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What better way to kick off the party season in London than with our Christmas Meetup! Taking over the new BL-NK venue in Shoreditch, we were joined by NET-A-PORTER’s Group Mobile Manager, Sarah Watson giving us some insight into their latest mobile adventure.

NET-A-PORTER have had a fair busy year, one year ago (almost to the day) they started work on a new project focussing on four main areas; influence from others, social community, a place where they could spy on what everyone is doing and loving on the site, and surfacing new products from the the site. Initially they looked at the NAP live feed, and creating a feed around this, but it felt like something was missing, it needed a community feel that would resonate with people. Brainwave- the diary! Everyone has one to jot down ideas and it feels personal, so that became the “visual metaphor” and so the The Netbook was born.

The Netbook is a social shopping app allowing users to see what’s happening on the site and also have a nose at what other people are liking and buying. To start off the app is invite only. Why? “So we could start our community as we mean to go on, making sure we get those key people. Who do we want to drive this community, the people that love fashion, the bloggers, the celebrities, the designers.” The second reason, to make sure the user gets the best experience helping them scale the product effectively. At this stage they “treat themselves as a startup, rather than going with what’s expected, they can go with the unexpected”. A pretty impressive startup, in just two months they have already got a waiting list of several thousand people! And creating the app to act as it’s own social network alongside the likes of the heavy weights. Watson stated “Facebook has fans. Twitter had followers NET- A- PORTER has “admirers.”

We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Our showcase took a walk through three top trends in the Fashion Tech space; fit solutions, retail analytics and visual search.

Incubated by H-Farm, XYZE skyped in from Italy to explain their re-sizing technology for fashion. With so many fit solutions around this is quite different from the rest using a wearable digital meter to match an individual’s measurements to the right size clothing. Integrates with e-tailers and bricks and mortar stores to improve a personalised shopper experience and reduce return rates for the store. We are incredibly excited to see how these guys develop in the next 6 months.

Next up Milan’s Fashion Pitch winners Viewsy, taking on in-store analytics. Stating that “£10.66, every pound that you put into online marketing analytics puts around this back into your pocket”, so if retailers and brands are putting this in online, what are they doing offline?

Viewsy technology is based in store, cutting down the detail, seeing how long the customers interact with merchandise, time spent in store, where they are in store and many more metrics. How? It’s a passive and anonymous device using cellphone signals to take information from the phone .

Using their time to get the audience to ask the questions, Viewsy kicked off with “What you measure, is what you can manage, right? So how does it work?”. Distance of accuracy was the first challenge, the team compare with real life, trawling through hours of video footage to cross-check against what their model is saying. “Our dwell time is accurate to under 30 seconds, with loyalty at 96%” – pretty impressive! Another challenge, what makes them better than their US competitor? “Our data quality is our reputation and our brand” as an enterprise company they focus on large retailers, installing properly within stores, focussing on customer journey and most importantly elevating the importance of their data accuracy.

With engineers from Facebook, Amazon & Google amongst their team, we can’t wait to see more from the team as they continue to close the omni-channel loop.

ASAP54 took to the mic last, with CEO Daniela Cecilio describing fashion as being both emotional and visual. How do you put the two together? ASAP54. Born out of frustration trying to find an Alexa Chung worn jumper through search terms on Google, Cecilio looked to do this through image recognition.

The app allows the user to upload or take a picture and within 5 seconds the results will “pop”, finding a match to the item along with similar items, where you can click through and buy from the retailer site. A social element to the app, allows the user searches to get fed into your profile, so you can see what other users are searching, to then follow for inspiration.

Now here’s the clever bit, if you are unhappy with the result, you can click the “can’t find” button and your request is taken to the in-house styling team to find your item. “When automatic fails, personal steps in”. Setting them apart from the rest, ASAP54 are a Fashion company not a Tech company, taking a Fashion approach to technology!

See you in the New Year, for our next London edition!

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Thanks to everyone that made it down to last week’s Meetup! We heard from four great startups Olapic, Smartgift, Truefit and Stylitics all with very different tools that are driving eCommerce conversion.

We’d like to give a special thanks to our hosts at Gilt and Andrew F. Chen, Gilt Director of Product Management who works with Gilt’s Ninjas—the team responsible for designing the Infiniti sale and other exciting initiatives. His focus is on activation and brand excitement, and he gave some incredible insight into the inner workings of Gilt HQ.

Here are the best bits….

Drawing on his background at iHeart Radio, Chen likens trying to figure out which bands users want to listen to and which brands users want to purchase to figure out what the Gilt customer wants to buy.

“We want to make sure that new users will understand what Gilt’s about and make a purchase as soon as possible.”  To achieve that, he focuses on the current trends below:

1. Personalization and relevance:  The goal is to make sure that in those 5 – 10 minutes spent on a website, a user gets to see what they want to see.

2. E-segmentation: A lot of smaller e-commerce companies are being born, companies like Bauble Bar or Dollar Shave Club who are really focusing on those niche segments and are optimizing those websites.

3. Mobile devices:  Smart phones are simply being used for all kinds of purchases! “We sell $10,000 handbags; we have sold cars on our site,” said Chen. “Upwards of 50% of our customers are making purchases through their mobile device.” Therefore, creating an experience based on learning and understanding of consumers’ mobile intent is crucial for GILT.

4. Customer loyalty and affinity: Reward programs have been around for several years, trying to make customers feel invested in the platform. “A really important thing to give our customers is a reason to come back, because they know how the site works, they feel comfortable there and they might have points or special discounts they can use,” said Chen.

5. A/B testing: Already prominent in Silicon Valley, testing – qualitative and quantitative – is pretty new territory to New York. Using data to support the features you one is rolling out is incredibly important. “One of the reasons that I decided to join Gilt is because they do testing correctly, and it’s not only the platform or the tools that have been implemented here, but it’s actually a culture of testing,” he said.  Optimizely and Spotfire are among his favorite tools. According to Chen, the product should be optimised at every point: from acquisition, to registrations, to browsing, to checkout, all the way to cart image checkout and post checkout. “All these things are a life cycle that you always have to be measuring, always have to be testing, and always have a pulse on because competition is always going to be changing”. The users expectations are always changing and so your site should be changing to match this cycle.

dfOur showcase was next with the topic: Tools to increase conversion.

Taking on the gauntlet first Olapic’s Director, Brand and Strategy & Partnerships Zoe Neuschatz. Olapic uses visual content created by the consumer to create and enhance the shopping experience. It cleverly taps into the huge source of readily available content created through social channels to tell a brand’s story through curated customer photos and videos. Brands have complete control over imagery used and access to analytics so they understand what increases sales. Why it works? It allows companies to recognize their users at point of purchase, while for the consumer it gives them a real experience when shopping online.

Next up and perfectly timed for the holidays, Smartgift an online gifting technology for retailers. Two years of study took place to create the ideal solution that takes into account all characteristics of what makes the perfect gift; time spent, personality of recipient and personalization. In simple terms, it is a button that integrates into a brand’s site turning the purchase into a gift, which then transfers all choices to the recipient. All the gifter needs is the recipient’s email and the rest is taken care of.

Tackling the problem of fit, Truefit works with around 1000 brands (including GILT) and seeing a lift of 6x in conversions whilst also driving down returns! Truefit says it manages the largest database of apparel, footwear and consumer fit data and their personalized fit software ensures consumers know exactly what size to buy and how it will fit. It’s basically like creating a blueprint of every user and every item they recommend, the more they learn about each item and user.

Our final startup, pleading its conversion case was Stylitics. CEO, Rohan Deuskar spoke about the concept of digital closets and how his company holds the world’s largest pool of closet data. He is focused on how this consumer data can be used for the brand and retailer. While the consumer clicks away on their app sharing and creating looks with friends, Stylitics picks up real-time trend insights on what’s trending to feed back to retailers. They are rolling out an impressive dashboard, and seeking to become an essential market research tool for the fashion industry.

Next week, Decoded Meetups heads to London, and back to New York for the holidays. See you next time!

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 In the heart of the Fashion District at  Grind’s new office space, Decoded Fashion  got all “touchy-feely” with our lingerie  speakers.

 First up we heard from Tom Patterson,  founder of Tommy John Wear, who, after  becoming tired of purchasing bad fitting  undershirts, decided to do it himself.

 In 2009, the company launched their  underwear line in 15 Neiman Marcus retail  stores with a result of 15% sell through in thefirst 30 days.  A couple of months later, the company was selling their products in all Neiman Marcus stores across the US as well as Nordstrom.

Tom left some wise words for our audience: “make sure the product is different, it has a niche and it’s necessary in the market“.

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Next up was Fleur du Mal’s founder, Jennifer Zuccarini, whose resume makes quite an impressive read. Jennifer has previously co-founded Kiki de Montarpasse and worked as a design director at Victoria’s Secret.

Founded in 2008, Fleur du Mal has developed a next generation mobile site by partnering with Usablenet. Their goal, was to build a series of brick-and-mortar pop-up shops that would endlessly bring the shopping experience back to mobile. We were certainly impressed by this venture!

Then, it was time for the new kids on the block – two startups in the beginning stages of growing their presence.

Revolution Wear’s David Frederick gave us a mind boggling demo of the male product Frigo.

Invented in Sweden, the product offers its users an adjustable band at the waist as well as a pouch, referred to by David as a “bra for your boys”. YES, that’s right, a bra for your boys! Launching in Macy’s and Neiman Marcus this October.

Our final speaker Orit Hashay, is the founder of Brayola, a startup that aims to help women find the right bra minus the fitting process. How? By creating a personalized virtual dresser and through a process of women crowdsourcing. Brayola analyzes the reviews of other women and uses these reviews to recommend specific products to other women who have similar tastes and size.

It didn’t end there!  To wrap up the evening we heard from the experts, Claire Chambers, CEO of Journelle and Lawrence Lenihan, Founder and Managing Director of FirstMark Capital.

Claire gave us the lowdown on how lingerie fits into 3 categories;  perfect fit, problem solving and lifestyle and brands. So what does Journelle do? It merges those three categories together, creating a multi-brand lingerie store carrying the best in designer brands (Journelle’s new site will be launching this September).

The final words came from the man with the money – Lawrence Lenihan – as he give the audience insight into finding the right startups to invest in, such as Pinterest and Shopify.

He mentioned that it’s a very long road to success, which comes with a lot of trial and error. He believes that history is changing for brands; “brands are now connecting directly to its customers and that customer is the one that defines that brand, that relationship defines that brand”.

Emotional connection is key in building a successful brand; it’s not about creating a strategic plan based on raising profit, but it’s about understanding their specific target, knowing their customer and figuring out the right way to connect with their customer.

PHEWWW! We feel informed.
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Our last Startup Showcase with Glamour Magazine presented at Condé Nast was packed with interesting demos and valuable tips for startup founders on how to approach a top publication for a possible partnership.The evening’s keynote speaker was Mike Hofman, Executive Digital Director at Glamour Magazine, who shared a few tips for founders on how to pitch to the publication.

Hofman, a former INC magazine writer who covered startups, said that he frequently meets with founders pitching him a new idea. Decoded Fashion founder Liz Bacelar asked him how he navigates the ocean of pitches, and determines what’s worthwhile.

 Many startups don’t understand their competition, Hofman said. “The person who thinks about having no competition usually doesn’t have the best business idea. When startups have competition…there’s a real business here; it’s are not just an idea.”

Startups must understand that onboarding a solution might take a lot more time than (the founders) expect and too much aggressiveness in the pitch is not really appreciated, he proffered and also suggested that entrepreneurs avoid presenting their ideas close to fashion weeks – February and September – which are the busiest time of the year for the fashion industry.

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According to Hofman, the most successful companies typically have been the least  reliant on funding.  “As a result of that, they have gotten really good at sales and have modified their original ideas so that they work with what the customers want, as opposed to where they thought the market should be,” he said.

He also shared that Glamour and GQ were the first magazines to launch digital video networks. Glamour, he said, is very focused on social media, including video platforms such as Instagram and Vine.

The evening wasn’t all words and no tech. It was kicked off with demos via Skype with SayDuck, an augmented reality app from London and StyleSaint, a Los Angeles-based social platform that gave a sneak preview of a fashion collection inspired by its users. The platform will be launching this summer.

The chat was also followed with three quick startup presentations:

Shapeways spoke about the evolution of 3D printing for fashion and how on-demand production will change the industry. Carine Carmy, Director of Marketing, also predicted that, within the next two years, the technology will be at the point where it’ll give a new definition to the term ‘printed fabrics.’

Aubrie Pagano, founder of Bow & Drape, walked the audience through the customization tools on her site and revealed that due to personalization, the site’s return rate on items is very low.

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Lastly, Lucas Lemanowicz, developer of the recently launched startup 42, demoed a dashboard that allows retailers to customize consumer experience based on past purchases, as well as allowing them to easily identify the items that sell the most, and the customers who spend the most in a store.

The next Decoded Fashion Startup Showcase will be an anniversary celebration for the almost 800-member group and it will take place Wednesday, July 24, at the new GRIND located, appropriately enough,
in the Fashion District. To reserve your spot, visit www.DecodedFashion.com

 

 

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This week, PSFK featured a story about the search engine, Snap Fashion. The app, is a visual search service that uses image recognition to find items. Using Snap Fashion is as simple as snapping a photo and uploading it to the site. Snap Fashion will then search for matches of that particular item in order for the users to purchase them. Some of the retailers involved with Snap Fashion are Net-a-Porter, Topshop and Asos, among others.

Snap Fashion’s founder, Jenny Griffiths, is the winner of the 2012 Decoded Fashion London competition. She has said on previous interviews that she’s “a bit of a nerd” and had worked on the algorithm for Snap Fashion while in college.

Snap Fashion has reached 100,000 users since its launch in September 2012.

You can read the PSFK article here: Snap Fashion PSFK

We took a new industry intersection last week with our monthly tech showcases. It was all about Beauty –  and the “Pucker Up! Decoded Beauty” event included three cool demos  – Beautified, Merocrat, and iScent – as well as an insightful industry chat with Refinery29.

Our event, hosted at Soho’s WeWork, featured a candid conversation with our special guest Annie Tomlin, Director of Beauty at Refinery29. She acknowledged the need for Tech innovation in the beauty sector and urged tech founders to tune up to possibilities.

“Beauty is often treated like fashion’s little sister. But beauty is where the readers are,” said Tomlin. “The main reason that Fashion-Tech is already developed and Beauty isn’t, is that people aren’t learning about each other’s industries.”

Tomlin asked Tech founders to try to understand the Beauty industry and grasp current opportunities and needs. While there are lots of redundant ideas in Fashion & Tech, there is still very little happening in Beauty.

Lastly, she said that those with a great startup pitch touching upon beauty should feel free to reach out to her directly for a possible story on R29.

The Beautified app team opened its demo with a question: “Why isn’t there a way to book a last-minute beauty appointment?” Founders Annie Evans, Hannah Bronfman, and Peter Hananel said that the lack of last-minute booking options prompted them to build their product.

Beautified invites users to escape chipped nails and bad hair days right now in three easy steps: download, explore, book. The main challenge for the team is to optimize their twofold business model, including both B2B and B2C. Although in its pre-Beta stages, the Beautified trio has already been covered in Vogue and Fashionista.com, and has partnerships with brands like Shibui Spa, Oscar Blandi, John Barrett, and Equinox.

Merocrat followed, aiming to tackle another issue in the Beauty industry: the supply and demand of freelancers. Viktoria Ruubel co-founded the company to offer creative professionals a marketplace where they can upload their portfolios, contact freelancers, and find project-based job opportunities. Users range from makeup artists and hairstylists to designers and photographers. Merocrat went into private beta in October 2012, and according to Ruubel, currently has more than 2,500 users in 21 countries.

The evening was concluded with a demo by Ken Lonyai and Debra Benkler, who invited our attendees to try their dry-air fragrance sampling system, iScent. Previously used by Saks Fifth Ave and Rimmel London, iScent is digitally controlled to release a dry-air fragrance sample that dissipates in only 10 seconds! The system aims to prevent the headaches that make customers reluctant to shop for perfumes, while helping brands retain their customers for an extended time.

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There is no question that 2013 is the year of 3D. Our news and social media feeds have been saturated with articles discussing Dita von Teese rocking a 3D gown printed by Shapeways, 3D printed skull implants, shoes and, frankly, just about everything else 3D. Apart from disrupting industries and giving us insights into the future of tech, 3D printing remains expensive and printers few.

Enter Dreambox, a vending machine (yes, a vending machine) that promises to make 3D prints accessible for everyone at a reasonable rate. Founders Will Drevno, David Pastewka and Ricard Berwick agree that the idea came about as a result of their own frustrations with 3D printing on the UC Berkeley campus. “It was hard to get access to the 3D printing because of the long queues. Ordering from online companies would take 10-12 days and was very expensive.”

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Dreambox doesn’t only make 3D printing faster and more accessible; it also makes it inexpensive and easy to use. In essence, it works just as any other online printing service you might use. You can order your printed designs online or unload them using a USB stick, choose the model you want from an online library, press print, and pick up your finalized 3D print from a Dreambox near you.

Drevno, Pastewka, and Berwick will introduce the first vending machine on the UC Berkeley campus, but hope to place them throughout the United States. We can’t help but wonder how this will eventually change the Fashion industry and if Dreambox will mark the true democratization of 3D prints.

In the past year, DVF has introduced us to Google Glass, we have speculated about Apple’s wristwatch, and been wowed by the projections on Carrie Underwood’s Grammy Dress designed by Don O’Neill.

All of these innovations are at the intersection of fashion and tech and offer plenty of benefits in a technology-dependent world. Google Glass, for instance, allows for constant Internet access, taking photos, and recording videos, but its starting cost of $1,500 is more than many of us are willing to give for a pair of not-so-attractive glasses.

However, Google might be taking a step in the right direction to stylish wearability by partnering with eyewear designer Warby Parker. The NYC startup, whose hip and affordable glasses have taken most of us by storm, is rumored to be in talks with Google about revamping Google Glass and placing it back in the fashion spotlight. Warby Parker seems to be a suitable partner for Google, as they have successfully used technology to directly engage with their customers and continuously improve their products.

Will Google x Warby Parker break the mold to create the first wearable and fashionable electronic? We sure are excited to find out!

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Tech and fashion, together, took over the runway to close out Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, yesterday, at the first forum in the Tents to discuss the future of fashion from a technology standpoint. The Stage was packed with 500 attendees for Decoded Fashion Forum, presented by Conde Nast, with a lineup of top speakers including designer Zac Posen, Candy Pratts Price, Foursquare Founder Dennis Crowley, and the finale of the Fashion Hackathon.

Fab.com’s founders talked about selling 25 products a minute, Vogue invited Crowley to the Calvin Klein show and Gilt Groupe’s founder said “API” under the Tents. Tumblr’s Fashion Evangelist called the event “brilliant,” and Stylitics’ Founder Rohan Deuskar described the mergence of fashion and tech as “just the beginning of something incredible.”

Several attendees noted the diversity of the crowd, which included fashion editors, early-stage startup founders, and executives from brands including Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Stuart Weitzman, and Michael Kors. Social media proves it, with top Tweets and Instagrams from LaForce + Stevens, Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive, Council of Fashion Designers of America, Fab.com founder Jason Goldberg, and Startup Bus engineers. (Check the hashtags #DFNYC and #FashionHack!)

The conversations touched on major topics, from e-commerce best practices to advancements in production processes with 3-D printing.

8474021399_f4d7f27dd0_bThe defining thread among all the speakers was the importance of customer engagement to drive business, whether that be incorporating content with commerce, building partnerships with a brand with a similar mission, or being the first to conquer a platform. As much as data plays a major role in the business aspect, brands must also focus on relationships.

“We have always looked at content through data and analytics, but also embracing relationships with influencers,” explained Refinery 29’s Co-Founder and CEO Philippe von Borries. His fashion website has grown 1,936 percent in the past three years and made $8.6 million in 2011, not something easily accomplished by just looking at spreadsheets.

Foursquare is working on building new partnerships with luxury influencers to move toward becoming a destination for social discovery. Many simplify the company to check-ins and rewards. Crowley defied the simplification that Foursquare is just check-ins and rewards with details on their development of VIP programs for high fashion brands and collaborations with style magazines, including Lucky.

Model Coco Rocha has built a fan base by showcasing a behind-the-scenes look at the modeling and fashion industry through 13 different social media platforms she runs herself. Most recently, her Vine—short videos you can create on your smartphone—has given even Decoded Fashion an insiders look at NYFW’s Fall 2013 collections.

Posen offered a different perspective on his use of technology. “Social media allows me to control my privacy, by supplying the demand for information about my brand,” he told WIRED’s Editor-in-Chief Scott Dadich during the Fashion Keynote.

His advice to young founders, however, transcends fashion and tech boundaries: “Keep it small. It’s really important to build integrity and keep your hands on every part of it.”

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Decoded Fashion announced SWATCHit, a platform for connecting designers and artisians, as the winner of the Fashion Hackathon, taking home $10,000 and the the opportunity to have their app launched by the CFDA.

In a very close competition, SWATCHit out-pitched two other finalists—Coveted, one-click purchasing for Tumblr, and 42, in-store retail analytics tools—for the top prize.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” said SWATCHit’s Jagjeet Gill, who is currently earning her MBA at MIT.

The finalists were chosen during The Fashion Hackathon, a 24-hour event where 550 registered participants and 78 teams competed to build a technology that helps American fashion designers. It was held Feb. 2-3, at the Alley NYC.

Some of the projects were inspired by the Fashion Brief, a conversation with designer Rachel Roy, DKNY’s Aliza Licht, Rebecca Minkoff’s Uri Minkoff, Michael Kors’ Farryn Weiner, and the CFDA’s Kelly McCauley and Sideways’ Nathaniel Catanio, on what areas of the fashion industry could utilize technology to increase efficiency and drive business. Others, like Coveted, were conceived prior to the Hackathon.

“I had this idea for about a year, but never had time to work on it,” said Michael Dizon, of Coveted. “At a Hackathon, you have to do it in 24 hours.”

The finalists pitched to a panel of fashion judges including Minkoff, CFDA’s CEO Steven Kolb, Style.com’s Editor-in-Chief Dirk Standen, designer Zac Posen, and Gilt Groupe’s founder Alexis Maybank, each of which asked some tough questions to the hackathon teams before determining SWATCHit the winner.

All the finalists took home a collection of prizes from the CFDA, DKNY, GAP, Gilt Groupe, Bonobos, Macallan, Samsung, Refinery 29, and Quotidian Ventures.