Tag: designer

More Subway & Less Runway, Getting Wearable Tech In Front of Buyers

I love Hussein Chalayan. To me he is the originator of wearable technology. While his pieces are more runway and less subway, I believe that he crosses the barriers between the tech imaginary and fashion- simply amazing. The new wave of fashion tech designers are looking to go beyond the runway and start to make products that can be added to the closet and worn regularly.

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Technology and fashion can mean many things, not just adding lights to a jacket. Designers these days are looking to create new materials, fibers and design products that are symbiotic with your lifestyle- aesthetics first. While designers have been playing with new wearable tech products for a few years it has yet to be taken seriously by the mass market. Maybe because wearable tech sounds funny?

Aside from renaming the industry (a personal thought), there needs to be a platform to sell these products. Do they fit in the advanced contemporary market? Is it aspirational luxury? How does one classify? Tech News reported back in April that TopShop was sponsoring a contest with Imarks to support brands in gaining visibility from buyers. TopShop was also providing free business education and mentoring. Its important to see relevant players in the retail space get behind fostering new talent especially in wearable tech since the field is very young.

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Just a couple weeks ago, Mashable reported on the new press on nails by Oyster that allow you to hop on your subway ride with your nails! Talk about simplicity.

For designers who are interested in innovating into wearable tech I suggest signing up for the Third Wave Fashion blog. They are one of the first accelerator programs specifying in fashion technology. If you happen to live in Paris, I suggest checking out the accelerator program sponsored by Galeries Lafayette: Lafayette Plug & Play. It is a dual program between Paris and Silicon Valley. You will get the opportunity to be mentored by VP’s at Birchbox, Galeries Lafayette and Farfetch, and have the opportunity to work with VC’s in shaping your business. You can apply here.

As the former Director of startup, AHAlife, I know how amazing and energizing it can be to work in the tech space. It can also be demanding. There are unchartered waters you are entering and unlike traditional business models you are mastering the synergy between U/X, utility and product. There is more on the line when you work with investors, so I suggest taking your product ideas to platforms like Indiegogo (check out this cool campaign by Zenta) where you can crowdfund the resources to play with new ideas. I remember backing a project that ultimately never came to market (FIN), and I wonder how many other projects on this list will never ship (Digital Trends). But that is part of the fun of it. We are in an age of exploring. What you make today might be irrelevant next year. We all know that we need to wear pants, so I guess if we wanted to play it safe we would go into that market. But that’s just not the beauty of life. We were all meant to make something happen, and if fashion tech speaks to you “Bon Chance”.

I am a retail strategist and consultant for startup and growth stage fashion brands and retailers. Working through a business model? Email hello@scalingretail.com

Crossing Gender Lines – Should You Branch Out?

Anya Hindmarch just announced her men’s collection launch with leather goods and accessories, and last month Stella McCartney announced she would be debuting a men’s collection in November. It’s no wonder that brands are moving into the men’s market; with $440B in annual sales it’s certainly a market share worth capturing. Menswear designers have been making the transition to women’s as well. Brands like Rag & Bone, Public School and designers like Hedi Slimane have only in the recent past branched out to design for women. The women’s market clocks in a hefty $670B yearly.

As a growing brand you are probably wondering how this all affects you. Should you rush to develop a collection for the opposite sex simply to make more money? How should you test the waters? Lets break it down.

First- It’s important to address that collections can be designed androgynously, but when it comes to walking down the runway or showing the pieces in a lookbook you will most likely ascribe gender. The Squad, a knitwear brand out of LA does a great job of creating for both, but you will notice that the collections do have clear cross over between genders.

Second- Aside from aesthetics, the two products are very different. Women’s sizing versus Men’s sizing and fit. If your brand is very tailored for women, you will need to bring in the tailoring for men. This might mean hiring a new product developer to help create your designs.

Third- Branding, sales and marketing. It’s not easy to just create a women’s line after having a men’s line. You will need to pitch to different stores, develop a new marketing strategy and evolve what your brand identity is. This can be especially tricky if your collection will be produced under the same name and your brand identity was very gendered to begin with. Sometimes brands will create a diffusion name to help with creating a “new” brand.

Accessories are the easiest transition to cross genders. Anya Hindmarch did this as she introduced a collection of briefcases and iPhones marketed for men. If you notice that your collection already appeals to both markets try testing out different color ways and fabrics to see how each gender reacts. What’s also interesting about Anya’s story is that she waited until enough men were purchasing her products to warrant the creation of a new line.

Clothing can be difficult for the above-mentioned reasons, but it doesn’t mean the market demand wouldn’t make it worth your while. Smaller brands like The Squad do so with a small team and a highly focused vision. My opinion is to always think big and make a timeline for your growth. If you want to expand then start thinking about it now even if it won’t be for another few years. Retail is a long tail game, so play it to last.

If you are ready to develop a launch or growth strategy for your business send an email to hello@scalingretail.com

Custom Blazers: Maddy Maxey

Interesting interview with Maddy Maxy from Open Forum. Its exciting to see  a woman learning code and enter into fashion tech on her own.

TAKEAWAY: Getting scrappy is important, if even to learn the elements you may need to eventually hire out for.

“Maddy Maxey is determined to be perpetually caffeinated. It’s a strategy integral to her success. “I think it’s important to have coffee with as many interesting people as you can. As your network grows, it gets easier to receive input on your business ideas,” she says. “I have three coffee meetings today, which is great because I happen to love coffee.”

Maxey is an idea-generating machine. Interested in fashion, she began taking sewing classes at 8 years old and landed a summer internship with Tommy Hilfiger at age 16. Maxey graduated from a San Diego high school in spring 2011 and went straight to Parsons The New School for Design in New York City on scholarship, determined to be a fashion designer.

It wasn’t too long, though, before school started to bore her. She quit after one semester and, in spring 2012, launched Madison Maxey, a custom-made line of women’s blazers. Also interested in computer programming, Maxey taught herself to code and came up with the idea for a software company that would help speed up the garment-making process, by turning a photo of a customer into a pattern that would fit that customer perfectly.

Now all she needed was money. She was granted a Thiel Fellowship, where she received $100,000 toward her business goal and agreed not to go back to college for two years. Today, at 20 years old, she is working hard to make her dreams of fashion innovation a reality.


How did you develop an interest in fashion?

My dad was 6’6”, and he had to sew a lot of his own clothes while I was growing up. I found that interesting, so I decided to take sewing classes when I was young and it just went from there.

When I was in high school, I made a commitment to sew one garment per week, just to learn. I made costumes for school plays, and a few times girls hired me to make their prom dresses.

Why did you decide to quit Parsons after one semester?

I enjoyed school, but realized that the experience I had in high school and during internships was the same thing others were going to college for. They were learning things I’d already spent hours reading up on at night when I was younger.

How did you decide to start Madison Maxey?

I went to a private school, so we had to wear blazers. None of them fit me the way I’d hope they would, so I thought about making them better. Madison Maxey dissolved in January 2013.

Why isn’t the company still around?

Production was pretty tricky. Making custom pieces in the U.S. is really expensive. I didn’t want to outsource, so I went to Chinatown in New York City and asked around to see if there was anyone who made clothing. No one would talk to me. It was a struggle.

The price point was just too much. And I wasn’t selling to my peers. The blazers were meant for older women and it was hard to break into that market. Plus, I had a co-founder who was still in school and our priorities drifted apart.

How did you become interested in the Thiel Fellowship?

By mid-2012, I’d become interested in technology and how it could change the face of fashion. My sister told me about the fellowship and I immediately wanted to be part of it. During the application process, I pitched a concept called Meld, which is an enterprise software system that would optimize garment manufacturing. Basically, someone would be able to take a photo of a customer and translate that photo into the perfect pattern for the customer’s body.

I was granted the fellowship on May 9 and love it so far. Fellows are not allowed to have outside jobs, which is great because it allows us the freedom and time to work on our projects.

How is your fellowship project going?

Well, I can’t really talk about the specifics, but basically I’m working on getting the technology made for this product. I’ve found another company that is working on similar things. They have the tech know-how and I have the fashion know-how, so we are talking about working together on this project.

In the meantime, I am trying to be a better computer programmer, so I’m planning to launch a new project called Crafted in mid-August, right before fashion week in New York. Crafted will be a digital content site for upcoming designers and factories. It will provide information about starting a fashion business. I’m hiring writers and designers now. It is really exciting.

Taking off time from college can be seen as a big risk. Do you recommend other young entrepreneurs do the same?

I think it really depends on your track record, the way you learn and your motivation to do things on your own. I believe that if you’re ambitious, hardworking and snappy, you will be successful no matter what. You might fail, but you will learn so much in the process. Life is about experience and sometimes it makes sense to give yourself four years of time—instead of debt—to work on whatever you want to do if you are destined to be successful anyway. ”