New York Fashion Tech Lab is gearing up for its fourth annual accelerator program.The 12-week program begins today and ends June 14, when the program holds its Demo Day at Time Inc. The Lab is “in residence” at Spring Place.The accelerator — a collaborative effort between major fashion retailers and serial technology entrepreneurs — was launched in 2013 to promote innovation in the fashion industry, and focuses on firms that intersect fashion and technology. There’s some venture capital financing from Springboard Enterprises and the Partnership Fund for New York City, but most funding is from within the industry. That also allows industry sponsors to learn about new tech ideas and work as mentors to further develop the ideas that they are most interested in.Returning to the program are founding members J. Crew and Macy’s, as well as second and third year partners Bloomingdale's, Kohl’s and Time Inc. Newcomers this year include luxury fashion e-tailer Matchesfashion.com and Vera Bradley. Microsoft Corp. returns for its second year as a tech partner, while innovation firm Flex joins for the first time.Julie Larson-Green, chief experience officer at Microsoft, said her firm has been supporting NYFTL through its start-up evangelism program since the Lab’s inception. The company elected to become a tech sponsor last year and has worked with the Lab’s participants and with Springboard, connecting them initially with Microsoft’s engineers. “The program provides Microsoft engineering and other teams the ability to connect directly with founders, which influences how we think about our products in [our] Office Experiences Organization and we can share our perspective on their product from development through to delivery,” she said.Larson-Green said this year’s initiative would expand beyond the engineering group to include the marketing team. “One big change for us [is] we are also going to do some smaller mentoring ‘master class’ sessions during the program,” she added.Tom Chapman, chairman of London-based Matchesfashion, said he’s seen a number of changes within retail from brick-and-mortar to digital. He noted that the bulk of the Matchesfashion business is done via mobile, with 85 percent of revenues from outside the U.K. and the U.S. being its number-one market. The changing consumer preferences have him and his team on the lookout for new talent, both on the creative and technological side.According to Chapman, his firm has connected with several entrepreneurs through the Lab, although not everyone is a participant in the current class. Matchesfashion will mentor two or three firms from the current class and reconnect with others later on. As for what start-ups are interesting to the e-tailer, Chapman said: “We’re thinking firstly how we can work with you to integrate what you’re doing into our business and how it benefits and supports you and how it would help our clients.” The chairman also said his company is looking at start-ups from the customer perspective, and not necessarily from a tech point of view.This year’s class includes nine early-stage firms. Class members include: Awear Solutions, which tracks data analytics through interconnected devices — the process is called Internet of Things, or IoT — that gives firms post-sale product behavior to leverage repeat sales; E-Contenta, a personalized native ads platform that helps to improve the customer conversion rate; FindMine, a tech firm that scales outfitting across retailers and brands to help consumers complete the look, and Zeekit, a platform that allows fashionistas to virtually see themselves in new outfits and obtain sizing recommendations when shopping online.Past participants include 2014 participant Trendalytics, a big data product intelligence platform, and from last year’s class Claire, a chatbot using artificial intelligence to test merchandise before it goes into production.Karen Moon, chief executive officer and founder of Trendalytics, said her firm is now working with 27 customers, with about 10 who are large-scale global brands and retailers, and half on the Fortune 500 list. Alex and Ani and Li & Fung were its mentors during the accelerator program. It continued working with the Fung Group post the Lab program.Moon said, “The [mentors] are open to sharing what problems they are having, and what they are looking for in tech solutions. That’s a shift from three or four years ago when many didn’t have time to speak with start-ups. The retailers and executives are realizing that they can build faster with a start-up, so they are telling us what they need and telling us what they want us to build up.”Marta Jamrozik, cofounder of Claire, said her company has continued its work with Kohl’s Department Stores, a relationship that began through the Lab’s mentoring component. The company, which earlier this year raised $1.7 million in funding, also counts Rebecca Minkoff as a client. She added that the Lab continues to provide support for its alumni through panel discussions, networking and other post-Lab programs.Separately, Springboard continues to act as a venture catalyst to accelerate the growth of start-ups led by women. The company more recently began working with Dell and Guggenheim Partners to expand its reach to Gothenburg, Sweden; Sydney, and Singapore, according to Kay Koplovitz, Springboard’s cofounder and chairman. So far 84 percent of Springboard’s portfolio firms have raised capital, and collectively have raised more than $7.4 billion. There have been more than 165 liquidity events, including 14 initial public offerings, Koplovitz said.
For its next men’s wear collection, @roberto_cavalli will show as a special guest at #PittiUomo, running from June 12-15. The brand, which has Florence in its roots, will relaunch its men’s wear collection, which will be presented separately from women’s wear for the first time since Paul Surridge was appointed creative director in May. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech at the @sxsw conference for @createcultivate, the online platform and conference series for women. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.