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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.”
Decoded Fashion announced SWATCHit, a platform for connecting designers and artisians, as the winner of the Fashion Hackathon, taking home $10,000 and the the opportunity to have their app launched by the CFDA.
In a very close competition, SWATCHit out-pitched two other finalists—Coveted, one-click purchasing for Tumblr, and 42, in-store retail analytics tools—for the top prize.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” said SWATCHit’s Jagjeet Gill, who is currently earning her MBA at MIT.
The finalists were chosen during The Fashion Hackathon, a 24-hour event where 550 registered participants and 78 teams competed to build a technology that helps American fashion designers. It was held Feb. 2-3, at the Alley NYC.
Some of the projects were inspired by the Fashion Brief, a conversation with designer Rachel Roy, DKNY’s Aliza Licht, Rebecca Minkoff’s Uri Minkoff, Michael Kors’ Farryn Weiner, and the CFDA’s Kelly McCauley and Sideways’ Nathaniel Catanio, on what areas of the fashion industry could utilize technology to increase efficiency and drive business. Others, like Coveted, were conceived prior to the Hackathon.
“I had this idea for about a year, but never had time to work on it,” said Michael Dizon, of Coveted. “At a Hackathon, you have to do it in 24 hours.”
The finalists pitched to a panel of fashion judges including Minkoff, CFDA’s CEO Steven Kolb, Style.com’s Editor-in-Chief Dirk Standen, designer Zac Posen, and Gilt Groupe’s founder Alexis Maybank, each of which asked some tough questions to the hackathon teams before determining SWATCHit the winner.
All the finalists took home a collection of prizes from the CFDA, DKNY, GAP, Gilt Groupe, Bonobos, Macallan, Samsung, Refinery 29, and Quotidian Ventures.
On Feb. 2-3, Decoded Fashion held the world’s first Fashion Hackathon, a 24-hour event where 550 registered participants and 78 teams competed to build a technology that helps American fashion designers.
About 300 developers, designers and entrepreneurs—40 percent women—worked on a variety of projects, from B2B software for production and merchandising to analytics for social media and e-commerce. Many projects were inspired by the Fashion Brief, a conversation with designer Rachel Roy, DKNY’s Aliza Licht, Rebecca Minkoff’s Uri Minkoff, Michael Kors’ Farryn Weiner, and the CFDA’s Kelly McCauley and Sideways’ Nathaniel Catanio, on what areas of the fashion industry could utilize technology to increase efficiency and drive business.
Five finalist teams were chosen to compete for the top prize—$10,000 and the chance to have its app launched by the CFDA. They will pitch live on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week during the Decoded Fashion Forum, to a panel of fashion judges including the CFDA’s Steven Kolb, Style.com’s Dirk Standen, Zac Posen, Rebecca Minkoff’s Uri Minkoff, and Gilt Groupe’s Susan Lyne.
42 personalizes the brick-and-mortar experience by using the best intelligence of online commerce. Founders: Cathy Han, Sarah Hum, Lucas Lemanowicz, Nicolas Porter
Avant-Garde remakes targeting marketing by matching customers with products by visually analyzing products and social media streams to understand exactly what customers want right now. Founders: Vladimir Dedov, Ajay Mantha, Carrie Mantha
Coveted is a 1-click platform for brands to sell their products through shareable tumblr images. Founders: Ian Culley, Michael Dizon, Jason Fertel
Fashion Dashboard optimizes commerce through competitive social media and merchandising analysis. Founder: Stephan Alber
SWATCHit is a peer-to-peer platform connecting global designers with emerging market artisans and overseas producers. Founders: Ramzi Abdoch, Jagjeet Gill, Jackson Lin, Henrika Makilya, Paul Yun
Coco Rocha is a role model for social media, but also a teacher, leading classes on social media best practices for other fashion models. She shares her top three tips with us, lessons that work for tech founders, fashion designers, retailers and individuals who love and work with style, fashion and e-commerce.
- Don’t have just anyone run your social media. I think it’s insane when brands or celebrities relegate their social media to an intern or someone who does not know them well. Personally, even though I have a great PR team, no one except my husband and I touch any of my 10 social media accounts. It’s a lot of work, but I know that my brand, my image and my voice are authentic to me.
- Be consistent. Your audience wants to hear from you regularly but not too regularly. Don’t over share. People have no problem clicking “unfollow” if they feel you’re over saturating their feed. For 3 years now, I have seen people use Tumblr the way they should be using Pinterest. I also see people copying content far too much. Be original and invent content, don’t just copy and paste it.
- If you’re going to post pictures, be really selective about it. If I’m capturing a sunset I’ll take at least 10 pictures, I’ll then filter them using other apps, enhance them, then I really pick the best image of perhaps 30. No one wants to follow someone who does not take pride in composing an aesthetically beautiful picture. No random snap shots–treat every upload as if it was a work of art.
When Coco Rocha started modeling nearly 10 years ago, digital photography wasn’t the norm, and social media as we know it didn’t exist. But as a young model, Rocha realized the importance of sharing her experiences in the world of high fashion, seemingly untouchable to the mass consumer. A master of more than 10 social media platforms, and one of our favorite Instagram feeds, Rocha shared her thoughts on social media, how she started a blog, and why Square makes sense for models.
Decoded Fashion: How did you become interested in social media?
Coco Rocha: I remember hearing about these things called “blogs” early in my career. I started one of my own with the goal of keeping friends and family back home in Vancouver updated on my adventures in New York, London, Paris, and Milan. At that time, very few people were blogging from inside the world of high fashion, and I found it was getting a lot of attention from an audience much bigger than my friends and family. People all over the world were checking in. That was a really empowering thing for me because I realized I had a voice and that others were listening.
I found myself starting out in the industry at the right time to take advantage of this new digital world. Ever since, the idea of cultivating an audience, whether it be for promoting charity or just promoting my clients, has seemed like a good idea for me as a model.
DF: Many people claim they don’t have time for social media as an excuse for not participating. How do you find the time to post to tumblr, Tweet, Instagram, etc?
CR: I view my social media it as an important part of my job, so I find the time for it whether I feel like it or not. Its become an important part of my relationship with my clients that I promote my work with them. Connecting with fans is almost as if I have my own focus group. I view modeling as a performance art and so if I put up one picture that gets 1000 likes and one that gets 15,000 likes, it gives me a big clue as to what people enjoy seeing from me. I’m always amazed to check my twitter feed or facebook page and see someone from half the world away reaching out to say they enjoyed my work, or even that they hated it!
For a long time, I think fashion was seen as this untouchable world only for the elite. The fact that on a whole, the industry is embracing social media is proof that hopefully the pendulum is now swinging away from that attitude. More than ever before people want to be and expect to be a part of this world, and I’m happy to have been here as we usher in a more inclusive attitude from within the industry.
DF: What do you feel is the best social media platform for you personally?
CR: It’s hard to say because I get something different from all of them. I get the most feedback from Instagram, where I find people are very vocal and interactive. As far as social media goes, I don’t think any one platform has been as well received or well suited to the fashion industry as Instagram. At its most basic, fashion is a visual world and people find that inspiration all around them each and every day. Zac Posen, for example, uses Instagram masterfully to show his life, his work and his inspiration.
Twitter has always been great way to get important messages out very fast. It has also been a great way for me to network with others in my industry; I even get to reach out to the legends who I admire like Cindy Crawford!
The app Pose makes a lot of sense for me as a model. I think the rise of street-style photography has shown us there’s a huge audience of people interested in what others are wearing out and about. Pose is great because it allows each user to show the world their personal style and tag each piece of clothing with correct brand names. Users can also click through to actually buy everything they see. The idea is a good business model for young fashionistas, and a new legitimate way to monetize on social media.
DF: I’m really impressed by your Tweet sharing a Mashable article about Instagram (here). What would you change about Instagram if you could?
CR: I think it would be great to be able to add location tags to images retroactively. Personally, I often feel uncomfortable tagging my location at the time I’m there because I have had awkward occasions where some weird person tracked me down from a Instagram I posted. Perhaps they could make it so the geo tag is on some kind of delay? I would also love for instagram to play nice with twitter again. I think it was ridiculous that the two are no longer integrated, what a waste. We live in a world that needs to find more ways to interconnect, not less!
DF: What are some other types of tech, besides social media, that you find useful to fashion? This could be a certain app, software that helps streamline business, in-store display tech, etc.
CR: My friend Jack Dorsey developed Square which is a revolutionary, free device that allows anyone to accept credit card payments through their cell phone or tablet. It levels the playing field for everyone. You’re probably asking yourself, why would a model care about Square? Well, we like to get paid too! I have jobs I did for major magazines and designers in 2006 and 2007 that I still have not been paid for. When Jack first explained this project to me the first thing I thought was how amazing Square would be for the next generation of models who are often times living from job to job. Want me to walk your runway? Just be ready with your credit card when I step off.
DF: How do you see tech revolutionizing fashion?
CR: Iris van Herpen has been pioneering the use of 3-D printing in fashion for a few years now and with really amazing results. I’m hoping others in the industry take note and explore the possibilities! I find Iris’ work with 3-D printing technology more of a hybrid of architecture and sculpture than anything. It’s really amazing to see shapes and designs that were previously incomprehensible are now possible. I also think that laser-etched clothing will allowing designers the ability to create patterns in fabric that would have been impossible to do by hand. It’s like moving from finger painting to working with a fine sable hair paint brush.
Designers today have some unbelievable tools at their fingertips. Basically if they can conceptualize it, they can make it.
Stay tuned for Coco’s top social media tips, coming next Tuesday.
Coco Rocha: New Social Media Manager for Sass & Bide
Coco Rocha to front the Australian brand’s spring campaign, and take over its Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr accounts for the next week. Read more at NYMag.com.
Crowdsourced Product Developers Open An Advanced Lab For All
Product design incubation company Quirky has created a state-of-the-art lab for their crowdsourced designers and engineers to develop, prototype, and test products. PSFK has more details.
Schools of Design Extend Their Reach to Asia
More Western education institutions are looking to open up in Asia — and U.S. art and design schools are no exception. New York Times covers the trend of design school outposts in Asian markets.