Blockchain And Fashion: An Innovative Pairing

Blockchain And Fashion: An Innovative Pairing

Chances are, when you first hear the word “blockchain”, you’ll be thinking of Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency that has grown exponentially in the past few years.

It makes sense, considering the fact that blockchain technology was first invented specifically for the use of Bitcoin. The technology, however, can be utilized in a variety of ways; it doesn’t have to be limited to just digital currency. Its accessibility and transparency are an incredibly appealing combination, and can be used in numerous industries. It’s no surprise, then, that the fashion industry has started to recognize the benefits of utilizing and incorporating blockchain technology, and its popularity is sure to grow.

In February earlier this year, the first Blockchain Fashion Conference was held in Kiev.

The conference wanted to research the possibilities of uniting blockchain and fashion, and it’s certainly a step in the right direction. The conference will, hopefully, be the first of many as both industries come together to find new and inventive solutions to create a harmonious fashion blockchain ecosystem. While it’ll be a few years before blockchain is completely implemented into the fashion industry, it’s good to see that designers and brands are starting to take notice of the technology.

One of the main benefits of blockchain technology in Fashion is its resistance to alterations and counterfeiting.

As a result, it allows the user to be far more transparent. Fraud can be a major problem in any industry, but it is especially prevalent in the fashion industry. With blockchain technology, however, records cannot be deleted, changed, or lost, making it far easier to keep track of the currency, no matter where it goes. Blockchain paired with technologies such as RFID (already in use by the likes of fast fashion giants such as Zara and H&M) can track a product throughout its entire lifecycle, from raw material shipments to final delivery, encouraging a new level of transparency within the supply chain. In addition, every time a product changes hands, it’s recorded and kept secure through the blockchain system, which can even be used in the prevention of counterfeit goods. Consumers are also increasingly demanding transparency from fashion brands, as it’s important for them to know where and how their clothes are being made, due to political, ethical, social and environmental concerns. Brands such as Everlane and Patagonia have built their reputations on promoting full transparency, displaying just how lucrative transparent fashion can be.

Blockchain technology can provide consumers visibility into the entire fashion lifecycle of a garment, including materials and vendors used, the labor sources, and even the production, shipping and warehouse locations involved.

Designers are starting to experiment with blockchain technology. For example, Chinese label Babyghost partnered up with VeChain and BitSE to create a phone application that could tell the customer the “story” behind any garment in their Spring/Summer collection. It allowed consumers to really study and see the entire lifecycle of a particular garment, creating another level of transparency and accessibility within what has been a traditionally closed-off and secretive industry, while still encouraging audience engagement. While it’ll take some time before major fashion brands and retailers start to incorporate blockchain into their companies, Babyghost’s experiment is simply the beginning.

The relationship between blockchain and fashion brands is, at its core, a symbol of the way society is constantly changing and adapting to keep up with more and more innovative technology. The future of apparel is shifting as the industry slowly changes from a supply chain model to a demand chain model, rooted in much more than the traditional consumption-driven models. As the fashion industry begins to adopt more and more inventive technologies, it’ll have to find a way to keep up – and that’s where blockchain comes in. Its ease of use and omnipresence can definitely help brands manage their product’s lifecycles while still promoting ultimate transparency.

In all, it’s exciting to think of the possibilities that blockchain can bring to the fashion world – it could totally alter the way consumers shop and search for clothing in the future. While still in its infancy, the conference in Kiev is an indication of how designers are starting to become more and more interested in the uses of blockchain. Hopefully we will soon begin to see newer and even more innovative technologies born from the partnership between fashion brands and blockchain technology.

Financing Options For A Fashion Startup

Financing Options For A Fashion Startup

Starting and running a fashion brand often takes an immense amount of money.

There are a variety of things that go into launching a brand and keeping it afloat for the first few years.

Young designers are often encouraged not to create a fashion startup, as it comes with a set of unique financial challenges. For those who desperately want to found their own brand there are some options available to them when it comes to financing. They range from the use of personal and familial connections to networking with investors, or even appealing to the wider Internet audience for help.

The easiest (or at least, most flexible) way to launch a brand comes in the form of loans or investments from friends and family.

Obtaining loans from friends and family is a commonly used method for financing a fashion startup. It allows designers to start their brands without any outside input from unrelated investors; as a result, their creative inspiration can really flourish. Of course, this method simply will not work if a designer’s friends and family are not wealthy or convinced enough to provide the money required to launch a brand. In addition, it may be a while before related investors can get paid back (many startup fashion brands struggle to break even in their first few years), so it’s important to be communicative and transparent with the friends and family who have invested.

Another option is self-financing.

This means that whatever money is required for the launch of a promoter’s own brand will come directly from their pockets. Starting a fashion brand is expensive and high-risk, so one must think carefully about this option before committing to it. A lot of new brands often fail to take off, which can mean the complete loss of personal savings, as well as the burden of personal debt. Most designers are unable to afford this option unless they are independently wealthy, and thus must turn to alternatives.

A popular method of financing fashion startups comes in the form of venture capital.

With the venture capital option, investor groups or firms will provide money to a brand that they personally believe has long-term potential, and depending on how developed the brand is, they may become an angel investor. A venture capitalist often wants to invest when the brand is relatively small and new, and sees great potential for growth into a bigger and more profitable company. In exchange for the investor’s money, the investor will receive equity, a loan promissory note, or both, in the brand. Additionally the investor will almost always be given some control or input into the business’s decisions. This can be something that frustrates designers who wish to have complete control over their company, but it can be a necessary catalyst for future growth as well. Many direct-to-consumer fashion brands have started out using the venture capital method, such as Glossier and Outdoor Voices. They’ve been able to raise huge amounts of money, which has, in turn, enabled them to grow their brands into the cult-favorites they are today.

Taking out a traditional loan may be a viable fashion startup option.

While it may be intimidating to take on debt as a new business, traditional loans, whether from a bank or a credit union, a private investor, or even the Small Business Administration, are often viable options for brands that are just starting out. Such loans often come with financial covenants and payments are set forth on a predictable schedule. Principle plus and interest and fees will be part of these loan agreements, and personal guarantees are often required to be given by the owner or co-signers. The costs of such loans can be high, but this option usually allows the owner to maintain nearly complete control over their business.

Crowdfunding can be an option for startup designers.

Sites like Kickstarter and Gofundme are places where startups can pitch their ideas to the Internet, and ask people to invest (often small amounts) in their visions. While these sites may often not be able to raise enough money to launch a brand, they can reach a wide audience, and designers can see who is interested in their products. Of course, brands should look to all possible funding alternatives, but crowdfunding shouldn’t be ruled out completely.

In all, while starting a fashion brand can be a daunting and expensive task, there are numerous options available when it comes to financing and funding it. From friends and family to venture capitalists, personal and business loans, or even crowdfunding on the Internet, a dedicated and inspired designer can usually find a way to fund their dream brand.

Virtual Showrooms: VR and AR in Fashion

Virtual Showrooms: VR and AR in Fashion

Virtual and Augmented Reality are starting to revolutionize the way industries approach their customers, and the fashion industry is no different.

Technology has come a long way, but consumers’ closets have largely been untouched by its innovation. Designers and brands now, however, are aiming to change that, with the implementation of VR and AR technologies. It’s making it easier than ever before to browse clothing from the comfort of one’s home, and possibly even try things on, in a digital wardrobe sort of way. Brands are also starting to adopt virtual showrooms, which are basically online showrooms that allow online consumers to see and shop for the items in a way that’s eerily similar to an in-store experience.

One of the main benefits of creating a virtual showroom is its omnipresence.

Anyone with a working WiFi connection and phone or laptop can access the room, thus allowing brands and designers to showcase their collections to a truly international audience. Of course, Internet shopping has always allowed this (one of its many features), but virtual showrooms offer a way to get up close and personal with the products. Customers can see how the clothing looks on a mannequin and get a 360 degree view. In addition, brands can recreate their in-store experiences for the online consumer; luxury brands have long been hesitant to sell products online due to their perceived lack of exclusivity and service, but virtual showrooms can change that. Now, brands are able to recreate their physical stores for the online space, and with the added option of chatting with a representative online, can seamlessly transfer a physical experience into an online one.

Jimmy Choo was one of the first luxury brands to launch a virtual showroom which allowed its consumers to browse and pre-order certain shoes and accessories from their A/W collection, creating a unique and memorable shopping experience.

Augmented Reality is also another technology that designers can use to their advantage.

AR, like VR, can create a different kind of fashion showroom – have users simply use their phones to see what a certain product might look like on their own bodies.

Chrono24’s virtual showroom allows users to try on any watch from the comfort of their own home with a simple app and wristband setup (which can be printed and cut at home). In doing so, their virtual showroom offers an immense amount of flexibility and efficiency, as it gives consumers a chance to see the product on their wrists without having to go physically in-store to do so. There are currently only a few models available, but the company plans on adding more to their AR showroom soon. It’s a truly innovative and special way for consumers to shop, and it could truly change the way online shopping and e-commerce companies sell their products.

These are, however, only a few of the ways in which AR and VR can transform the fashion industry. While the technology is still being developed and tweaked, there are already exciting advances being made.

Consumers can expect to see virtual dressing rooms and VR experiences for the runway soon. Fast fashion brands such as Topshop and Zara have begun to embrace both VR and AR, but luxury brands, like Balenciaga, are also starting to join in. It is exciting to imagine the possibilities that could come with new and improved VR technology – wouldn’t it be far easier to try on clothes in a virtual dressing room from the comfort of your own home? No longer do customers need to go in-store to see how a particular piece may fit on their body. It could truly revolutionize the way people shop online, and could possibly provide access to a far wider audience.

In all, it will be interesting to see how technology continues to influence and change the fashion industry. Virtual showrooms are only the beginning – VR and AR will shape the way consumers, designers, and brands all interact with fashion.

3D Printing: Fashion of the Future

3D Printing: Fashion of the Future

There are thousands of ways companies can innovate and expand, especially when it comes to fashion, and 3D printing seems to be the next big thing.

The fashion industry has traditionally been at the forefront of many modern technologies, so it only makes sense that it would adopt 3D printing as well. The future of 3D printing is not in haute couture, however, it is not far from it – people will one day be able to print their own clothes at home, customized and fitted to perfection. While the technology is not completely there yet, once it is fully implemented, 3D printing and its uses could redefine the entire industry.

3D printing, when it comes to fashion, is still in its infancy. Most established fashion houses have not touched the technology, save for some designers, such as Iris van Herpen, known for her famously avant-garde creations. While actually accessible 3D printed clothing is a long way off, if more designers start to champion the technology, it could trickle down into mass production.

One of the many benefits of 3D printing is that it would be much easier to produce garments that are your exact measurements. This could be absolutely revolutionary for the industry – printing your clothes at home generates endless possibilities for both designers and consumers alike, and is something that is both innovative and utilitarian. Imagine simply pressing a button and having a perfectly tailored dress or pants printed inside your home, without the need to take a trip to your tailor or boutique.

Another way in which 3D printing could revolutionize the industry comes in the form of sustainability. With textiles, there is always an incredible amount of waste left over. 3D printing, however, could significantly cut down on this waste, and create ways in which designers can be more environmentally conscious while still producing their best work. Through the use of this technology, designers can explore a new route to sustainable fashion. The industry has long been known for its unsustainable practices – it consumes an enormous amount of resources, and amasses a vast amount of waste, making the production of most apparel non-environmentally friendly. It’s a serious problem that needs to be looked at with a more contemporary perspective.

3D printing could provide the necessary elements needed to increase fashion’s sustainability. Of course, the technology is not quite at this level. In order to create a more sustainable future, the 3D printing process could take years to perfect, but the core principles are there. Once more designers begin to adopt and experiment with the printing process, actually sustainable, zero-waste fashion could become a reality.

The problem at the forefront of this movement is the highly conceptual material. Consumers do not want fully plastic apparel; they want something that is natural and flexible and easy to wear, much like the cotton and Lycra clothing of today. Most people cannot nor do they want to wear an architectural couture gown. In addition, they need accessible and affordable garments. Most cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for an avant-garde dress – they need something that is more functional and priced at their budget. The technology is evolving, however, and will continue to progress quickly as more innovative techniques are brought out. Hopefully, by then, many designers, and not just Iris van Herpen, will openly embrace the process.

In all, the future of 3D printing seems to be pointing towards allowing individual designers and consumers to print their own apparel at home. While both the materials and technology are not quite there yet, there are advances being made every day. The process will bring something revolutionary and cutting-edge to the industry, and will move from the conceptual runways of Iris van Herpen to regular consumers’ homes instead. With a seamless blend of both fashion and technology, 3D printing could become the next big thing for both industries.

How Can Brick and Mortar Retail Compete With Internet Retail?

How Can Brick and Mortar Retail Compete With Internet Retail?

Every year, online and e-commerce retailers report massive profit and sales growth, reflecting the ever-increasing popularity of Internet shopping.

Giants like Walmart and Amazon have seemingly taken over the virtual shopping cart market, making it ever harder and harder for offline retailers to compete. Brick and Mortar businesses are being forced to adapt – quickly and effectively – if they wish to stay afloat.

What can struggling retailers do to keep up with the highly-competitive and extremely fast-paced e-commerce world to both grow and to keep their real world doors open in the long run? There are number of things brick and mortar companies have done to achieve success, and this article briefly considers only a few of them.

Understand your customers and offer them the right incentives.

Every established business knows its customers, or can discover who they are and what they most want. Sometimes customers may seem hard to understand, but when one really looks at the data, quite a bit can be discovered. What do the financials say after a little cost accounting is applied? Do certain items sell faster than others (inventory turnover), or are they always needing to be replenished? Does some inventory sit on the shelf too long or become obsolete? How are the best-sellers picked up or delivered? Gathering a few metrics in this fashion will likely help a business know just how to better focus its resources on its best and fastest selling products and services, resulting in higher profits.

Once one knows their business’s best and fasting selling products and services, the question is how to incentivize old and new customers alike to buy even more from their, and not from an online retailer or competitor? In many cases, quality may not be an issue, as brick and mortar retail makes it so much easier for customers to inspect before they buy, as well as make returns when defects are discovered. For this reason, brick and mortar may choose to focus its energy on price, speed of delivery, and convenience. Essentially beat online retail at its own game! Amazon may be able to deliver in as little as 24 hours, but to your local customers, you may be able to deliver as soon as you receive an email or phone call order. What are your prices as compared to your online competition? In many cases, you will find that when you consider total cost, including shipping, that because you can deliver locally, you are more price competitive than non-local competition.

Even if you can beat Internet Retail, consider joining them in the e-commerce world.

Your brick-and-mortar retail store can still be your main base, but opening up your audience to the Internet can come with massive benefits. Online sales are projected to continue growing every year, and a high number of small American businesses are still not effectively using the Internet to promote and run their business, or they may lack any web presence at all. Without joining the e-commerce world, it can be difficult to try and compete with the ever-advancing world of technology. A high number of your new and prospective customers are only searching for the goods or services you provide on their mobile devices. If you are not listed as a business on Google, or Yelp, or the like, you are guaranteed to be missing out on sales opportunities because you simply cannot be found by the only search methods being applied. There is a strong case that every business needs to have a website as well as multiple social media accounts. Owners and managers may benefit from taking courses on promoting their business via social media and via other online means. An online presence can and may be vital to brick and mortar survival.

When creating an e-commerce presence seamlessly integrate it with the offline experience.

A brick and mortar business with Web-presence should offer its customers a single shopping experience. Product and service information should be the same in both places. Everything should be branded with the same look and experience, as well as easy to find, or confusion may result in lost sales. If a discount is offered online, but not in store, there should be a reason why the customer is being incentivized to purchase online. Some business will incentivize its customers to shop online because they can get a discount for picking up their purchases in-store rather than having them shipped or delivered. This option also gives the retailer an opportunity to make additional sales. The customer will be exposed to additional products and services available when arriving for pick-up of the initial order.

In all, there are many ways for a brick and mortar retailer to compete in the digital age. Retailers should examine their customer data to see what they are really buying, and why, and then focus on ways to further incentivize them towards generating more sales. If a retailer is not online, with a web site and social media accounts, there is an argument for immediately getting online. A lot of prospective customers are only searching for your products and services via these digital avenues today. Finally, a retailer joining the internet world needs to remember to make sure their business is seamlessly integrated with their real world and internet offerings in order to avoid confusion.