November 25, 2014

DECODED Fashion: the infusion of technology with design

Once a month, MBF invites a guest blogger to TrendTalk, giving our readers a fresh new voice to hear. This month, our friend Natalie Kathleen, founder of Sienna Ray leather goods and Creative Director of Natalie Kathleen, attended Decoded Fashion's New York Summit to report on what she saw and heard...

Photo via Decoded Fashion

I prefer to proudly file my preference for dabbling across multiple business disciplines under maintaining balance rather than accepting a seat in the audience of jack of all trades and master of none. 

This perspective, however, just may have been disrupted. 

An unexpected outcome while soaking up the latest in Fashion and Technology at the DECODED Fashion Summit last week. Arriving with vigor,  ideas, concepts and hunger to be a mover in this bubbling fash-tech market, yet departing day one with the raw desire to tap into airplane mode and analog my life.

Could it be the harsh truths of Simon Collins, Dean of Parsons, who doesn't want to look at ugly gizmos that nobody wants, “Doesn't matter what it does if it doesn't look good nobody wants it. Ask yourself,  ‘Is it ugly or stupid?’” This harsh quip during the Wild West Roundup on day two hit my soft spot. The product pitches we’d earlier witnessed brought more of the same-same than the grandeur feeling of a sexy futuristic Jetsons world. 

Simon Collins' straight talk cracking up the crowd - and the panel
Photo via Decoded Fashion

Are all these wearables simply an excuse for tech phenes to dabble in design? Or for design drones to up their ante by adding a chip, LCD flash, vibration… 

Following Dieter Rams principles “less, but better" - I quickly nodded in agreeance when Billy Whitehouse from Wearables Experiments pointed this out along with her success as the expert design creative behind a handful of luxurious to hilarious technology advanced projects. Being in the frontier of new technology feeds her curiosities yet she lets the professionals and experts behind the scenes take care of the technology while she interlays her experience and expert in fashion, design and all things beautiful. 

"Just cause you can do it doesn't mean you should." The wise words of Lawrence Lenihan’s mother. And this man’s seen his fair share of people doing things over the years at FirstMark Capital, pitch after pitch of eager entrepreneurs vying for seed and early stage investment.  As Collin’s re-enforced with an example of how even though he knows how to count pretty well he wouldn't be an accountant cause he would suck, wondering why do people try tech when they are not experts and call them such. “Pull in the experts! Do what your talents are in and find the experts to complete the balance.”

This presence of team, collaboration and symmetry of talent from opposing Fashion and Technology fields was clearly apparent or lacking in the array of buzzing, flashing, life-enfacing devices on highlight during the summit:

Kate Unsworth, CEO of Kovert Designs made a statement. Not only of her branded jewelry on a mission to ground you offline and back into human connections, but also of her fashion techie style with a bulky set of trendy headphones draped around her neck. She read very passionate and present, clearly explaining they are providing a digital detox movement of sorts as added value to their pretty gadgetry. Name dropping an immediate launch via collaborations with large retailers, was an impressive highlight. Join this tribe along with Cute Circuit’s twitter scrolling Clutch releasing on Net-A-Porter just in time for last minute holiday gift giving.

Keeping the positive pitch vibes flowing
Photo via Decoded Fashion

Stepping it in an alternate direction harnessing the power of collaboration, Sam Young Founder of Kairos, brought the existing technology of MisFit who is equally backed by Microsoft into his plan early on.  Fitting to his tagline, “Make every moment an opportunity”, Young surely harnessed the power of brining the best of the best together. From the Swiss behind the scenes of the traditional timekeeping to the oh la la gorgeous man in their newest T Band promotion video, Kairos has not only the brains but the good looks ready to launch it to the top of the luxury wearables market.

Being an advocate for all things handbags, I was eager to hear what brilliance the very well dressed Founder, Theodora Koullias, of Jon Lou had to offer. However it was quick into her pitch her hard sell came into the picture. The lightbulb problem solving scenario of not requiring to carry a charging cable around with you was followed by a brash response from the panel on why would a fashionable woman even want to carry the same bag around each day, let along would they even like her design. 

Nikki Kaufman was a serial problem solver back as she was an integral part in the founding team of Quirky. Move a few years on, and allow her to take a new-found knowledge in 3D printing teamed with quick-to-market product development, she aptly shows ever knowledgable in ear canals - and why all of us unique individuals can benefit from a set of her Normal headphones. Did you know the average folk has a 20% variance between right and left ear. Impressive. I just may be stuffing stockings with a gift card for my family to photograph a quarter beside their ear lob to have their very own bespoke pair of music players made on site in their manhattan headquarters that triple times as office, factory and lavish retail stop point. 

And when your market is accessories hounding fashionable women, you know they need options - and plenty of them. When Deepa Sood, former VP of product development at Restoration Hardware, started to develop her vision of double duty jewelry she knew variety was key. Thus her interchangeable bluetooth CuffLinc won the Start-up Competition with it’s ability to adapt to a woman’s ever-changing style and needs. As a bracelet on date-night is can trigger an opportune incoming call on your phone, or even on your walk home convert to a panic button ready to contact your loved ones should an emergency arise. Sood’s natural confidence brought her from the family garage, to center stage in this quickly expanding wearables market.

Kevin Kollenda having a laugh with wearable technology
Photo via Decoded Fashion

With the largest FashTech consumer spilling from the hot millennial arena, it is  key to keep close to heart the vast amount of content and product they have such effortless access to. Now with such growth in the wearables market need is more than ever for all people to step it up. Must go above and beyond. When you surprise and delight them they come back. And they tell 1000 friends about it. “Every time a customer communicates, it's an opportunity to lock them in as a lifetime customer,” Alan Tisch Co-Founder and CEO of Spring shopping app is one to listen, “build something of value to create a product people want to share the concept, key problem that many startups make having no marking plan. Not build it they will come. Don't try to grow before you're ready, need to have engagement retention - give yourself time to understand why people are coming to your (product) everyday.”

People feel urge to be first user, something to be said to waiting it out. Steve Jobs looked at things of luxury that people coveted. You wanted to own it - and also did something incredible. “Why just buy a product, when you can buy an object that you can fall in love with,” from the mouth of Kevin Kollenda, Two Hustlers, whose insight I equally fell in love with, “Wearable technology should make our lives more beautiful and better.”

As more join this frontier, the journey of discovery will be led by those who master their unique and strongest talents. Including the skill to add complimentary opposing talent for the greatest recipe of success. Whether it’s fashion or tech, or fashionable tech; I am excited to move forward supporting the products created with true passion and beauty.

Photo via Decoded Fashion

Thanks go out to Liz Bacelar and all involved with Decoded Fashion NYC Summit #DFNYC

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