it takes to build and maintain these technologies has developed so the industry is catching up.

How do you see Matches’ implementation of technology in its e-tail model as different from other leading sites? In 2015 85% of business will be driven by online, with 80% of online revenue will be international. We made a big decision in 2013 to rebranded our store fronts to MATCHESFASHION.COM so we could align all of our platforms under one brand name, to create a seamless experience at every touch point for our clients worldwide. We do not differentiate between bricks and mortar and e-tail – we view it all as commerce and not different channels. For the first time, with the launch of our new platform we really believe we will have achieved this total synergy between physical and digital luxury fashion retail – and we have developed technology that enables us to connect every part of our business digitally and become the best in class. Our aim is to make the physical more digital and the digital more physical.

How do you see the connection between luxury and tech developing in the future? Wearables suggests a closer entanglement to come…
Technology wasn’t part of the fashion industry for a long time but it is going to become more and more intrinsic to the luxury experience. Time is the biggest luxury of all. People use their devices to look for things that they love as a leisure activity, as they have less and less time to themselves – this won’t stop and it will continue to evolve.

What technology are you most excited about, in retail terms, that’s coming up in the next few months or years?
There will be doors that open that will change things in the same way as the iPhone, and then the iPad. It’s only since they emerged approximately 5 years ago that this whole market place opened up. We expect other key technologies to make milestones, but at the moment they aren’t penetrating the market yet. The Apple Watch is a prime example that aims at the luxury market, with some versions retailing at £20,000. These open up all sorts of possibilities: less hassle with each transaction, alerting customers when designers have arrived, profiling what each customer likes and making recommendations to them.

Book your ticket for the London Summit here.

Interview by Claire Healy

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Two major trends stood out at this year’s South by Southwest, Engagement and Relevance and here’s the lowdown on how they will impact brands in 2015.

1 – Engagement, the new storytelling

More than ever, fashion at SXSW is in search of meaning. Style and lifestyle no longer suffice. Brands arise that operate from the belief that fashion is more than representation. The increasingly dominant generation of millennials does not only consist of customers, but also brings forward designers and marketeers, and they are developing a new breed of brands.

The same language

These new brands are associated with concepts such as sustainability, self-expression and mindfulness. Entirely in accordance with the worldview of millennials this is a natural belief that goes without saying. This engagement doesn’t need to be emphasised all the time.

Hidden message

Look at the luxury brand Maiyet, Founder and creative director Kristy Caylor seemingly effortlessly combines a distinct style with traditional elements, sustainable sourcing and collaboration with craftsmanship from countries like India, Indonesia and Kenya. “Buying a two thousand dollar handbag is always about self indulgence.” she says. “We don’t have to wave a flag on sustainability. Millennials are getting it.”

Agile consumer

The previous generation, Generation X, thinks in extremes and sees no credible middle ground between charity or sustainability on the one hand and commerciality on the other. The millennial is much more agile and expects brands to be very commercial and intrinsically socially engaged at the same time.

Less for more

In the wider market this movement of awareness is also visible. In the middle and high fashion segments in the US, a slight decrease in the sales numbers is being reported (1% was mentioned), but people actually spent more (reportedly 5%). Established luxury brands play into this by creating more understated designs and marketing. They are forced to go back to their roots of craftsmanship and eye for detail, conveying their real value much better. Think back to the decision of Louis Vuitton to largely ban the famous monogram from their products.

From the heart

Even mainstream brands are slowly moving along, take high street favourite H&M’s 7 commitments (such as care for fashion conscious customers and selecting and rewarding responsible partners) begin to be credible and contribute to the already strong reasons to buying at H&M.

Fair share

To be clear, we’re not talking about an assumed identity. This conviction comes from within. As the next example, take Cuyana [http://www.cuyana.com/], a young brand from San Francisco. Founder Karla Gallardo explains that their motto is ‘Fewer, better items’ and that they recently started the ‘Lean closet movement’. Customers who choose ‘lean shipping’ at checkout receive a reusable bag that they can fill up with items that they don’t wear so much anymore. The items are sent to non-profit partners who make sure that the garments are delivered to people who really need them. The philosophy of Cuyana is about awareness and promotes, as they call it, intentional buying.

SXSW featured many brands with a similar mindset, and who certainly made it clear only authenticity survives. Check out The Real Real, Stelle Audio, Red Bubble and Repack.

2 Creating relevance: right place, right time, the right message

Consumers in 2015 aren’t either click or brick. They’re all over the place. They wake up with their smartphone (60% of Americans pick up their phone literally as the first thing they do every day) and they go to bed with it. From their laptop, they ‘like’ one of your posts on Facebook, to their afternoon of shopping in town before crashing on their couch in the evening with their tablet (30%). And when they’re in your bricks & mortar store they order your products using their phone (over 10%!). Because: why would you go stand in a long line at the checkout if you can order online immediately?

Channel chaos?

The word loyalty is hardly known by consumers these days. Confidence boosts the urge to discover and everything is just a click away. Google provides extreme transparency that even the luxury brands have to cope with. Customers want to buy quickly, easily and where and when it suits them.

Targeted content

How do you deal with that as a brand? How do you attract attention? A frequently heard solution at SXSW is personalisation: providing targeted content in the right place at the right time. Relevance, panelists say, is the only way to stand out for your busy customers.

Who, what, where

Big Data – knowing what your customers do, where they are, what they want – was a hot topic during SXSW this year. Big names such as ASOS, Topshop, Birchbox, Lincoln, etc. use the term. But it’s not entirely clear what brands are just flirting with the concept, and who is seriously doing good business with it.

Emotional connection

But knowing what customers do, where they are, what they want is just the start.

The brands that stand out, offer more than this, using inspirational content to reach customers on a personal level and provide an experience (check out the launch of Lincoln in China).

2015 will see the death of the segregated channels. A sale is a sale. Everyone in your organization has to contribute to it, no matter where and how that sale is made. In 2020, 80 percent of the world’s population will own a smartphone that is always online. New marketing will be commonplace: Big Data will have become BD, Internet of Things will be known as IOT. We’ll go from ‘bricks and mortar’ to ‘bricks and mobile’. Offline retail? That will cease to exist.

 Guestpost by Louise Roose and Pieter Jongerius, Fabrique

applewatch

As most schoolchildren are told from a young age, A stands for Apple; April, on the other hand, surely stands for the Apple Watch. The industry’s most hotly-anticipated wearable has been preceded by months of speculation – could it sell as well as the iPad on its launch? Will it provide a natural fit for fashion editorials? Now, on the eve of its launch, keen industry-watchers are looking to Baselworld (the watch industry’s international trade fair) for possible rivals. There, a crop of new announcements are proving themselves worthy contenders to the smart watch throne – one which, as we should remind ourselves, Apple hasn’t ascended to quite yet.

 

Coming from the other side of the bridge where technology meets luxury fashion, TAG Heuer have announced their plans this week to release a smart watch by this Christmas. In a significant move against Apple’s projected domination, the first smart watch from the world-famous Swiss watch brand will run on Google’s Android operating system – on a processor, moreover, created by keen wearables power player Intel. You’ll have to wait to find out more, though. At the Baselworld conference, chief executive Jean-Claude Biver told the crowd, “We don’t want the competition to know what we are going to do.”

 

Never easily dismissed, the irrepressible musician-turned-technologist will.i.am also announced a new partnership at Baselworld. KERING-owned Gucci, which recently changed hands from the Gianninis to Alessandro Michele, will also bring its timepieces into a new era through a collaboration with willi.i.am’s range of wearables.

 

For those of you still convinced that Apple’s the only brand that will get you telling the time more smartly, there’s not long to wait: the official release date is slated for UK stores on 24 April, but you’ll be able to order from the 10th. But if Baselworld is anything to go by, the smartwatch marketplace is about to get very interesting.

Writer: Claire Healy

sephora

French beauty retailer Sephora is gunning to become a forerunner in digital beauty retailing with the launch of an innovation lab and four new digital initiatives.

Billed as an incubation hub for the ideation, development and testing of new digital initiatives, the lab – based in a San Francisco warehouse – will also host a monthly internal Think Tank team, charged with grooming the next generation of Sephora digital leaders, and predicting the shopping landscape five years from now. Additionally, it will house ‘Idea Central’ – a programme that sources and delivers ideas from employees, regardless of rank or role.

To coincide with the launch, Sephora has also prepared a number of key digital initiatives:

  • Devised in collaboration with New York-based, cross-platform beauty app Map My Beauty, Pocket Contour is a virtual make-up artist application for contouring. The app identifies face shapes and provides a personalised, step-by-step guide on how to create a contoured look. The tool can be accessed via Sephora’s website (on mobiles) or the app.
  • In April 2015, it will launch its first augmented reality (AR) experience via its existing Sephora-to-Go mobile app for iPhones. Users will be able to unlock digital content – including interviews with beauty experts, product videos and product pages on Sephora.com – by hovering over the faces of nine beauty brand founders, including US-based Laura Mercier, which are featured in windows and in-store display cases.
  • Bluetooth beacons are to be rolled out in Sephora stores across the US, delivering personalised alerts to the mobile devices of customers who have opted in to the service (see Sales-Boosting Beacons for more on how this works). When shoppers are either in or close to a branch, they can be notified when new demonstrations or activities are happening in-store, and receive birthday alerts or loyalty programme updates.
  • Lastly, frequent shoppers can sign up for Flash, which grants two-day shipping on all online products ordered within the US. The service is free for Rouge Beauty Insider members (the top tier of Sephora’s three-tier loyalty rewards programme), or $10 per year for all non-members

Guest post Stylus.com by Alison Gough, EditorKatie Baron, Head of Retail

weekly

SXSW Interactive is almost here! In the run-up for the festival on March 13-17, it’s time to take a moment to sign up for our special events, featuring new hot startups as well as established brands. And most involve a cocktail or two.

Decoded Fashion hits SXSW this year with the goal to bring the tech networking experience back to face-to-face interaction. Our Mentorship Hub, supported by Simon and Swarovski, will bring together industry gamechangers and those just starting out in 10-minute mentorship meetings.

And if you meet 10 rising stars in the Fashion + Tech space, register to attend the event on Friday presenting the winners of Simon’s startup competition, followed by Decoded Fashion’s Networking Party. Our global #DFMeetup series lands in Austin to help you mingle with the biggest names in fashion & Tech.

Saturday is content day – with five sessions to pick from at the JW Marriott Hotel. We’ll start the day talking about disruption in brands with HFarm, one the largest startup incubators in Europe, John Lewis, a retailer innovating through R&D, hacks and startup collaboration and our own Liz Bacelar, creator of the world’s first fashion hackathon. Also, don’t miss the ‘Meet the New Retail Disruptors’ showcase at 2pm, discussing the most innovative tech in retail – what matters and what doesn’t.

After all that mingling you might be ready for a digital detox. On Sunday, March 15, the suited and booted guys over at menswear start-up Combatant Gentlemen will be around to show you their innovative design-to-delivery model firsthand – along with a complementary massage.

On Monday, March 16 at 2pm, Cortexica, an industry leader in image recognition and Visual Search Technology, will be on hand to demonstrate their algorithmic findSimilar™ technology – and explain why it’s set to change the future of shopping. To end the day on the more style-focussed end of the spectrum is globally feted jewellery designer Kendra Scott, will be showcasing her new jewellery collection on a living garden wall at 5pm.

Full details of Decoded Fashion’s SXSW activities can be found here.

Reported by Claire Healy

Image: SXSW 2014

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“America’s most prominent technology firms have all built reputations for futuristic thinking through secret, ancillary Silicon Valley labs.”

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