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The advanced technology of today can help the apparel industry offer trends at a faster rate than ever.

This story first appeared in the April 10, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

LOS ANGELES — Slow and steady does not win the race in the apparel industry.

So when the Teens & Tweens Summit threw out the welcome mat to three companies offering technology-driven shortcuts, attendees sat a little straighter in their chairs.

Here, a look at what they had to say:

Laura McCann, Zweave Inc.

In a time when vertical retailers like Hennes & Mauritz and Zara are producing some 150 new styles every three weeks, Laura McCann, president of Zweave Inc., said the firm could offer smaller retailers, vendors and textile companies three systems to compete:

An Internet-based virtual design studio where designers can communicate with buyers online to discover what products are checking, what details should be implemented on a specific garment and how to structure costs. “You’re really creating a virtual design studio that brings down cost and saves time,” said McCann.

An online product data management system that has the capability to keep track of every detail on a garment, provide updates on production and flags a vendor when a specific task needs to be completed. “This customizes work flow,” said McCann. “This is the kind of stuff management looks for — transparency.”

Finally, Zweave’s 3-D Computer Aided Design system hands designers detailed demographic “fit maps” of a specific population area. The service can reduce the need for large amounts of inventory, according to McCann.

David Shoemaker, Checkpoint Systems Inc.

Hangtags are not just paper price indicators anymore, according to David Shoemaker, group vice president of strategic marketing at Checkpoint Systems Inc. The firm manufactures “smart” hangtags, or those that can track a garment from every step in production from offshore manufacturing to the retail floor.

The technology is evolving even further.

“Through radio frequency identification, there’s more and more intelligence and a whole new world of input information,” said Shoemaker. “Imagine when your inventory is made somewhere in Bangladesh and you instantly have the ability to see that they’ve packed that box wrong. That’s the kind of visibility that this technology can bring.” Also useful is the tag’s ability to monitor inventory on the sales floor and to cross-promote other items for add-on sales.

Paul Cimino, RichFX Inc.

The days of static product shots on e-commerce sites may be over. RichFX Inc., a New York-based online visual merchandising firm, creates interactive features for online businesses, including the ability to zoom in on an item to highlight a fabric’s texture or button, a color change feature that allows a consumer to instantly change the available colors of an item on a single photograph, and virtual page flipping and personal sticky notes. Consumers can even rotate products 360 degrees.

“When you think of the structure of the Web — with buttons across the top, search buttons on the left and categories down the side — it doesn’t lend itself to browsing,” said Paul Cimino, chief operating officer of RichFX, noting the company’s resolution is 10 times faster than the industry standard due to patented compression algorithms. “The technology allows companies to better communicate their brand as they intended.”

Cimino claims existing clients, such as Coach and Spiegel.com, have increased their conversion rates (turning browsers into buyers) by more than 100 percent by using the technology.

Give It A Boost

LOS ANGELES — Today, there are more cell-phone customers than ever: 61 percent of Americans have them and a large number of that percentage are teens. Steve Stanford, senior vice president of marketing at Boost Mobile LLC, said this is why this group should be marketed to more directly.

Why is the youth market attractive?

They talk on the phone for an average of 800 minutes per month (girls more than boys).

They want to be in constant contact with friends and family.

They use the phone for things other than talking. They are

attracted to games and specialized ring tones.

They have no pre-existing brand loyalties with carriers.

They are comfortable with technology.

Stanford said since the cell phone has become such a key factor in the young lifestyle, it’s only natural for fashion brands to want to launch their own phones. Russell Simmons’ special-edition Phat Farm Motorola sold so well that his wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, launched her version in pink to support the Baby Phat line. Roxy by Quiksilver also launched a phone, as well as Adidas, which is not yet available in the U.S.

— Julee Greenberg

That’s Entertainment

General Growth Properties, a sponsor of the Summit, set up “The Scene,” its mall-based teens and tweens marketing program, on the evening of March 26. Teens from the Los Angeles area took advantage of the displays and demonstrated how they can be set up inside a mall. Also, before Russell Simmons took the platform for his keynote address, attendees were treated to cocktails and henna tattoos.