fashion

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.

rebecca minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff and PurseForum Introduce ‘The Darcy’
Check out a behind-the-scenes video of Rebecca Minkoff’s workshop building ‘The Darcy” satchel, designed by a crowdsourcing campaign. See Racked for more.

One 3D Printer’s Astonishing Kickstarter Success
Formlabs’s Form 1 3D printer is the highest-funded tech campaign in Kickstarter history. Mashable talks with co-founder Maxim Lobovsky about crowdfunding and 3D tech.

Nokia Encourages Users To Print Their Own 3D Cases
Nokia users will now be able to create custom shells as part of Nokia’s 3D printing community project. PTSK has the full report.

shopping

 

Google: video, mobile, and web key to retail clothing sales in 2012
2012 marks a key switch: the first time that more than half of retail clothing purchases — almost 60 percent, actually — are either online or influenced by the web. VentureBeat looks at a Google study about retail clothing sales.

Talking with…Brooks Brothers Chairman and CEO Claudio Del Vecchio and EVP for Direct and Omnichannel Ken Seiff
Online businesses have now reached the size and scale where the basics are going to matter a great deal more than they have in the past. Shop.org talks to America’s oldest retailer — Brooks Brothers — on innovation.

How wiffs and riffs can change shopping habits
Unlike in physical stores, consumers have a choice as to whether or not they want to continue listening to music on e-commerce or Web sites. Smart Planet delves into music and scents with online and offline retail.

A Crash Course on 2013’s ‘Wearable Tech’ Trend
Racked.com sums up wearable tech, with notes on bras that detect breast cancer, workout clothes that charge your iPod and Uniqlo’s push for more than its already-innovative ‘magic mirror’ and heat tech fabrics.

‘Fashion Hackathon’ Comes to NYFW
WWD printed the word “hackathon” for the first time in its 100-plus-year-old publication and covers the world’s first Fashion Hackathon — a competition in which top engineers will have 24 hours to create an app to support the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s mission.

augmented-reality

Fashion Tech’s Breakout Year: Google Glass, Zozocolle & More
From Burberry’s tech-savvy flagship to KCD’s digital runway shows for Pierre Balmain to Google Glass and DVF’s short film, the Daily Beast recaps the best new products in fashion and tech.

Retailers Try to Adapt to Device-Hopping Shoppers
Consumers are more frequently using multiple devices to shop, but it’s technically difficult to track consumers as they hop from phone to computer to tablet and back again. The New York Times highlights retailers who are figuring out how to sync the experience.

Christmas Day App Downloads Hit 328 Million, Setting New Record
Consumers activated 17.4 million devices on Christmas Day this year, shattering last year’s record of 6.8 million device activations. Meanwhile, the number of app downloads on Christmas Day hit 328 million, [compared] to 242 million app downloads for Christmas Day 2011. Read more facts on mobile crushing records at Mashable.

Fashion: Luxury’s New Look
After two decades of seeing luxury as a monolithic and highly profitable sector, investors are beginning to realise that they need to start taking a brand-by-brand approach. Financial Times notes the changing terminology in the luxury industry.

Most Anticipated Tech Products for 2013
We are psyched for #7 for our fashion tech and retailer friends, but we also want #9 since it seems to be the best way to get from fashion show to tech demo to networking drinks. Thanks, Digital Crave, for this top 10 list.

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.

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