Low-tech know-how is still necessary if retailers want to maximize the benefits of technology.

That was one of the takeaways from a recent event at Fashion Incubator’s San Francisco headquarters, where executive director Jeanne Allen brought together 200 designers, retailers and tech creators for a discussion on technology.

Allen founded the nonprofit designer accelerator four years ago and linked with Westfield’s new Bespoke innovation lab to create pop-up shops for five companies receiving support from the program.

“Bespoke offers us access to specialized tech experts, new ideas and evolving concepts,” Allen said. “But to succeed at retail, we still need to know how to staff a store. It’s old-school and that won’t change.”

Peter Papas, designer and founder of Blade + Blue, a men’s wear line that opened a pop-up shop last week at Bespoke, noted, “Bespoke gave me the opportunity to display my merchandise and to meet all of my customers in person, and I was able to check all analytics and see conversion rates, traffic flow both in the mall and in-store, the heat map, and demographics of everyone passing,” Pappas said. “It’s very motivating and empowering.”

Steve Semenzato, senior vice president of America at CRM specialists Cortexica, noted that the in-store experience has to be in place for the technology to excel.

“A visual search technology can evolve to add a recommendation service and could be part of Pinterest in future, but malls and stores are very much here to stay,” he said.

The event was organized by FashTech, which was founded last year to connect the fashion and tech industries through various forums.

“So much technology has been consumer-facing, like those that affect shopping behaviors and experience,” said FashTech founder Alex Semenzato. “So far so good, but it’s quite mundane. Now we must go beyond mobile and look at back-end and industry-side innovation that could reduce sampling and designing time, for example.”

The event drew potential investors, designers, students, retail and tech entrepreneurs, retailers and innovators and offered everyone some food for thought.

“Fashion, including design and manufacturing, sewing and textiles, in reality is still very much rooted in the 19th-century and technology at this point may be useful for retail or visual presentation, but so far, it’s not for design,” said Mila Hagen, owner-designer of the Shock Feathers fashion company. “Fashion design now needs disruption from new technology.”

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