(Photo by Adrienne Yap)
“Tech folk and fashion folk are different, but both are problem solvers,” said Paul Dillinger, Levi’s vice president of global product innovation.
Dillinger was speaking at this year’s Fashion Tech Forum, held last week at Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, as he presented the commuter jacket, a Levi’s and Google collaboration that has conductive yarns woven into it, giving it touch and gesture interactivity.
There were tensions between the tech and fashion teams when it came to the fundamental ways of working, such as understanding the supply chain of manufacturing apparel, Dillinger said. However, there was a prior agreement that they would operate as one company, so both parties came to understand one another’s differences: the fashion designers learned how to be interface designers, whereas the tech team in Japan learnt to work on the weaving technique to stay true to the authenticity of denim.
Ivan Poupyrev, the technical program lead of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects, said that the commuter jacket is “something people use everyday.” It is not just for tech’s sake, Dillinger added, but a lifestyle brand.
That the fashion and tech industries have much to learn from one another was a theme of The Fashion Tech Forum. Amongst all the fresh ideas and the ongoing discussion of what instant fashion means for the industry, there were a few panelists that stood out to us. (And don’t miss our profile of Colin Touhey’s Dumbo-based Pvilion, which presented its Tommy Hilfiger solar-powered jacket collaboration at the forum, plus a look at the other Brooklyn startups highlighted that day.)
Zach Overton, vice president and general manager of Samsung’s Meatpacking District store 837, discussed the democratization of virtual reality and how it enabled the traditionally exclusive New York Fashion Week to be more inclusive by livestreaming events, such as streetwear brand KITH’s runway show at 837. Peep it below.
Diego Scotti, Verizon’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, has worked in both worlds with previous experience at Vogue and J. Crew. The fashion industry, he said, can get overwhelmed when integrating technology and have the misconception that technology happens on the side. On the other end, the tech industry could learn from the fashion industry in terms of emotions and relationships, as well as the level of diversity.
“It is too white-male dominated,” Scotti said of the tech industry.
Michael Preysman, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based ecommerce brand Everlane, talked about radical transparency and the possibility of expanding into brick-and-mortar with his head of product and design, Rebakka Bay. The notion was notable as the company recently lowered the prices of their cashmere sweaters due to an industry-wide drop in cashmere prices.
During The Future IoT: Innovation of Things panel, leaders from three companies — Evrythng, Away and WiseWear — talked about how their products are pushing the boundaries of what fashion can do.
Andy Hobsbawm, the London-based cofounder and chief marketing officer of Evrythng, introduced the idea of digitizing apparel in the context of a business to business process, instead of a consumer-facing one. Each piece of apparel would have a unique identity that is linked to the cloud, thus consumers and businesses would be able to create data about that particular garment. This would allow businesses to customize the shopping experience for their consumers and consumers would have the peace of mind that what they are buying is the real deal.
Steph Korey, cofounder and CEO of Manhattan-based Away, thinks that the travel industry has changed so drastically that they are not able to keep up with the needs of the consumer. Away seeks to bridge that gap by offering light, easy to transport luggage that has the ability to charge your phone on the go, allowing the user to travel seamlessly.
When WiseWear’s founder and CEO Gerald J. Wilmink’s grandfather passed away, it made him wonder why we were not using the technology we have when it comes to health and safety. This birthed the idea of “smart” jewelry in the form of bracelets that allows users to discreetly notify their five chosen contacts when they feel like they are in trouble, similarly to a panic button. (In this way, Wisewear, which is based in San Antonio, Texas, reminds us of yet-to-launch Philadelphia wearable tech safety company Roar.)
Tapping the bracelet three times will send text messages to your emergency contacts along with your current GPS location. The fusion product also has mobile notifications via gentle vibrations on incoming calls, texts and emails as well as activity-tracking capabilities.
We also saw a different way in which a company is fusing fashion and technology that started out with nine engineers in Tel Aviv. Miki Berardelli, the CEO of Manhattan-based Kidbox, is integrating data into her retail business, aiming to create a hybrid culture within the socially-minded startup. According to Berardelli, the four pillars of the company are amazing brands, value pricing, convenience for moms and fun for the kids.
Kidbox is like Trunk Club for kids. It sends a personalized box of clothing for children to its customers with free shipping and returns.
“Customization and personalization is the frontier,” said Haim Dabah, the founder of Kidbox.
Kidbox uses data to curate the box, but before it is shipped, a personal stylist looks over it to ensure it meets the customer’s expectations. The customer has have seven days to decide if they want to keep anything, and until then, no charge occurs. For every box kept, a box will be donated to a child in need whereby the parent and child are given the opportunity to select what charity they want to donate to.
“It helps create a conversation,” Berardelli said. Their goal is to clothe 1 million kids.
What’s next for the company? They are now accepting applications for a board of directors from ages 5 to 16. They want to give their demographic an opportunity to give their opinions, as well as give them a look into the inner workings of a company. Another step is launching the ability to gift unworn apparel to kids in need as the company said they have found that the difference between new and secondhand clothing is life-changing. When asked how they would implement sustainability into their company, they said that they are open to organic clothing brands.