On the last day of New York Fashion Week in mid-February, Decoded Fashion held a four-hour Fashion Forum programmed to help designers catch up with the latest technological advances. But, with digital content driving engagement these days, the event had an equally important mission of helping tech developers understand fashion.
"I think that everyone in fashion is used to hearing the statement that they need to play catch-up, and they need to innovate," Decoded Fashion founder Liz Bacelar told The New York Times. "But let me tell you that from the tech side, and I work with the tech guys all the time; they are building products to pitch to the fashion vertical and they are getting it wrong all the time."
Decoded Fashion, founded in 2011, supports such education by introducing tech startups and emerging technologies to leaders in fashion and retail through events and discussions. Beyond designer stars such as Zac Posen, the Fashion Week event included a hackathon, challenging programmers to come up with fashion-related apps for a chance to win $10,000. The overall emphasis was to make the two sides more comfortable with each other.
"People on the tech side think very differently about fashion," Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former Vogue editor and co-executive producer of Decoded Fashion, told the Times. "It's not just about brands, it's about publishing and distribution and manufacturing. And when you say fashion people think clothing, but it's more than that. It's the business of clothing."
Such events appear to be increasingly common. A bit earlier in February, Hearst Magazines held a 24-hour "Fashion Hack" that brought out 150 programmers to create fashion-focused apps and programs drawing on Hearst content for a similar prize.
In mid-February, SF Fashtech, which works with startups at the intersection of fashion and technology, held a 54-hour event joining tech and fashion that also included a hackathon.
Echoing the New York City theme, SF FashTech co-founder Charles Belle told the San Francisco Chronicle the idea for his firm came after he struggled to develop a fashion app. He said, "The fashion side might not know how to code, so that's a black box for them. And the tech side might look at fashion and say, 'I don't understand this industry at all.'"
Generally speaking, do retail IT departments have an adequate skill range to support digital content strategies?