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What Does Fashion Tech Mean For Fashion?

Decoded Fashion

The opportunities to connect and generate revenue through new models is a game changer.

By Christine E. Creamer (Attorney, RK ADLER LLP)

It’s not really just ‘disruption’ if you’re on the cutting edge of establishing an entirely new industry, is it?

A few months ago I received an email from a trusted friend linking me up with a film producer. He wanted to create a digital video series on something related to fashion, but wasn’t really sure of the topic beyond an industry focus. Having worked with startups and emerging designers for the past few years, I truly believe those in fashion tech are at the beginning of a revolution to the fashion industry and a source of unbounded growth. Still, there is often an uphill battle to convince insiders or a couture house that they can collaborate with startups to improve their image or ROI (particularly if they have had lackluster experiences through piecemeal adoption of say, social media).

In other words, what does the 2.0 world mean for established as well as emerging design houses, retailers, and investors?

Emerging digital platforms are rewriting the role of influence and communication as well as the concept of fashion and design. And it’s not just about your brand adopting a blog or posting a Pinterest board (though that in itself is an entire conversation). It’s about what is coming up next and what that actually means for fashion as a whole.

Is “fashion tech” an industry in itself? The engineer crowd would point out that ‘tech’ in itself is a misnomer. Are you a designer even if you only have access to sell on Etsy?

In the following month, the producer and I proceeded to develop a 10-episode pitch and in digging in to research on the convergence between the startup, digital and fashion industries I found not only constant innovation, but also huge opportunity for women in particular to cultivate creative approaches to revenue.

And in the notoriously male focused startup space (one friend called the industry a rodeo), that’s incredibly significant and opportune. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s a chance for jobs and enthusiasm here in New York City through crowd sourcing, crowd funding, mobile commerce, video commerce, and yes, social media all directed at women’s love for fashion (and communication).

That is of course not to say that it’s a perfect emerging world. The past few years have seen startups which focused on flash sales models training their consumers to expect a sale. That’s not a huge value to a young designer (although after reading “By Invitation Only” I have absolute respect for GILT’s Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson’s goal of “building something big” with inspired minds). But it does spark a conversation and a need for the two industries to understand each other.

Last month, I hosted a small discussion on the topic of what digital means for fashion, where Liza Kindred and Benita Singh spoke about the possibilities to take each new digital platform and actually drive sustainable change. As a consultant, attorney and designer in this space, it gave me goose bumps to hear the possibilities and passion in the room, particularly with regard to breaking down barriers to entry for innovation.

This month the momentum continues as, Liz Bacelar launches Decoded Fashion, presented by Fashion Lincoln Center on April 30, 2012. The event will bring together established designers, as well as heads of fashion and retail to celebrate how startups are innovating the industry. The event’s highlight is a CFDA curated panel led by Aliza Licht, DKNY PR Girl and with designers Nicole Miller, Deborah Lloyd, the President of Kate Spade and Stacey Bendet, founder of Alice+Olivia. Other participating companies and brands confirmed include Rebecca Minkoff, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Joyus, EditD, Buyosphere, SAP, Bonobos, Lyst and AhaLife.

“Our agenda is to create a platform that connects fashion and retail to the best startups and to the technology that accelerates innovation and impacts the bottom line,” said Bacelar.

What this really all comes down to is an opportunity to hear some of the more innovative minds in two multi-billion dollar industries talk about innovation and growth. The opportunities to connect and generate revenue through models that never existed before is a game changer. And as the adoption of digital continues, if the conversation is progressive, it can truly be a good thing for women (just think about how many people contribute their creating a shoppable music video); often the only challenge lies in learning to see the opportunities and collaborate.

Christine E. Creamer is an attorney and consultant with RK ADLER LLP. She focuses on copyright, trademark, media, and internet law. Christine represents fashion, fashion technology, and new media startups, helping to manage their intellectual property portfolios and protect their brand name as they grow. Clients include online documentary companies, branded entertainment companies, fashion brands, prominent bloggers, hospitality companies, filmmakers and individual creatives.

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