Timo Weiland at the Retail Lab at the Cadillac House.


The Council of Fashion Designers of America and Accenture have forged a collaboration to help foster the integration between the creative, design side of the fashion apparel business and technology. The partnership also aims to help designers and brand better leverage consumer behavior insights.

Accenture is now an official innovation partner of the CFDA’s Retail Lab.

In a joint statement, the organizations said the collaboration combines “the high caliber of creativity within CFDA’s membership with Accenture’s deep expertise in customer experience, strategy, insights and technology” and that the two organizations “will create talent-development programs for today’s designers and tomorrow’s retailers.”

Key to the initiative is the development of a series of “thought leadership articles and hypotheses on the future of the fashion customer experience and test these ideas in live pilots with CFDA members.” The initiative also includes a component to equip designers who are ready to graduate with intelligence on how technology can be used in a business.

The overarching goal is to offer the CFDA with a “new method to deliver value and insights to its members and, using the insight and feedback, help Accenture create solutions that it can share with its clients.”

“CFDA’s new collaboration with Accenture will provide our design community with an invaluable resource to help navigate retail and business technology,” said Ashley-Brooke Sandall, who serves as the CFDA’s director of strategic partnerships.

Jill Standish, senior managing director of retail at Accenture, described the CFDA as representing “the fabric of the fashion industry, and has been instrumental in giving emerging talent a series of platforms to gain real-world business and retail experience.”

Karen Voelker, who leads Accenture’s Customer Innovation Network for its retail practice, told WWD that the fashion industry is evolving at a breakneck speed. She noted that current market’s see-now-buy-now trend and a push by companies to better control the destinies of their brands requires technology as well as expertise in how to use it. And with the shift toward a consumer-centric environment, having insights into the consumer mindset is critical.

“Working together with such a prestigious organization, we can help these designers acquire highly sought-after digital skills needed for them to be at the forefront of industry innovation, grow their businesses and drive tangible business results,” Standish added.

Sandall said the industry has many early adopters of technology, which includes Rebecca Minkoff and others. She noted that this is an opportune time for other brands to leverage technology in a more strategic way.

Accenture said the collaboration will be supported by Fjord, which is the company’s design and innovation unit of Accenture Interactive and Accenture Labs — where prototypes and new concepts are tested.

The goal is to have fashion designers participate in Fjord’s design studio in New York and to leverage technologies “like artificial intelligence and mixed and virtual reality from Accenture Labs to bring customer engagement to the next level,” the company said adding that when married with “CFDA+” — the organization’s virtual talent lab that connects CFDA members with its educational programs — these initiatives will “connect designers with Accenture’s design and innovation capability.”

The collaboration also involves having select designers participate in a design challenge “that extends their academic work in a fast-paced design-intensive program.” Last year, the CFDA launched the Retail Lab with Cadillac, which was to help emerging talent “make their foray into the retail world.” That included the lab’s initial physical store at the Cadillac House in New York.

“The program enables select designers to open a retail installation for three months and learn skills integral to succeed in the industry, under the mentorship of fashion industry experts,” the CFDA said.

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