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camille

Camille Fournier is the Vice President of Technical Architecture at Rent The Runway, a New York City startup described as the “Netflix of Fashion.” She was recruited to the startup by a friend who said that Rent The Runway was more complex than the average e-commerce startup. “Boy he was right!”

We chatted with Camille about her simultaneous love of style and computer programming, Rent The Runway’s top challenges and her views on the future of fashion tech.

Decoded Fashion: What is your background with technology? With fashion?
Camille Fournier: I have been into technology since I first learned to write programs in Logo in grade school. I studied computer science at Carnegie Mellon University for my B.S., and later at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my M.S. I’ve loved both technology and fashion from a young age. I like to joke that my current job combines a love of tech that I cultivated in middle and high school with my 5-year-old dreams of becoming a fashion designer.

DF: What are your challenges as VP of Technical Architecture of Rent The Runway?
CF: My most important job is scaling our technical architecture to meet our business growth. This means I must tackle some well-known growth challenges such as scaling our website to handle additional capacity and scaling our software to enable developers to develop new features quickly. It also means that I must lead the team in tackling problems that are very unique to Rent the Runway.

We are not your typical e-commerce company. Because of our rental model, we share problem sets with industries like car rental or airlines; you’re not just buying something, you’re renting it for a short period of time, so we must factor in a hugely complex logistical pipeline. No one else out there is renting high-value items like this for very short periods of time, so we’ve had to develop our own warehouse software, and this is a major challenge for my team.

DF: How do you feel Rent The Runway has changed the fashion industry?
CF: Our goal is to democratize luxury, and I believe we are succeeding in that goal. We’re introducing women to luxury brands that they may have never been able to afford to purchase, but they can rent for a special event.

We are also bringing a set of data into the industry that most traditional retailers do not have access to. We use data to predict what women will want to wear based on actual rental patterns, and since our inventory is experienced by many women, we’re really able to understand what kinds of looks, fabrics, and cuts are actually desirable.

DF: What are some new features or products that Rent The Runway is working on?
CF: We have an enormous catalog of styles, and we’re constantly working on ways to help women find the styles that they will like best. Fit is a major challenge for us, we want to make sure that women will have a great experience when they rent and a big part of that is finding styles that fit well. We’re constantly evaluating how we present fit information and customer reviews to our users so that they can find styles guaranteed to fit them well.

DF: Where do you see Rent The Runway in 5 years?
CF: I believe that we can grow into markets beyond the United States, taking our vision to democratize fashion around the world. I think that we will also have solved the problem of fit beyond simple algorithms and will be able to deliver perfectly fitting dresses every time,

DF: What do you think is a top problem in the fashion industry that tech can help solve?
CF: The fashion industry has always relied on a few tastemakers to determine what to make, season after season. Tech can bring a set of data to the table that helps the fashion industry understand who their customers truly are, what they are buying, and helps designers reach the right audience. I don’t think that data will ever take the place of creativity but I think the two can work together to produce beautiful results.

DF: What tips do you have for early-stage fashion-tech entrepreneurs?
CF: It’s not just about social and mobile. The hard but profitable problems will probably involve logistics and a lot of data…more Amazon than Vogue.

Camille will be a mentor at the Fashion Hackathon, Feb. 2-3, at the Alley NYC. Look for her to chat fashion tech! @skamille

keynotes

What do fashion designer Zac Posen and Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley have in common?

They will both be making history as the keynotes for the first ever tech forum at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. A creative combination, they will represent the best of high fashion design and traditional tech founders, each explaining their unique contributions to fashion and tech.

Crowley will cover a topic for the first time in public. (Hint: It has to do with new users of Foursquare in a unique space and how they have adopted and developed campaigns.) Similarly, Posen, a leader in luxury, will talk on how his brands could and should incorporate tech into their lifestyle.

Posen will also be a judge for the Fashion Hackathon finalists, choosing which of three mobile app ideas pitched on the runway is most suited for the fashion industry. The Fashion Hackathon is a competition bringing together 500 developers and designers vying for $20,000 prizes and the opportunity to have their idea launched by the CFDA.

The Decoded Fashion Forum takes place on Thu., Feb. 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.. See the website for latest speaker updates and to reserve your spot.

meetup

During our latest meetup, Decoded Fashion’s showcase: Rising Social Discovery, we introduced three fashion websites that will captivate you, Polyvore, Lyst and Bib & Tuck. All three have made fashion more accessible to the online user, while also creating a fashion community where users can share styles and surround themselves with trustworthy fashion aficionados.

Polyvore, a fashion platform where users can mix and max their favorite items from any e-commerce site on the web, has grown quite a lot since it started in 2005, but co-founder Jess Lee (Skyping in above) said that collaborating with brands was one of the most influential moves. She explained that it has attracted more shoppers—around 20 million users monthly—along with valuable partnership that have contributed to its popularity. Building brand ambassadors was also stressed, and the company’s main focus is still to remain loyal to their customers and always show how important they are to them.

Lyst, which brings together hundreds of brands and retailers’ ecommerce sites into one place to make shopping more personalized, also stressed the importance of building partnerships, be it with brands or bloggers. Lyst has reached out to inspirational style celebrities and popular bloggers, such as Nina Garcia and Sincerely Jules. Vice President of Business Development Hilary Peterson advised that a partnership is always a great way to get started. If the option is there, take it. Lyst now has partners in over 120 countries, but Peterson noted that the main growth comes from mobile visits—exactly why the Lyst app drops in two weeks.

Bib+Tuck, launched in November 2012, relies on building customer loyalty rather than brand partnerships, as the site specializes in vintage resale. The site allows women to “shop without spending.” How does this work? Users can post pieces they no longer want and sell them to other community members for Bib+Tuck currency, Bucks. Then, these Bucks can be used to buy a different item on the site. It’s a virtual clothes swap.

Since the site is still fairly new, their goal at this point is to create a brand identity and personality, understand who their customers are in order to target that specific user. Co-founder Sari Azout expressed their devotion to putting as much attention to the customers as to the company, making the customer feel like they belong to a community, not a marketplace.

Fashion houses listen up: You must brand yourself to both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. Know your customer from online click to store door to check out.

Technology is rapidly changing how retail stores interact with customers, from product display to marketing to gathering data on shoppers. At our Showcase: How Tech is Changing In-Store Retail, we talked with brands and founders on how they are working to accelerate a store’s understanding of how their customers shop. During a panel discussion with Mashable’s Lauren Indvik, Gap’s Head of Digital Rachel Tipograph urged brands to focus on targeting customers both offline and offline, and PlayAPI’s Co-Founder Julie Frederickson expressed the need for brands to understand how their demographics shop digitally and physically.

We featured three companies — Perch Interactive, Nomi, and Signature — who are partnering with brands and stores to help drive customers to the brick-and-mortar locations. Perch Interactive is a hardware and software-based interactive retail display technology which assists a salesperson enhance the shopping experience for the customer. Also to assist sales associates is Signature, a mobile application like works like Salesforce for retail. As Co-Founder Brett Martin explained, “We digitize the ‘Blackbook’ for the retailer.”

Nomi presented it’s first public demo of it’s software that tracks customer engagement. Co-Founder Wesley Barrow expressed the company’s inspirational mission: “If you can identify what is happening in store as easily as you can online, then you can really engage a customer. Have a custom program which makes sense for your customer base, not just when they check out, but also when they walk in.”

Check out more photos on our Facebook page.

Join our Meetup.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54umCres4Gw&feature=plcp

Shopping is emotional, the Facebook Want button launch, and AHALife partners with Dwell—the packed house at Space530 discussed these topics and more at Decoded Fashion Showcase’s “The New eCommerce” on Oct. 9. The content-based commerce discussion was led by four local companies all challenging the current state of how people shop online: AHAlife, Kaleidoscope, 72Lux and FinoFile.

Filipa Fino’s recently launched FinoFile allows users to shop directly from the “credits” in the online interactive magazine, which features cinemagraphs among the highly shot fashion photography, while AHAlife announced a partnershp with print magazine Dwell to offer products from the magazine on their site. Sarah Kunst of Kaleidoscope, who describes herself as “Vogue meets Apple” talked about how the app is incorporating street style in retail partnerships and 72Lux’s CEO Heather Marie emphasized the importance of creating an emotional connection between digital publishers and online shoppers, a technique she uses with her unified checkout software. She even sparked a debate on the new Facebook WANT button, launched that day!


The startup pitch competition winner of The Fashion Pitch will walk away with a $50,000 investment from Index Ventures during Decoded Fashion London this November. It is one of the largest investment prizes ever given to a startup in Europe.

At Decoded Fashion London, first European event of its kind, early stage startups from around the globe will present ideas to panel of fashion and retail executives, fighting for top nods in this one-of-a-kind competition. Index Ventures will give 10 startups the chance to pitch live at the event on Nov. 1, in front of a judging panel of fashion and retail specialists. The key here is for startups to prove relevance to the industry and create excitement on how they impact fashion and retail.

“We are always looking for internationally minded entrepreneurs with new innovative business models,” Robin Klein, venture partner at Index Ventures, told Decoded Fashion. “We were impressed with the calibre of fashion startups at the inaugural Decoded Fashion event this spring.”

Deadline to apply is Oct. 20, at midnight. Startups can be based anywhere in the world; 20 will be pre-selected for the competition and 10 will pitch live on the day of the event. Winner will be announced during Decoded Fashion London and will receive a $50,000 investment from Index Ventures.

In addition to the pitch competition, Decoded Fashion London will feature panels of experts and interactive curated talks to from innovative startups and heads of fashion and retail, such as the use of high-tech marketing and augmented reality luxury retail campaigns. Speakers include a mix of top fashion, retail and technology leaders from companies including Facebook, Moda Operandi, ASOS, WWD, British Fashion Council and Tumblr. The British Government’s GREAT campaign will honor a company with the inaugural award for achievement in fashion and technology during the closing remarks.

Startups came up apply online here.

Find out more about Decoded Fashion London here.

The audience chooses the looks that line the runways at four brands’ shows this week, thanks to an innovative program from social design platform Cut On Your Bias. For the first time in fashion history it’s the customer not the designer that has the final say.

Launched in mid-August, Cut On Your Bias’ campaign allowed users to pick the official looks to be included on the runway from top designers Carlos Campos, Christian Cota, Timo Weiland, and Suzanne Rae. The looks will be revealed via live Instagram steam during each designer’s New York Fashion Week SS 2013 show.

To vote, visitors to the website select a designer and submit “looks” for the final collection. For example, Timo Weiland has users decided on a design and respective color for a shirt, polo, jacket and bottom. Decoded Fashion wants to see a completely salmon-hued ensemble—short, polo, and jacket—at his show on Sunday at Lincoln Center.

See if our designs (or yours!) made the cut by checking out #COYBNYFW for more.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg kicked off New York Fashion Week yesterday announcing the eleven winners of Project Pop-Up NYC, a competition designed to promote emerging fashion tech companies and retailers while growing the local fashion industry.

Chosen from more than 130 applicants, the winners will each receive free showcase space at STORY, a Chelsea-based shop that curates new brands and merchandise every eight weeks based around different themes.  Each company also eceives PR and marketing support and mentoring from industry leaders, including members of the selection committee like Andy Dunn of Bonobos, Brandon Holley of Lucky Magazine, and fashion designer Norma Kamali.

The winners of Project Pop-Up NYC include Acustom, AHAlife, Fashion GPS, Have to Have, Of a Kind, Outlier, Perch Interactive, ReFashioner, Shoptiques.com, Snapette, and Syle for Hire.

Acustom, AHAlife and Perch Interactive were a part of Decoded Fashion at Lincoln Center in April; Perch Interactive will be presenting at our next Startup Showcase on Sept. 20.

You can check out all the winners during Fashion Night Out tonight at STORY, 7-10pm.

GothamSmith’s rocking headphone-shaped cufflinks aren’t just cool because they make you look like a DJ—they are produced using 3-D printing technology. They start as a powder and become hard metal.

GothamSmith, along with four other companies working in the 3-D printing and technology—Shapeways, Continuum Fashion, Shulogique and Lofty—spoke at Decoded Fashion’s Startup Showcase: Fashion in 3-D last week at Space530. The sold-out meetup event drew fashion experts, media professionals, venture capitalists, lawyers, creatives, and tech enthusiasts who discussed pros and cons of each company and products.

Shapeways, a leader in the field, is an New York-based 3-D printing company that allows a community of members to “make stuff,” everything from jewelry to glasses to handbags. Director of Marketing Carine Carmy passed around a variety of objects created by Shapeways’ users, including a “diamond necklace” and miniature windmill. Shapeways offers entry into the field by offering low-cost products, a company value that Carmy expressed: “Custom doesn’t have to be couture.”

That perspective carried through to GothamSmith as well, as the four men behind it design and produce men’s accessories at affordable price points. Daniel Stillman explained the difference between printing stainless steel, bronze and gold as printed metals and the printing process: layers of stainless steel powder are mixed with a binder. The core is heated, hardening the binder. More powder is added before a second heating process. This results in a final product that is firm and metal like a cut metal but produced from a powder. To give the accessories a touch of flair, each object is tumble polished or electroplated. Any quirks are just part of the product.

We also demo’ed Shulogique’s scanning process for custom high heels. Females step onto a scanning platform which takes 10,000 measurements of each foot and creates a 3-D model which can be fitted with different styles of high heel. The customer then picks and chooses which styles they want for a pair of custom shoes. You can even see a virtual projection of your foot in the different pairs of shoes!

For more on our Fashion in 3-D showcase, including highlights from Continuum Fashion and Lofty, check out the video recap here.

Join our Meetup here.

There are a variety of technologies trying to solve Fit, but very few are could be a viable asset to retailers. Bodymetrics, though, is one of them. Today, they receive a big endorsement from Bloomingdale’s by launching a 3-D technology in their Palo Alto, Calif., store that helps shoppers better understand their silhouette and body type when shopping for jeans.

Riding on the success of the Bodymetrics Pod’s pilot program during Bloomingdale’s Century City’s Denim Days, the department store partnered with the body-mapping technology company to institute the first permanent Pod in the US; Selfridges in London debuted the Pod, which still assists customers with denim purchases.

The Bodymetrics Pod uses the 3-D technology of Microsoft’s Kinect, popular for gaming, to take hundreds of measurements around the body. The sensors gauge the shopper’s body type and contours, making an outline which can be used to compare jean cuts and sizes. Then, Bodymetrics can deduce the best jean fit from a variety of brands, including 7 for all Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, J. Brand, Hudson, and Paige.

The technology has the capability to help with fashion and fit beyond jeans. Think men’s suits, cocktail dresses and swimwear. With online shopping on the rise and “fit” the number one reason for retail returns, technology such as this could help stores increase digital and in-store sales while reducing the number of returns. If you know it’s going to fit, why hesitate to click “add to cart?”

But we, at Decoded Fashion, believe that brands and retailers should be using great ideas in tech, not just a marketing stunt but a way to elevate their brand and drive consumers to a physical store, bridging the online-offline gap. Fit is among our favorite topics, and we showcased a few great ideas at our first major forum at Lincoln Center in April.

We’ll bring this theme to our London Forum, November 1, when we will be able to discuss insights on how consumers are being impacted by Bodymetrics, and the ROI is has brought to major retailers.

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