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The Future of Fashion & Retail – Accelerating Innovation

“There’ll always be room for retail, but connecting the online with the offline is essential”

On January 23rd, FashHack and Farfetch Dream Assembly had the pleasure to collaborate with London & Partners to host a panel discussion and Q&A with an amazing host of panellists.

      • Hasna Kourda, CEO at Save Your Wardrobe
      • Helen Lax, Director at Fashion District
      • David Grunwald, VP of Innovation at Farfetch
      • Frederic Court, Founder and Managing Partner at Felix Capital.
      • Moderator: Sandra Steving, Head of Innovation at Founders Intelligence

Carol Hilsum, Innovation Director at Farfetch, opens with a presentation about Dream Assembly — the leading fashion tech accelerator funded by FarFetch, who established the program to give back to startup ecosystem from which we emerged. Dream Assembly launches its 4th cohort in April this year.

We’re then off to kick start the panel discussion, and David starts off by talking about data.

‘There is a lot of room with what AI can do with data. I expect this to be a fundamental underpinning to what will happen in the world of fashion and tech in the coming years.’

A point is made about personalisation, and how important it is to leverage data to provide a very personal experience to customers.

Sandra asks Frederic (who makes bets on this space), to outline what it is VC’s look out for when deciding what companies to invest in.

‘We always look through the eyes of the consumer,’ says Felix. ‘We are always trying to find people who can create new ways of telling stories.’

What about the momentum in the sphere of fashion tech?

“The momentum is very much around retail tech; we ran fashion tech innovation challenge award; and noticed that anything with a ‘re’ in it — resale, reuse, repair, recycle — was very popular.’

To thrive in retail tech, Hasna says that their secret at Save Your Wardrobe is to extend the view beyond the purchase. ‘We follow the pattern of behaviours of our users and understand what triggers what actions, this is often data that retailers don’t have access to yet, ’ she says.

Every purchase is driven by indicators and signals,’David says. ‘Few people buy on the spot. Connecting the online and offline is super important.’

The panellists agree that if you don’t have an identity and if you don’t have physical retail — it’s a real problem.

‘Yes. Just look at Jack Wills,’ says Frederic. ‘It used to be really good with its community; at some point it became irrelevant. To remain relevant you have to do well online and in physical spaces.The Glossier store is a good example — women go there just to be there not just to buy, but the store is an extension of this identity.’

At Felix Capital, we are essentially always looking for the intersection of logic and magic.’

And where can early stage startups can find the right resources and investors to help them?

‘Accelerators like Dream Assembly are great, but it’s important that the accelerator is right for the business and vice versa, Helen says.

The great thing about accelerators an incubators is that you can immerse yourself with the right skills for what you need at the time.

Hasna agrees. ‘Each accelerator answered a need at a specific time, and we went through several. We still speak to our mentors 6 months after completing the program! Choose your accelerators wisely and make sure it will answer the need you have.’

The other key thing startups need to remember is to get a challenge from somewhere — stretch and challenge yourself; that’s what any business requires.

If there is one piece of advice to early stage fashion tech startups, it’s to be flexible and willing to adapt. According to David, some companies are far too dogmatic, which is a problem.

‘We look for founders that are aware of how difficult it is to get a partnership with a scale-up; and have absolute faith in their product.’

Frederic emphasises that if your startup doesn’t make it into an accelerator, that it’s not the end of the world. ‘We look for the extraordinary elements of the team,’ he says. ‘You can get a great outcome if you have these elements but didn’t make it into an accelerator program.’

Then, there is the unavoidable topic of sustainability. How can consumers make better choices?

Hasna says that the digital insights tools they have give brands a good understanding of habits view, similar to how you monitor your health on fitbit. There is also huge appetite for an ecosystem of services — like rewear/repair.

‘People are definitely woke by now,’ Helen says. ‘Í think 2020 will be the year where everyone tries to do their part; there is an acknowledgement that this can’t go on.’

Consumers are more prepared to repair and stitch; if this can be turned into a community activity, it would make it a fun thing to do, rather than an obligation.

‘We backed a company called UnMade,’Frederic says. ‘They offer demand-driven manufacturing, reducing wastage.’

The panellists agree that there is big opportunity for innovation. It’s also an amazing time for the resale market — from Vestiaire to others — and some exciting opportunities therein.

The panel opens to questions from the audience, and when asked what companies they think are doing great with gamification and personalisation, David says Nike is a great example.

‘The luxury world can learn a lot from Nike.’

The future of fashion and retail, then, looks to be focused on sustainability as a core theme, authenticity and a strong identity, with a marriage of the offline and online worlds, and plenty of personalisation and gamification.