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Editor's pick Events sustainability technology

BFC and Current Global host leadership event focused on industry growth

The British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum curated and produced with Current Global, extended to two days this year with a focus on “Investing in the Future”.

A think tank dedicated to industry leaders from fashion, investment and technology, it invited experts to share knowledge and debate subjects ranging from business and growth, to sustainability and inclusivity.

Attendees also got to experience some of the latest innovations in the market up close, thanks to an innovation showcase pulled together by Current Global. This included some of the world’s best tech companies carefully selected for their focus on areas such as customer service, personalization, supply chain, traceability, AI, augmented reality and more.

The on-stage program was designed to both inspire and inform the audience, with sessions geared to key subjects such as driving efficiency in the supply chain, how new business models are affecting culture, the role of data and experience in retail, designing for circularity, creating a fair supply chain and more.

One of the keynotes of the event came from John McPheters, co-founder of Stadium Goods. In a fireside chat with Current Global’s Liz Bacelar, he spoke about how he grew his sneaker and streetwear marketplace to its successful acquisition by Farfetch in 2018. Current Global’s Rachel Arthur also hosted a keynote with Jo Malone about her experience growing global brands, including her latest, Jo Loves.

Victor Luis, CEO of Tapestry, opened day one talking to his role at the US luxury group, while Emma Grede, founder and CEO of Good American brought the topic of entrepreneurship to size inclusivity and Roland Mouret honed in on his sustainability journey.

Rachel Arthur of Current Global at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum
Rachel Arthur of Current Global at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum

Arthur also took to the stage to discuss investing in innovation. She broke down the evolution of big tech and what it means for brands today, including a deep-dive on how it is blending and bending our perception of reality, the role of data within the balance of experience and privacy, and where brand activism is stepping in over pure brand management.

Other key speakers at the event came from brands including Burberry, Rapha, Lululemon, Rixo, Timberland, Kering, Levi Strauss & Co, Lyst and more.

Christopher Wylie, director of research at H&M, and Tom Berry, director of sustainable business at Farfetch, joined Bacelar for a panel on how technology will shape the future of sustainability, covering topics from predictive analytics and AI to new business models. Another conversation focused on Google’s work in the sustainability space with Current Global. Ian Pattison and Maria McClay of Google both joined Arthur alongside Claire Bergkamp, sustainability and innovation director at Stella McCartney, to talk about the data analytics and machine learning tool powered by Google Cloud technology they are currently building.

Gwyneth Paltrow closed the event in a conversation with British Vogue’s editor in chief Edward Enninful. She shared lessons from her entrepreneurial journey launching Goop, the successful lifestyle brand she founded in her kitchen in 2008.

Edward Enninful and Gwyneth Paltrow in conversation at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum
Edward Enninful and Gwyneth Paltrow in conversation at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum

Throughout the event, our Innovators podcast team was also onsite, recording upcoming episodes with experts including Adam Brown, founder of Orlebar Brown; Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder of Ganni; John McPheters, co-founder of Stadium Goods; and designer Roland Mouret. Stay tuned for the first of our new series in July.

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How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more

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Editor's pick product technology

H&M Group deploys VR to design more sustainably

H&M Group is investing in virtual reality to enable its design team to design more sustainably, says Christopher Wylie, research director at the brand.

Speaking at the FIT’s Sustainable Business and Design Conference in NYC last week, Wylie gave an insight into how the technology is being integrated at the beginning of the design process.

“When they pick fabrics, it will show them how much water that fabric uses and the amount of carbon,” revealed Wylie. In addition to that, VR is also helping improve the diversity of the garments’ shapes. “When they are doing the virtual cut of the piece, they can look at how it would fit in different shapes of people.”

The goal is to eventually use VR as an informational tool for designers, with initial tests already showing positive results. “It’s interesting when looking at these little experiments that we’ve done that it really influences how a product was made when that information was available,” he added.

H&M Group announced the appointment of Wylie last November as leading the research into data and analytics to drive the company’s sustainability mission. Speaking at the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference at the time, he said AI could be used to reduce waste in the industry and drive efficiency through the supply chain.

So far, VR in the industry has been deployed at a more experiential level, often offering customer-facing activations at stores or at home. But increasingly brands are looking at enabling their design teams with the relevant digital tools, from VR to 3D printing, that enable them to create more mindfully, reducing waste and the risk of overproduction.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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data Editor's pick sustainability technology

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower joins H&M to lead AI research

Christopher Wiley
Christopher Wylie

Christopher Wylie, the man known as the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, has joined H&M as its director of research, where he will work on using data and analytics to drive sustainability.

Speaking on stage at the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference in the UK this week, he said artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to reduce waste in the industry and drive efficiency through the supply chain.

“A lot of fashion companies look at the supply chain and the mechanics from production to distribution, but actually understanding consumers will help you optimize the supply chain because you will better understand what it is they want to buy or they don’t want to buy,” he explained.

That comes off the back of the fact that H&M reported it had a stockpile of $4 billion in unsold clothing earlier this year. Meanwhile, Burberry also came under fire over the summer for news it burnt $37.8 million in excess inventory last year.

But Wylie argued that turning to data is not only good for the environment, but also good for business.

“Investing in AI will allow you to not only better match your units of clothing to your customers, and therefore make more money, but be able to make more money with less units of clothing. So there’s an argument in profit and profitability to invest in AI, and also an argument in sustainability to invest in AI.” That means that being more sustainable is not only an environmental decision, but a business one, he noted.

Wiley will join the H&M Group on December 1 to bring these insights to the fast fashion giant, where he will work alongside Arti Zeighami, the company’s head of AI and advanced analytics.

“If we put this data on top of what we have, then we can be more precise. It means you can stop guessing what you can calculate. It helps you be [sharper] with decision-making,” Zeighami added.

“Tech is cool. There are amazing things you can do with data, it doesn’t have to be evil,” said Wylie.

That followed a keynote he gave earlier in the day in which he outlined the way in which Cambridge Analytica used data from fashion brands as a weapon to help elect President Trump in the US in 2016. Facebook ‘likes’ from brands including Wrangler and LL Bean were used as a primary input for the algorithms that then targeted people with pro-Trump messaging. He referred to this as repurposing technology originally designed for cyber warfare to influence politics.

Earlier this year, Wylie also gave an exclusive interview to Vogue Italia in which he spoke further about why the similarities between fashion and politics are stronger than people think.

How are you thinking about AI for sustainable innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.