Tonight I attended the sold-out Farfetch x Fashhack talk, which is part of a series of collaborative events between Farfetch and #Fashhack. The evening function mainly focused on the luxury retail market and how it is rapidly driving the biggest fashion players to innovate. Taking place at Farfetch HQ in central London, the discussion also explored smart inventory management, virtual reality and ‘stores of the future’.
Walking into a crowded room with only 10 minutes to spare before the panellists took to the stage, I found the atmosphere to be quite buzzy and electric. Grabbing a drink, and saying hello to a few familiar faces, I managed to take my seat just before moderator David Grunwald, Farfetch’s VP of Innovation, introduced the panellists. Taking part in the discussion was Mathew Drinkwater, Head of Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, Janosch Amstutz, Founder of HoloMe, Rajeev Aikkara, Global VP of Technology at Burberry, Eva Neumann, Senior Manager Growth Initiatives at Farfetch and Sasha Astafyeva, Principal at Felix Capital.
Innovation Meets Luxury Fashion Retail
Facing a packed room, Grunwald started the conversation by asking the panellists whether they think innovation is essential when it comes to luxury retail. Taking the mic Rajeev Aikkara answered first: “When it comes to innovation, it is important that we find the right partner and also recognise that things are constantly changing. This is an exciting time; customers are changing all the time. To stay relevant and stay ahead you need to think about the next opportunity. What we don’t want is something that looks exciting for day one, day two but no further”.
Taking a different approach Matthew Drinkwater explained: “The expectations of consumers has changed so dramatically. Consumers are demanding much more. They want experiences. The most exciting thing about technology is that it has revolutionised how we connect with the brand. I think what consumers crave is not knowing what to expect. This is why brands need to figure out ways to keep things exciting.” On why innovation is fundamental, Eva added, “Innovation is something we can’t escape. Customers expectations have been raised. The customer expects personalisation, and the good thing is that there is a lot of good startups touching on the problems. This is great because we can’t build on everything in-house.”
“Innovation is something we can’t escape. Customers expectations have been raised.”-Eva Neumann
From an investors perspective, Sasha Astafyeva shared: “There is, risk of using technology just for the sake of technology. It is imperative to think about the scale of the problem you are trying to solve. Very often startups go for smaller problems that do not generate much.” With the panel agreeing that there can be a lot of
Acknowledging that there has been a lot of change in the luxury sector when it comes to innovation, Grunwald asked the panellists what is exciting them in the retail tech space. Taking the mic first Matt admitted: “I am excited about immersive technologies and smart materials”. Amstutz confessed: “I am excited about AR and where it is going. The market is huge enough for larger retailers to take advantage, but they have been slow to adopt. I am sure in the coming years we will see AR integrated into our real world”. While Astafyeva added: “We are excited by retail tech. Although the technology for in-store innovation is not where it should be,
“Return of investment is difficult. Companies need to look at technology as a long term commitment because that is how we get beyond the gimmick”-Matthew Drinkwater
Staying with Astafyeva, Grunwald asked her what will luxury innovation look like in 10 years? Taking a slight pause, she said: “The future will be customer-centric and approachable. The industry will use technology to make things sustainable.” Opening up the question to the rest of the panel, Neumann was the first to answer: “I think generations will bring a lot of change. So as Generation Z becomes bigger; we need to think ahead of how to serve the customers. Concerning geography, we cannot ignore China. A lot of big companies are thinking about how to adapt and be more customer-centric. In the past, there was a sort of arrogance, and now companies need to think about the customer”.
Handed the mic next Aikkara said: “The Future will definitely introduce us to a different way of telling the customer the story.” Agreeing Amstutz added: “I think in 10 years we will get an online or digital experience that matches what you get in-store. On top of that, I think how fashion will be sold will change. Using influencers to sell fashion is just the beginning because there is really no ceiling to what we can create.” Smiling as he is handed the mic next, Drinkwater, said with a
Realising that their conversation was reaching the one hour mark, Grunwald turned to the audience and shared how fascinated he was by how technology has been adopted in China, turning to the panel he asked what their thoughts were on China and its adoption of luxury innovation. In response, Aikkara said: “QR codes did not take off here, but they did in China. So when businesses build something they need to make sure it operates everywhere.” Neumann shared: “I think China use of social and conversation commerce is something that we in the west are behind on. Also payment, China looks like it could be the first to become a cashless society. In a lot of things, China is far ahead, and we can learn from those developments.”
Looking at his Applewatch once more, Grunwald turned to the audience and announced that unfortunately, time was up and the discussion had come to an end. As the audience gave the participants a round of applause, Grunwald asked whether there were any questions, and in a matter of seconds, quite a few hands shot up, to the amusement of some of the panellists.