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WHAT’S HOT IN DECODED FASHION SUMMIT

Vici Shaweddy, Incubator Member & Founder of Voilà, reports on her time at Decoded Fashion 2014

It was the first cold day in November in New York City. The temperature reached 35.5 degrees Fahrenheit but the wind made it even colder. When I arrived at Metropolitan West for the Decoded Fashion New York Summit, I was happy that the receptionist gave me a warm welcome and offered to keep my heavy winter outfit.

The badge and the program

The badge and the program

I arrived when the MakerBot’s CEO, Bre Pettis, was giving a talk on stage. Pettis believes 3D printing and big data are fueling a manufacturing revolution by making infrastructure available to everyone. Pettis, who is also the founder of MakerBot, said, “The world is changing. Supply chains are opening, creativity is flowing, and fashion is seeing.”

It’s no secret that 3D printer technology has enabled more creativity in many industries. This summit showed many examples of startups that used 3D printers to prototype their ideas before mass-production. 3D printers definitely help entrepreneurs develop their products faster and cheaper.

There were a lot of startups that demoed wearable devices to track your movement combined with beautiful design. From hand watches, wristbands, bracelets to rings. It’s undeniable that the competition is getting hotter in 2014 and everyone is scrambling to make their product more fashionable than before.

The exciting new wearable devices

The exciting new wearable devices

Another exciting announcement: Rebecca Minkoff, the fashion designer, announced her futuristic store that will open this weekend in New York City’s SOHO location. Her brother and CEO, Uri Minkoff, explained how they wanted to have technology in their store since the beginning. The Minkoffs explained fashion will still come first, of course, but they want to create a different in-store experience from other stores. Customers can easily find the items that they have seen online in the store, without having to walk around the store or ask the sales associates.

Elizabeth Holmes from The Wall Street Journal (left) moderating the conversation with Rebecca Minkoff (middle) and Uri Minkoff (right)

Elizabeth Holmes from The Wall Street Journal (left) moderating the conversation with Rebecca Minkoff (middle) and Uri Minkoff (right)

The customers will see a 122-inch screen when they come to the store. They can view some of the designer’s favorite looks and runway shows. Through this screen, they can also add items to their shopping baskets and all the items will be available in the fitting room. The shoppers can keep shopping until they get a text message saying their fitting room is ready so no more waiting and carrying.

After the talk, I had a chance to talk about Voilà, my app, to Uri Minkoff since I think he would be interested in collaborating with us. I also wanted to hear what he thought about having virtual stylists in the store since they were trying to avoid the “awkwardness” between customers and sales associates. Voilà definitely could help customers make a purchase decision in the fitting room. Just simply send a selfie picture wearing an outfit through the Voilà app, and our stylists will help customers find the right outfit in Minkoffs’ store by giving them instant feedback. I got a good vibe from my conversation with Uri and hopefully it can evolve into a partnership in the future.

Another trend at this summit is that many brick and mortar companies showed how they try to advance their digital and online experiences. For instance, interactive store displays from Perch Interactive brings a different experience for customers to get more engaged in products by delivering the content at the moment of contact. The Perch Interactive founder, Jared Schiffman, said customers are 40-60% more likely to purchase a product when they touch it. Several brands have embraced this new technology, such as Kate Spade which had used Perch technology in their stores to increase their sales.

On the other hand, Rent The Runway, well-known for their online service, expanded to brick and mortar stores recently. They now have two store locations in New York City and one in Las Vegas. They are planning to open in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood this week and Chicago in January. Surprisingly, according to Jennifer Hyman, Rent The Runway’s CEO, their brick and mortar customers were new customers who never used their online service.

Jennifer Hyman (left) and Aliza Licht from Donna Karan International

Jennifer Hyman (left) and Aliza Licht from Donna Karan International

I’ve met Hyman 2 weeks ago in one of the entrepreneur events. She recognized me from the audience because I also sought her advice on Voilà before. She introduced me to her colleague, Marissa Evans, who also developed a similar idea before Evans joined Rent The Runway. It was a really good timing to update her on my conversation with Evans.

Five entrepreneurs had chances to pitch their products to a panel of judges: Style.com editor in chief Dirk Standen, alongside the dean of Parsons, Simon Collins; Olivia Kim, director of creative projects at Nordstrom; and Myf Ryan, U.K. and European marketing director of Westfield. The five startups’ products were wearable devices, from rings, bracelets, bags, and jackets. Cuff, the winner of this competition, offered an alert system on their bracelets that made them different from the rest. Their bracelets were interchangeable so you can have different styles with the same device.

2014 Decoded Fashion New York Summit

2014 Decoded Fashion New York Summit

I noticed most of the wearable devices emphasized tracking your activity and were beautifully designed but I am not sure if their technology could compete with the existing wearable devices like Jawbone, FitBit, and soon iWatch. The beautiful design would be useless if they could not provide accurate data for their consumers.

Most of the people that came to this summit were media and fashion entrepreneurs. I’ve met fellow entrepreneurs from other fashion events again in this event. Those who just started like me and tried to find directions to grow our business. It was good to catch up with them and see their progress. It motivated me to keep working harder on Voilà and talk about it to other people or update them with our progress. This event was a hug opportunity for me to learn from experts and get feedback from them. Keep networking and listening to feedback…

I am with Liz Bacelar (left), the Decoded Fashion’s Founder

I am with Liz Bacelar (left), the Decoded Fashion’s Founder

Overall this year’s Decoded Fashion New York Summit was like a warm up for wearable device companies before the launch of Apple’s smart watch next year. I am sure we will see more and more wearable devices in 2015. The competition is getting fierce as companies scramble to create beautifully handcrafted products and a more digital experience for their customers. One thing that I did not see from this summit was smart glasses. It was unfortunate that the glasses were not “smart” anymore in 2014. We shall see in 2015… will smart glasses ever make a comeback?!