Simon Hjelte on Encouraging Fashion Tech Innovation & Growth in Sweden

As we explore the beating heart of fashion tech in Sweden, we take a moment to have a sit down with Simon Hjelte, the man behind Borås Ink.

We are currently on a FashNerd.com road trip to Sweden to explore how Swedish the fashion industry is utilising technology. On our agenda was Simon Hjelte, the man behind Borås Ink, an incubator that has been attracting disruptive entrepreneurs since 2010 and today’s free event- DeFINE Info Day Borås- being held this week at the Textile Fashion Center in Borås.

Simon Hjelte

What are your thoughts on technology reshaping the fashion industry as a whole?

Generally speaking, I believe that it not only introduces but also demands new business models from brands and actors in the market space. Suddenly ideas that have been failing due to lack in feasibility and complexity can now be conducted with prosperity and even grow to scale. If you know how to build the organisation for it that is.

Borås Ink is an incubator that has been attracting innovative entrepreneurs for a while now, what kind of startups usually apply?

Companies that are aiming to solve problems connected to sustainability, circularity and global market entries founded by non-fashion natives are increasingly coming our way. I believe this is related to their possibility to innovate with an uncontaminated mind in terms of not caring what has to be done or is typically expected from a fashion business pertaining startup. They focus on solving problems and enhancing the quality of life for their potential customers.

“Companies that are aiming to solve problems connected to sustainability, circularity and global market entries founded by non-fashion natives are increasingly coming our way. “

What kind of ‘perks’ does the Borås Ink’s network offer young companies?

Borås is the textile capital of Scandinavia and has been since the mid-1800`s; 1.0 circulated around cotton yarn, cloth and products, 2.0 industrialisation and manufacturing, 3.0 Production agents and logistics and now we are talking about 4.0; Innovative research, smart textiles and smart machinery for digitalised production in a futuristic context. This all means that the network and know how we can offer our startups is unique from a global perspective.

When it comes to your custom-made coaching, how do you encourage innovation?

It is at the heart of everything we do. First of all, we only work with innovative companies who offer something unique to the global market. We apply the LEAN methodology meaning that talking to customers at an early stage is crucial for the company’s progress. To make this possible we provide our startups with a textile innovation maker space as well as a strong connection to the industry and market where they can test the demand from their customers.

“We apply the LEAN methodology meaning that talking to customers at an early stage is crucial for the company’s progress.”

Collaboration and growth seem to be essential when it comes to Borås Ink, are their any previous alumni of your programme that we should have our eye on?

Scalable growth even. We work with solving problems, and if you manage to align great design with problem-solving of innovative hight, you might be lucky enough to disturb the status quo now and then. An exciting company to keep an extra eye on is BITE STUDIOS who exited our incubation program last December. They have been called the “ACNE of sustainable women’s wear”, and we are very excited to support them on their future journey.

You offer BusinessInk and FashionInk, what is the main difference between the two programmes?

The difference is that Businessink supports a broad spectre of technology-based innovations while FashionINK is our niche offering. What makes the combination valuable is that now, as we move more aggressively into the Fashion Tech space, we are already tech natives.

FashionInk is Sweden’s only incubator in textile and fashion; how does it stay ahead of the game on the global stage?

Besides our 150 years long history of working with textile and fashion related businesses creating know-how from multiple aspects we also benefit from Sweden being a small country. Due to this fact, we can collaborate closely with other nodes of niche, such as Stockholm and the Swedish fashion council who are best in class when it comes to communication and branding on the market.

You are part of a consortium of 10 European partners set to deliver the DeFINE Project; how did that come about?

The Swedish school of textiles is a global leader in education and research for textile and fashion. This provides us with unique positioning at a global scale since they are active in numerous projects with innovative, which creates reach even for us. Seeing as they are rooted into smart and innovative textiles It was natural for the consortium project coordinator, PoliMi, to ask us to contribute with support to fashion tech startups in the mentoring programme that the project will be offering.

Borås is organising an information event taking place on Thursday 21st March 2019, tell us a little bit about that?

Our aim together with the consortium is to create a community of fashion and tech innovators around Europe. The end goal is to facilitate entrepreneurs from both areas so that new ideas can prosper and become a company on a global market. The info day is one tool we will use to inform what has been done, is being done and what is possible to do if you can navigate the landscape and purposely combine tech with fashion.

What experts can we look forward to listening too?

As a Swede, I am mainly looking forward to our international speakers such as Matthew Drinkwater who Is a true leader in the fashion tech space. Also, Trust trace who use blockchain to offer traceability is very exciting and “on it”. If you are not Swedish, you should instead focus your attention to ATACAC and Fredrik Timour of the Swedish Fashion Council as they introduce you to innovative business models for fashion made possible by tech and as they intertwine, they become beautiful and natural at the same time.

“As a Swede, I am mainly looking forward to our international speakers such as Matthew Drinkwater who Is a true leader in the fashion tech space.”

What’s next for Borås Ink’?

Next for us is establishing the Swedish community around fashion tech on a European level offering the most substantial offering for entrepreneurs looking to make the world a better place through tech and circularity. We encourage everyone with a similar vision to come to join the revolution.

To find out more about Borås Ink, be sure to read our write up: Borås Ink, A Disruptive Fashion Tech Incubator Changing The Rules Of The Game.

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Founding Editor in Chief at | editor@fashnerd.com | Website

Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.