This week, Bangladesh arrived on the fashion tech scene. Fashionably late, they held their first ever Fashionology Summit in Dhaka and managed to kickstart much-needed conversations on innovative technology-driven apparel and successful manufacturing. Already building a community made up of industry leaders and innovators, they have big plans to transform the ‘next-generation of manufacturing.“We are taking the opportunity to enlighten ourselves at this resourceful gathering of global tech gurus. We want to learn the ‘passwords’ to unlock our future prosperity”, said Mr Mostafiz Uddin.
For Bangladesh Fashionology Summit, Knowledge and Resources Is Power
Attending as a keynote speaker, I was taken aback, as I was driven around the city of Dhaka, by how much development is currently taking place in Bangladesh. I was happy to find out that it is a country open to change, something that the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit organisers have not been shy about communicating. To achieve this, they decided to turn to some of the brightest minds and the most inspired thinkers in the space of fashion, technology and innovation from across the globe. Looking to cover a wide range of compelling topics shaping the future of the fashion industry, they have managed to curate a diverse range of forward-thinkers from promising startups to established industry leaders.
“Everything you know [technology] will be obsolete in 5 years”
A platform for inspiration and change, the Fashionology Summit acknowledges that the apparel and fashion industry is on the cusp of a massive transformation. It is because of this that they knew that they had to be part of the change. Looking for appropriate solutions to some of the most significant challenges faced in Bangladesh, the one-day event was split into four sessions. The first session focused on ‘Factory of the Future’ and was curated by various speakers from companies like Lectra, SewBo and Universal Robots. They talked about the impact that technology is having on the industry. With different experts sharing different schools of thought on the topic, they all did agree on one thing, robots will not be replacing manpower anytime soon. On this, Jonathan Zornow said on stage, “Robots are more about targeting quality control, so although they will reduce manpower, they will not replace people.”
The second session looked at virtual prototyping and the digitising of the apparel supply chain. The topic was about customer changing expectations; the session explored how these expectations are forcing the traditional fashion business model to be re-thought and altered. This they stated can be done by discovering which tools and technologies have the power to enable change. First on stage was Ram Sareen of TukaTech. Labelled as a disruptor, Sareen made bold statements like “Everything you know [technology] will be obsolete in 5 years” and “These [Mannequins] are failed technologies, but we have spent millions on them.” Other speakers who took to the stage to share their knowledge included David Birnbaum of Birnbaum & Father, Magnus Sundgren of Eton Systems, Vikas Raykar of IBM Research and Sunil Shewakramani of Li & Fung.
The third session was made up of yours truly, Amanda Cosco of Electric Runway and Eva van der Brugge and Pim Kneepkens from Fashion For Good. Our session centred around the merger of fashion with technology and sustainable innovation. My keynote was an introduction to the topic of smart textiles and the role that it currently plays in the fashion industry.
Following my keynote, Eva and Pim from Fashion For Good took to the stage to talk about what the innovation landscape looks like. “We are seeing solutions that focus on reducing the amount of waste. What we are seeing is 3D printing being one of the technologies reducing the amount of waste. The consumer needs to serve differently”, said Pim. Eva added, “We don’t just want to make fashion less bad, we want to make a change by encouraging collaborations, and truly disruptive circulation.” The duo was followed by Amanda Cosco, the founder of Electric Runway. She presented a peek into the world of fashion tech to a captivated audience. Titled ‘Fashioning the Future with Technology’, Amanda gave a quick run through on how fashion and technology have come together, the innovations that have taken place in the last few years, where the merger presently stands and where it is most likely headed.
Rounding up the keynotes for the day was session four. It explored the mass customisation, on-demand manufacturing and how the new age of fashion is a blend of engineering and aesthetics. On first was Michael T Fralix, CEO of [TC]2. He gave a keynote via video link, all the way from North Carolina. Another presentation given via video link was Richard Oliver from the Unseen. Talking from London, the CEO of the material innovation company talked about the collaborations that they have worked on and why he believes that technology should be Magick (he explained that the k is in reference to Aleister Crowley). Centering on storytelling, Richard held the audience’s attention with detailed information on how their creative business goes hand in hand with the science side. “We didn’t want to be fashion for fashion tech,” explained Richard. Last but not least was Danit Peleg. She presented her keynote also via video from New York City. She talked about how 3D printing played a role in her collection and how technology is critical for the future of fashion. Humble and knowledgeable, Danit proved that she is the go-to expert when it comes to 3D printing and everything in between.
“We need support from the Government to make this happen again. If you support me, I am ready to take the challenge again.”
The closing session was made up of a panel of special guests that included the ambassador of the Netherlands Ms Leoni Cuelenaere, Mr Nojibur Rahman, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh and chief guest Tofail Ahmed, the honourable minister of the ministry of commerce of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh. There was a lot of thoughts shared on Bangladesh entering the fashion tech space. The one that stood out for me was said by ambassador embassy of the Netherlands, Leoni, “New technologies have already drastically changed the way we operate. The evolving world of fashion technology should not be involved. Fashion might be fleeting, but technology isn’t.”
Last up was the man who made the event happen. Eight months in the works, Mr Mostafiz Uddin never gave up on his dream of making sure that Bangladesh joined the global conversation about next-generation technology currently shaping many industries. Emotional at times, he told the story of how hard it was to get people to believe in the event he was trying to put together. He admitted that he and his team had to work extra hard to sell their vision. “For us to do this for the second time might not happen. We need support from the Government to make this happen again. If you are willing to support me, I am ready to take on the challenge again.” After thanking everyone who helped breath life into the Bangladesh Fashionology Summit, he left the stage to a roar of applause.