Eight Key Takeaways From Day One Of The FashTech Summit 2016

Summary:

Fashion brands, entrepreneurs and tech companies came together for the first day of the inaugural FashTech summit, held in a venue far removed from the usual hotel conference centres of central London. Against the backdrop of the cool, pared-back Studio Spaces, located in an industrial part of Shadwell, the audience listened to presentations and panel discussions from the industry’s most disruptive and innovative of leaders including Drew Elliot, the man behind Kim Kardashian’s attempt to #breaktheinternet with *that* Paper Magazine cover and Second Home co-founder Rohan Silva, who revealed the launch of a fashion hub in west London. Across 12 engaging sessions, we’ve pulled out eight of the key takeaways that you need to know from day one:

Fashion’s Tech City? Second Home is creating a fashion hub in west London

Rohan Silva sparked interest beyond just the four walls of Studio Space when he revealed that his co-working enterprise Second Home is partnering with the Royal College of Art to create a dedicated fashion hub in west London. The plan? To bring together a crossbreed of industries - from fashion brands to e-commerce players. Set to open next autumn, the “fash tech cluster will be like FashTech every single day of the week,” declared the former special adviser to No 10.

Single view of the customer, whatever the platform

With consumers using multiple touchpoints in their shopping journey, retailers need to have a joined-up view of the customer. Over at Farfetch, the innovative fashion marketplace, the roll-out of click-and-collect is helping the company create a “one customer view”. Kelly Kowal, managing director of Farfetch’s Black & White division, told the audience: “By merging data offline and online we’re able to give a better experience. It’s just one person – just because they’re shopping here or there, we’re still talking to them in one way.”

The future of wearables? Smart Fabrics

Forget smartwatches, the future of the wearables industry is all about smart, intelligent fabrics. While the sportswear market is already adopting modern and smart textiles, it’s likely that the catwalk and the high street will follow through, according to Nick Carvell, associate style director of GQ.co.uk. In another panel discussion Debera Johnson, executive director of Pratt Institute, the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, spoke of how technology is increasingly becoming more connected to and embedded into clothing. “In ten years’ time, 10% of clothing will be connected to The Cloud somehow,” she said.

Create a frictionless customer experience

The key message from the panel discussing what makes a customer click to buy? Create a simple and friction-free experience. Luca Marini, co-founder and chief operating officer at The Finery, admitted the fashion brand had shifted from providing detailed product descriptions to investing in beautiful imagery. “Customers don’t read the information, they look at pictures,” he told the audience. “So we simplified them and just added a broad description. We do not invest in anything that clutters the product pages.” The Finery also keeps its customers’ attention by “really understanding where the user comes from and offering a different experience based on where they come from”. In a nutshell, whether they arrive via an ad on Facebook or through email, the page they land on is tailored to what had prompted them to click through.

Reinventing the wheel – the man behind THAT Kim Kardashian #breaktheinternet magazine cover

In the final session of the day, Paper Magazine’s chief creative officer Drew Elliot revealed how the title’s controversial Kim Kardashian cover catapulted the brand worldwide, attracting a staggering 50 million users to its website and causing people to argue whether or not she did indeed ‘break the internet’. “That hashtag did create attention inside social media,” said Elliot. “People were asking whether or not she broke the internet. The internet is unbreakable.” The cover has left Paper Magazine with ten times the online traffic compared a year ago and set the bar high not only within Paper – but across the whole of the publishing industry.

Many luxury fashion houses STILL failing to embrace digital (while younger and more nimble brands are leapfrogging ahead)

It may be 2016, but many luxury brands are still failing to establish a strong proposition online. During a panel discussion exploring online and luxury fashion brands, Zoe Patoff, senior director of digital at international PR firm Karla Otto, warned that the luxury fashion houses “joining the party so late” was causing great harm to their business, with customers already shopping for their products via other portals such as Net-a-Porter and multi-brand destinations instead. “They’ve got a difficult job to do,” she warned. Once they’ve introduced ecommerce, they need to offer something extra in order to capture consumers accustomed to shopping elsewhere. “Luxury brands selling on their own sites need exclusive product,” said Patoff, who also added that there was a “MacDonaldisation” of luxury, offering cheaper products specifically for an online audience which can devalue brands and be counter-productive.   “They need to give customers reason to drive you to their product.”

And while luxury fashion players are lagging behind, smaller brands are leaping ahead with their digital activity, according to the panel. "While only 7% of purchases are made online, 75% of purchases are influenced by at least one digital touch point" said Pia Stanchina, industry manager, digital acceleration across luxury, fashion & beauty at Google. “Younger brands can be more nimble in that space and are being playful.”

Virtual reality is the next frontier in retail

In a panel discussion looking ahead at the key trends within fashion for 2016 and beyond, virtual reality was highlighted as a technology that will revolutionise the retail space. Henry Stuart, chief executive of Visualise, said retailers can tap into virtual reality to “create amazing experiences that can push boundaries and create magical experiences”. The next evolution of virtual reality, he suggested, is 3D scanning and enabling consumers to choose their own background. Futuristically, he suggested we’d eventually be moving to a time when we’re shopping for products in virtual outlets exclusively for the virtual world. In another session, Johnson spoke of how our 3D virtual reality avatars will be combined with artificial intelligence. She suggested that 3D avatars will be able to examine our closets and pull together suitable outfits.

But….New tech? Mostly PR hype but do keep innovating

Brands are ramping up their focus on tech, whether partnering with start-ups or collaborating with different platforms. Much of it is simply marketing noise “to get headlines and not help the customer”, according to GQ.co.uk associate style editor Nick Carvell, who highlighted JW Anderson’s tie-up with Grindr for London Men’s Fashion Week for “marrying tech and getting people interested in a fashion brand”. Tech continues to throw out gimmicks, said Jonathan Chippendale, chief executive of Holition, citing wearables as the hot topic a few years ago, followed by 3D and now VR and drones. “My hunch, having seen a lot, is that they will come and go.” Still, with digital still being relatively new, the panel discussing the coolest tech encouraged brands to continue innovating.