Decoding The Retail Tech Visionaries Through Fashion Tech Eyes

It is the morning after the night before, and Decoded Fashion London 2016 is now truly over for another year. Since its launch in New York in 2012 by founder Liz Bacelar, Decoded Fashion has attracted visionaries, innovators and disruptors to its summits. With such a pull, Decoded Fashion has built a reputation as ‘the’ must attend event for those interested in how innovation is defining the future of fashion and technology.


Offering a curated roster of hand picked speakers, the London event was a buzzy affair of opportunities and fresh ideas- the perfect hub for those with an itch for all things retail tech. Unfortunately, for those who attended with a thirst for all things fashion tech, Decoded Fashion London was most likely a disappointing affair for them. Why? Because although Decoded Fashion might have begun as an event that challenges the very nature of innovation when it comes to fashion and technology, it now seems to have changed direction towards mobile, consumer, buying, beauty and e-commerce technology. Some could argue “So what?”, and to that I say, if that is the case, then there needs to be clarity, because if you whisper the word “fashion technology” to many, topics such as ‘New Retail Path to Purchase’, ‘Generating In-store Solutions’, ‘Data Driven Influencer Marketing’ and ‘Driving Social Media Success’ are not the conversation starters that will automatically come to mind.

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That is why, during the two day event, I made it my mission to speak to attendees and find out what they thought of Decoded Fashion. There were those who were excited and satisfied with what was on the agenda, and then there were those who were disorientated and uninspired by what was laid before them. The unsatisfied attendees admitted that they had expected to be exposed to up and coming fashion tech designers with a fresh perspective on how the industry is adopting to the new technologies. They looked forward to an open conversation with fashion tech start ups who were there to share their journey so far. And they had hoped to see on stage engineers discussing collaboration opportunities with designers.

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The folks at Wayra UK | Photo Credit: Wayra

I think for those who found themselves slightly disgruntled had never been to Decoded Fashion before. When you hear that there is a fashion tech event you automatically think exposure to ideas, designers, thoughts, hopes and dreams but that is not always the case. A lot of events that are about the merge, or for some reason all given the title of fashion technology, even if this is not what their main focus is about. Instead of tarring them all with the same brush, events like Decoded Fashion need to clearly define themselves. Potential attendees need to know that they are more likely to see the likes of James Wittle, Global Director of Digital and Technology at All Saints on stage rather than Anouk Wipprecht, Fashion Tech Designer. They need to understand that the “fantastic brands” that Fay Cowan, Decoded’s Brand and Content Director, spoke of are more along the lines of River Island, ASOS, Topshop, Marks and Spencer and rather than the expected Vinaya, The Unseen, Caeden, Oura, Neyya, Iris van Herpen and Van der Waals. Clarity from these ‘Fashion tech’ events will ensure that they attract a crowd interested in attending their event. That way Retail Technology events like Decoded Fashion will have fewer lost souls wandering around, looking for fashion technology in a place that it doesn’t reside.

Also Read: Disrupting Retail Technology and Fashion Technology

Which brings us to what fashion and technology events really need to bring to the table. Firstly, do not sell the dream of what you think we want, tell us what you are going to actually deliver. Is it fashion meets technology or retail meets technology? Because, as we have stressed before these two merges, might be from the same family, but in actuality they are two very different industries making great progress in their own right.

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The Automat Team at Decoded Fashion London 2016

I must admit that I myself, attended Decoded Fashion fully aware that the fashion technology that I craved would not live at Decoded Fashion London. I can appreciate the event for what it is, which is why I had a plan. I was there for a different reason. I knew our readers don’t care much for conversations centred around social media marketing or leveraging big data and customer insight, so I decided to approach our coverage of Decoded Fashion from a different angle by deciding to have a sit down with the likes of Candice Fragis of Farfetch so we can talk fashion technology and wearables. What I ended up with was a refreshing and frank piece on an industry insider’s view on fashion technology and where she thinks it’s headed. It is this type of content that has the kind of power to be a great conversation starter whilst opening doors to collaboration opportunities and new ideas.

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With all this being said, I can appreciate that Decoded Fashion’s humble beginnings might have begun with defining the future of fashion and technology, but the truth of the matter is that seems to no longer be their direction. From the vibe I got from some of the people who attended Decoded Fashion London this year, they left feeling uninspired and not quite ready to adapt to the changing tide.

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Candice Fragis being interviewed by

Missed the Decoded Fashion London Interviews with Candice Fragis and Daniel Hirshmann? Catch up HERE. Interested in innovation within the retail technology realm, then be sure to pencil in the following Decoded Fashion dates:

  • Decoded Fashion Tokyo Summit: 11 October 2016
  • Decoded Fashion NYC Summit: 1st-2nd November 2016
  • Fashion Future Awards US: 2nd November 2016
  • Decoded Fashion Milan Summit: 15th- 16th November 2016
  • Decoded Fashion London Summit: 16th- 17th May 2017

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