This week I found myself on stage at #FASHIONTECH Berlin giving a keynote on ‘Fashion and Technology, The New Power Couple?’ I planned to explore how we can rewire the fashion industry’s definition of fashion technology by taking a relatable approach that challenges the perception that wearable technology is not fashionable enough to be part of our everyday wardrobe.
— #FASHIONTECH BERLIN (@FASHIONTECHBER) June 29, 2016
As I walked on stage to an awaiting audience, I looked forward to communicating how technology could potentially become the driving force behind the future of fashion and be used as a tool by creatives to seamlessly merge various industries together. The challenge I knew I could face from the audience was convincing the skeptics that the collision between fashion and technology can truly be a beautiful thing if given half the chance.
Having been in the fashion industry for over 15 years and an alumni of University of Arts, I can relate to the industry’s reluctance to dip their well manicured fingers into a sphere that was still trying to find itself. It is because of this, that I am determined to shrug of the gadgetry stigma that I believe plays a detrimental part in whether fashion technology gets a respectable seat at the fashion table.
— Andreas Gebhard (@suffar) June 29, 2016
After introductions, I started my keynote by defining the buzz word of the last two years, ‘fashion tech’. With so many definitions floating around and confusing those who are trying to understand what it all means, I knew that this would be a great place to start. Especially, since we all clearly still remember how numerous celebrities got it all wrong when they turned up at this year’s MET Gala in silver! That was living proof that there needs to be clarity. With fashion technology still in its infancy, it is important that we can define what we are championing in the first place. Simply put, fashion technology is when technology is embedded into fashion garments, i.e. the Moon Berlin coat, or when designers use the latest technology to create their garments, i.e. Carolina Herrera‘s AW16 collection.
“The misuse of the word fashion tech takes away its meaning and eradicates the artistry.”
As I explained it with visuals, I also made sure to stress that fashion tech and retail tech should not be confused. It is this misuse of the word fashion tech that is taking away its meaning and eradicating the artistry. Therefore, there needs to be an understanding that Retail tech focuses on using technology to improve the consumer experience, both online and offline. Great examples of brands doing this are Burberry, Farfetch and Gilt. Fashion tech and retail tech represent two different paths that the fashion industry is taking and both are stunningly innovative in their own right.
Whilst delivering my keynote, I wanted to make sure that there was clarity when it came to defining fashion tech to the audience. Through words and visuals, my next point explored the inspiration behind the merge. I talked about the artistry behind Iris van Herpen collections, embedded technology shown in Pauline van Dongen’s solar panel jumper and the science fashion evident in Lauren Bowker‘s reactive jacket. I wanted them to understand that inspiration comes in all different forms and that it can play an integral role when it comes to designing for consumers.
“The collision between fashion and technology can truly be a beautiful thing”
This was the perfect time to bring up fashion tech’s relationship with consumers. I started off by sharing that it was not a relationship based on fear of the advancement of technology, but more on the fear of having to sacrifice style for technology. Consumers need to be wooed by the kind of technology that can be seamlessly integrated into their lifestyle. They demand more than just a jacket that lights up. It was on that note that I shared with the audience success stories such as Ringly, one of the first fashion tech brands to be taken seriously by the mainstream media. Misfit, a wearable tech brand, listened to what consumers needed, and came up with the stylish Misfit Ray. Vinaya, a tech jewellery brand, now stocked in mainstream stores like Browns Focus and Emel & Aris a British brand that has taken an everyday coat and embedded it with technology so discrete that consumers will not be able to tell the difference. It is these achievements, within the fashion tech space, that challenge the perception that wearable technology isn’t fashionable.
— Electric Runway (@Electric_Runway) June 29, 2016
Before I moved on from consumers’ tech needs, I introduced the audience to FashNerd‘s #WearableTechStylist. The #WearableTechStylist was born out of necessity because I realised that for me, it might not be an exact science, but for others this was still an unexplored area that they were yet to understand. The easiest route for consumers to take is for them to understand that finding the right kind of technology all comes down to what works with their personal style. With fashion and technology’s relationship growing from puddle to pond, products such as Vinaya’s Zenta, Leoht bag and Apple Watch will make it all that little bit easier when it comes to introducing technology to our everyday look.
Another important aspect that I talked about in my keynote was the evolution of collaborations between fashion and technology. I started off by explaining how collabs have become the new face of influence within the fashion industry. We only have to look at the positive attention partnerships such as G-Star Raw x Bionic Yarn, Iris Apfel x Wisewear, Fitbit x Tory Burch, Zac Posen x Google Made for Code and Marchesa x IBM Watson have gotten. I also stressed to the audience, that it is these collaborations that are proving to be the backbone of fashion technology being accepted by mainstream media and consumers. Now all we need is for these ‘techno-luxury’ brands to make it more than just a one time thing.
“It is important that we can define what we are championing in the first place”
As my keynote came to an end, I decided to conclude that when it comes to the future of merge of fashion with technology it needs to stay ahead of the curve. Fashion tech needs to invest in education, because in doing so, it will give fashion tech students a space where they can apply tech solutions to their creative thinking. We also need to champion companies like Neue Labs and 360Fashion who are trying to eliminate design limitations and brands like Cute Circuit who are unafraid to think outside the box with example their creation of the sound shirt. As I continued, I talked about Dropel Fabrics, a brand this is currently redefining functionality through smart textiles. I wanted the audience to envision a world where smart fabrics and 3D printing gave us practical clothing that was both sustainable and stylish.
— FashNerd (@FashNerd) June 29, 2016
As I reached the end of my keynote I came back to the question of “Is Fashion and Technology the new power couple?” Taking a slight pause, I said like any other couple, fashion and technology will have its ups and downs. It will come across those who believe in it and those who doubt its staying power, but in the end Fashion and Technology are definitely the new power couple.