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Decoded Fashion SXSW

Every year Austin opens it’s city to over 30,000 visitors for the notorious SXSW festival and last week we joined the lineup with our first event! With over 500 attendees crossing the threshold to take in three hours of panels, talks and face-to-face meetings at the Mentorship Hub. Here are the best bits from the conversations that took place.

First up, ” Onboarding Tech” with Amy Walker, Director of Online Marketing at Neiman Marcus, Jen Rubio, Global Director of Innovation at AllSaints and Will Young, Director of Zappos Labs at Zappos.com

All speakers emphasised their preference for finding new tech companies through networking and receiving recommendations from venture capital firms over receiving cold calls and emails.

Brands don’t want to be subjected to hard sales pitches that make unrealistic promises, but would rather engage in a conversation with a startup that has done extensive background research about the brand, has contacted the relevant department to pitch, and already has an idea about what the challenges may be and how they could be tackled. And naturally, if the technology is easier to onboard, then brands will implement it much faster. Young drives home this point “If you set the expectations we are doing something really interesting, that you might be interested in and we would love to learn what your challenges are […]’ it’s much more of a conversation than guns blazing sales pitching. And then I leave that meeting feeling like I wanna continue that conversation.”

And what technologies are brands looking for? Brands want to increase their conversion rates and their ROI in an engaging and sustainable manner, rather than invest in a fad that attracts media attention. What tools can help them seamlessly merge their content and their commerce? What can help them build an online community by telling their brand story?

Our second panel focused on content curation, featuring Rachel Tipograph, Director of Global Digital and Social Media at GAP, Kristina Di Matteo, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Kate Spade and Katalina Sharkey de Solis, Director of Digital at Chanel.

Tipograph cited simplicity as key, it’s at the core of GAP’s brand and that filters into all of their processes, whether it’s creating content, or onboarding a new start-up. This also rings true for the Kate Spade brand, who have a tiny team creating all this fantastic content, but if it’s too complicated to onboard it just doesn’t work.

With luxury, Sharkey de Solis pointed out that social media channels engage aspirational and potential luxury consumers much more than they do existing consumers. The challenge for them  is finding a way in which to excite current consumers, which means, “We’re really looking for experiential technologies because with this very high-end consumer, they’re not necessarily wanting to engage with the brands on [social media] channels” – Sharkey de Solis

And, though traditional long-term branding campaigns may not be devised with specific measurement matrices in mind and may be ideally measured qualitatively, Di Matteo emphasised how difficult it is for brands to quantitatively measure the success of more fast-moving online campaigns. “If it were up to me, I would create the coolest reporting tool that would allow for me to understand everything that’s happening and have it really succinctly tie up into my [ecommerce] data because, at the end of the day, our goal is to generate sales, but also be able to tell a great story.” Anyone got an idea for this?

Last week’s event was a milestone for Decoded Fashion, and you can be sure to find us at next year’s SXSW.

For all the photos from the event you can check them out here, and for further SXSW fashion coverage take a peek at the FT’s feature and Stylus’s report.

Reported by Anna Abrell 

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  1. Apple to Expand into Luxury Fashion and Accessories, Experts Predict
    Watch out, high-end fashion brands: It’s only a matter of time before Apple, maker of couture computers and consumer electronics, encroaches on your turf, bringing its minimalist aesthetic to the world of luxury apparel and accessories.
  2. Online Fashion Retailer ASOS Launches Chinese Website
    Asos.cn is eighth country-specific website for e-tailer, which operates in 237 countries and has seen soaring sales.

  3. Gap Changes the Shopping Game
    Gap Inc. has come up with a solution to have a consumer shop both on line and in-store.
  4. Marketplace App Carousell Raises $800K Seed Round Led by Rakuten
    Carousell, a Singapore-based consumer-to-consumer marketplace app for iOS and Android, has raised a $1 million SGD (about $800,000 USD) seed round led by Rakuten.

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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.

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Rachel Tipograph is “making Gap cool again for the first time since Bill Clinton was President,” according to Business Insider. As Gap’s Global Director of Digital & Social Media, Rachel oversees strategy, implementation and measurement. She judged the pitches at the world’s first Fashion Hackathon, and we chatted with her on what tech she can’t live without.

Decoded Fashion: What is the most useful technology to you in your job as Global Director of Digital & Social Media at Gap?
Rachel Tipograph: My iPhone. The social web doesn’t care about time nor space and having a computer in my pocket always allows me to do my job from anywhere and anytime. And Radian6. Social media stretches across every discipline of the business, and Radian6 allows anyone from the C-suite to community managers listen to conversations about Gap worldwide.

DF: What areas of fashion-tech are extremely crowded?
RT: Affiliate programs, ad tech, and SaS for social media. With the explosion of content, conversation and data happening across the web, one of the first opportunities entrepreneurs addressed was 1) how to turn massive amounts of data into meaningful interactions, and 2) turn those interactions into something that’s actionable in the sales funnel. As a result, there are an abundance of companies that have come to be in the affiliate space, ad tech and SaS for social.

DF: What areas of fashion-tech are relatively unexplored?
RT: In-store technologies and enterprise SaS. 2013 will be the year the B-to-B space explodes with innovation. Many entrepreneurs are taking learning from the B-to-C space and applying it to B-to-B. In addition, IT technology is improving at rapid speed, the cost of technology is becoming more affordable, all of these variables will influence innovation within organizations.