What is Fashion-Tech, Exactly?

When I set out on a quest to start a fashion tech blog, I thought to myself, "does anyone really know what the heck fashion tech is anymore?" In 2012 we could have explained fashion tech quite simply as the application of technology in the fashion industry to improve the customer experience. Gilt Groupe &  Fab.com (<- read those) would have been great examples. Four years later, a once burgeoning industry is now shrouded in mystery at a time when it's components are as exposed as they have ever been thanks to... technology.

While David Pearce exposed what fashion tech is not (cough, wearables) on WIRED, others have tried articulate what fashion tech is.

To name a few,

Back in 2013, Jennifer Margolin, Founder of the Social Edge Summit, gave her thoughts to Third Wave Magazine,

“In the most basic explanation it’s where technology and fashion have merged to create faster and more innovative ways to shop, market, educate and ultimately experience the fashion industry whether through software, apps or products. In years past the only way to be a part of the fashion industry… was to live in a fashion city (New York, Paris, etc.) and work at a publication house, PR firm or with a designer and work your way up. In the past few years technology has opened the fashion industry wide open.  Bloggers sit in the front row at Fashion Weeks and partner with big fashion brands. It was less then 10 years ago, publications such as WWD and others were saying that e-commerce was a fad and wouldn’t stick as people needed to touch the items they were purchasing.”

In the same Third Wave Magazine post, Rob Sanchez of OS-Fashion proves, once again, he's always one step ahead of the game,

 “A fashion technology company and a technology company in the fashion vertical are distinct entities. A technology company may make a product that can be used in the fashion space or that targets at the fashion vertical. A fashion technology company works with and builds upon the fashion universe by enabling, modifying, or enhancing some unique aspect of the industry.

The best way to explain this is through illustration:

  • An e-commerce solution is a technology company.
  • A curated e-commerce store specializing in women’s wear for the tween crowd is a fashion retailer if using traditional e-commerce solutions (not fashion tech).
  • An e-commerce store selling custom-made dresses that uses crowd-sourced design coupled with geographical data and an algorithm that scans public Facebook photos to determine the current season’s dominant color trend is a fashion technology company.
  • A company that creates a social network that identifies fashion trends and monetizes the network by creating an e-commerce platform that fully integrates with their community is a fashion technology company.

Fashion technology companies are fundamentally rethinking how we shop, purchase, design, source, manufacture, alter, swap, try on, or otherwise engage in the fashion world.”

Three years later, OS-Fashion set out to re-answer this question, What is Fashion -Tech in 2016? To me, definitions became increasingly vague. 

Michael Roderick, Founder & CEO of Small Pond Enterprises explains,

Fashion Tech to me is the merging of two industries to find new ways of exploring each industry. By introducing technological advancements to the world of fashion, we get to create deeper and more interesting conversations in what both technology and fashion can accomplish.

Tamara Austin, Founder of OpenStile goes further,

Fashion is a way for an individual to make a statement and express themselves to the world. Whether or not we subscribe to a trend, keep it simple or complex, make it artistic or utilitarian, it all boils down to self-expression and how we choose to present ourselves. Technology has several different definitions, one of which is the application of information and design in the organization of human activities. The most powerful technologies redefine human behavior – the printing press, personal computer, and social media are all examples of this.

Putting these together, I see Fashion Tech as a space of products that orchestrate the way in which human beings express themselves to the world. With this definition in mind I believe Fashion Tech products adhere to two tenants:

  • They are highly ‘me-focused’ and customizable.
  • They democratize the definition of fashionable by adding a heavy layer of personalization to the space.

As Fashion Tech continues to grow, become more rigid, and birth new sub-categories, one constant is that it will remain an extremely human space driven by disruptive means of self-expression.

So, the conclusion? Fashion technology is an ever evolving organism aiming to use technology for the betterment of fashion and fashioning technology for the eyes of consumers. Far from mature, the fashion world has always been slow to adopt technologies, but at the very least, this is certainly a hot topic. We have seen how we can make the fashion world more approachable through digitization, through blogs, and through social media. Next, we'll dive deep into VR, blockchain, chatbots, AI and all new rapidly developing technologies will play out in the fashion world.

 So the hunt goes on. What is fashion tech?  The intersection of Fashion and technology is where this femmboss will be for the time being. I hope you enjoy the discoveries we make along the way.

xx, fb