Last week, our own Kristina Dimitrova & Noémie Balmat took part in the first Fashion Tech Days conference in Roubaix. We participated in Creativity & Technology panel discussing how designers and engineers can collaborate to create turnaround products. For those who couldn’t make it to CETI, we round up the key takeaways below.
How do technologies open new opportunities for designers? How can they have access to it? Who do they need to do so?
On one hand, new tech offer millions of opportunities for designers to experiment and some of them, such as Iris van Herpen, Hussein Chalayan and Cute Circuit, use these types of innovation in their signature looks. On the other hand, technology companies are also trying get onto the wearables trend bandwagon and recently unveiled hundreds of wearable tech projects. So why don’t customers jump into these new products immediately and why do we already see early adopters abandoning them?
A recent research from mobile app developer Apadmi found that over a third of the people in the UK would feel embarrassed or self-conscious if they wore a wearable tech device. Whilst the tech market is still growing at an incredible rate, maybe we should step back and see what can be improved for this revolution to be at the level it should be.
We discussed the challenges and opportunities for creatives and technologists with three renowned professionals.
Charlotte Cazal graduated from an Art School in Toulouse & Art School in Barcelona. Passionate about art and fabrics, Charlotte likes to use them in her creations. She creates garments masterpiece, using 2nd hand textile. Her first eponym collection, Racine (root) established the concept of art, ethical & fashion. Demeure is a closet of garments made with made in France premium second hand textile, robust and graceful, in which each piece evokes a story, a past.
After graduating from Parson’s School of design, Alexandra Pisco worked for Chanel and style bureaux before creating her own. In 2008, she was approached by the Lille metropole to take reigns of Maisons de Mode. In the last seven years, Alexandra and her team created one of the best incubators for fashion startups, which is now a best practice in all Europe.
Internationally-known fashion house, CuteCircuit, has been pushing the boundaries of wearable technology since its launch in 2004. A global leader in interactive fashion, CuteCircuit has introduced many ground-breaking ideas to the fashion world by integrating new beauty and functionality through the use of smart textiles and micro-electronics.
KEY SUCCESS FACTORS FOR FASHION TECH
Designers and engineers need to keep abreast of the latest developments in both the tech & fashion industries to avoid launching concepts that are already out of date. The three core criteria necessary for wearable tech to reach success with consumers include:
1. Creating products that add value to something we do every day
2. Making it easy to use (we can’t be bothered to learn something new)
3. Being aesthetically pleasing
CHALLENGES FOR THE FASHION TECH INDUSTRY
Education - although this is an emerging industry, speakers at the event agreed that for wearable tech and fashion tech to take off, these topics should have roots in education. This new field requires from professionals to have both creative and engineering skills or partner with someone who understands them and their vision. However, in universities usually these two divisions are separated and dialogue is not encouraged between faculties.
Investment – investors get thousands of startup pitches a day. It is difficult for all startups to secure investment but it’s even more so for the ones who are well ahead of their time. As Francesca Rosella, Creative Director at Cute Circuit said, “Investors see a trend and they invest in order to monetize quickly on that trend. This is why we’ve seen so many smart watches & fitness trackers raising funds easily – because the trend is somewhat tested. But this is usually a short-term investment and then investors are on to the next thing. It’s really difficult to persuade them to invest in a high risk business idea, however innovative it might be, which in turn limits the potential of emerging designers and engineers.”
One doesn't fit all - Contrary on popular belief, one size does not fit all when we talk about wearable tech. Recently. we have seen technology companies trying to fit all possible functionalities in a single product to appeal to many different audiences. These decisions usually result in products that can do hundred different things purely because the technology exists and not because this is something their user needs.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE FASHION TECH INDUSTRY
Hackathons in the fashion and wearable tech space are getting increasingly popular. From Decoded Fashion to Fash Hack Australia and even Kent State University, these events are not only a place to learn from high profile mentors but also to find valuable team members to work and partner with.
Alternative funding from crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are also on the rise. As we reported recently, these platforms are a way for high-risk startups to secure funding by people who are actually interested in their products so it’s a win – win scenario. Another extremely valuable benefit of crowdfunding is the opportunity to test the market and see if there’s a product – market fit. If there is, these sites become an invaluable research tool for startups because they get feedback on their products directly from their potential customers and have the ability to respond instantly, ensuring they are creating a product people want and would pay for.
Cross industry learning between designers and engineers can result in both stylish and functional turnaround products. What technology companies can learn from the fashion industry is the importance of The Muse (or the customer). Knowing who they are designing for should guide everything around these upcoming products - from their style and functionality to price, promotion and distribution.
It’s only a matter of time before the crossing paths of Fashion & Technology intersect for good. And when they do? People will actually be wearing wearables, instead of leaving them at home.
If you want to find out more about the future of fashion join us at #INTERLACED2015 on 3rd September. Early bird tickets are on sale now.