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business Podcast

Brian Solis on rewiring the connected generation

Living in such a connected world is damaging our ability to think creatively, says Brian Solis, a world-leading anthropologist and futurist, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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By being constantly online, we are constantly distracted, he suggests. He refers to this particularly applying to “Generation C”, where the C stands for “Connected”.

“We all live in a similar lifestyle. And when you live that lifestyle, you’re rewiring your brain. You’re speeding it up; you’re moving faster, you’re becoming less patient, you’re becoming incredibly narcissistic. The world literally revolves around you,” he explains. “You have followers, your friends, you feel like you need to constantly feed that system, but you’re also feeding off the system. So you might find yourself endlessly scrolling for no good reason whatsoever.”

Solis experienced this himself: after writing seven best-selling books, he struggled with distraction while trying to write this eighth.   

Getting caught up in cycles of sharing and consuming social media is one of the main reasons why people get less and less creative over time, he suggests. “The real problem is that I’m placing greater emphasis on what happens on this screen than I am in this moment right now. That means that I’m not placing value in the people that I’m around, or the places that I’m at, which means that becomes forgettable.”

But his quest to understand society’s digital realities, behaviors and expectations did indeed end up inspiring a new book after all. In Lifescale, he reflects on how we ended up opening ourselves up to so many distractions and what changed to make people value this way of living – points that he also touches on in the podcast.

In this conversation, recorded with the Current Global’s Liz Bacelar at our Innovation Mansion at SXSW this year, Solis explains his techniques to taking control over tech, shares how brands can be more authentic by being more empathic; and reveals what the key is to transforming us into the leaders of the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how 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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Podcast technology

Nick Knight on why AI cannot simulate creativity

Artificial intelligence is not yet good enough to simulate creativity, says British fashion photographer Nick Knight on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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Speaking live at a FashMash event in London, he explained that AI as it stands today, is a long way from what creativity is: “When you create a picture, it is done through desire, accident, failure, fear, love, and arousal. Predicting what I will do by how I did past steps is not a good way to create my next piece of art; it’s not a good way to simulate creativity.”

He was referring to the way in which AI looks back at past behavior in order to work out what is probable next. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t one day figure out how to do so, he noted, adding that he is working on new projects that will keep him on the frontline of it so as to have a say in what it could look like down the road.

Knight has built his career on pushing the boundaries of image making. He has photographed some of the world’s biggest celebrities and models – from Lady Gaga and Bjork to Kate Moss and the late Alexander McQueen. Almost two decades ago, he launched SHOWstudio, an online platform celebrating fashion film, and changing the way fashion was consumed through the internet.

Now his next act is understanding how technologies like AI and robotics will impact creativity, and how he can become a part of such a movement.

During this conversation with guest host Rosanna Falconer, Knight explains what the smartphone has to do with Shakespeare; how SHOWstudio broke the internet but created history with the first ever live streamed fashion show for Alexander McQueen in late 2009; and why he is an eternal optimist about the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how 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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business Podcast

Ozwald Boateng on why creatives need to think like startups

Ozwald Boateng
Ozwald Boateng

Designers need to reposition their businesses as startups to tap into much-needed investment, says menswear designer, Ozwald Boateng, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

In conversation with Liz Bacelar at a Spotify event in Paris, Boateng, whose body of work propelled the craftsmanship of London’s Savile Row to international recognition, says he believes the creative world needs to learn from technology in terms of how it approaches funding.

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The fashion industry’s model of investors taking control of designers’ names early on is broken, he explains, saying that we can all learn from new direct-to-consumer businesses that have overcome this by approaching differently the way that they’re backed instead.

“What amazes me is when you see these young creative talents, still owning sizeable chunks of the business after raising so much money and getting these valuations of a billion plus – you kind of go, my god, can that really happen, it’s almost like a dream, but in the tech world, it’s the norm,” he notes.

“This creates a huge amount of independence and opportunity for the designer – you’re no longer forced to follow the rules, so that’s exciting. For me as a business, I’m looking at ways to take advantage of that.”

Conversely, he says the technology world also needs to learn from creatives. “I think if more designers looked at the world of technology and applied their creative to the tech, I am sure we would see some very interesting and groundbreaking ideas,” he comments.

He explains that designers are trained to always look forward, to spot trends and understand needs, so it’s something he believes would work exceptionally well when applied to technology.

“I would happily use a body scanner [for my made-to-measure suits], it makes a lot of sense. But there’s a lot of things I could add in terms of how I need the technology to work,” he notes.

“So I see a partnership. Eventually both [designers and tech companies] will see they need each other, and then they’ll just make it work.”

During the conversation, the duo also talk about his new uniform designs for British Airways, his time as creative director at Givenchy and the role of race and diversity in the industry.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how 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 technology

Yoox to introduce AI-generated designs for new private label

Federico Marchetti of Yoox Net-a-Porter spoke at the Wired Smarter conference
WIRED Smarter

Yoox is due to introduce a new private label generated by data, according to Federico Marchetti, CEO of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group.

Speaking on stage at the WIRED Smarter conference in London today, he said the collection – the name for which he declined to yet share – will be informed by artificial intelligence (AI), but still designed by the creative team.

“By using the data, we think the creative team can interpret better our customer needs going forward,” he explained. In other words, he sees AI as an opportunity to enhance humans in their design process.

That focus on man versus machine is at the very heart of business today, he argued – and especially luxury. The challenge is how to balance the two.

“Man is about emotions. It’s about beauty. It’s about feelings. The machine is about speed, information power and the future. Can these two worlds co-exist?” he asked. “We must make choices to strike the right balance.”

In the future, he imagines clothing labels such as “Made in Italy” will be replaced by “Made by Humans”. But he said that’s a choice for us to do so: “This is only going to get harder as technology accelerates – it’s not always the efficient choice to use humans, it will probably be easier to let a machine do everything in the future. It’s a choice to stop ourselves from allowing technology to replace what we truly value.”

The YNAP Group can already demonstrate a variety of examples where man and machine come together out of choice. Its logistics center is fully automated, for instance, apart from at the final point, which is where the box is put together and the bow is tied around it. “This intersection with the final customer needs to have the human touch,” Marchetti explained.

It’s the same for the e-commerce company’s personal shoppers, all of whom now have an AI tool to help them give advice to customers. This is a data-led system that learns tastes from stylists and then hands that information over to be scaled.

Yoox also isn’t the first to think about a data-generated collection. Companies like Stitch Fix in the US, have also been experimenting with collecting data from customers and feeding it through an algorithm to create new designs. The idea of “cognitive creativity” is also something the likes of IBM Watson has been playing with in partnership with a variety of brands including Tommy Hilfiger, Marchesa and Australian designer Jason Grech.

The new AI-generated line from Yoox will launch in a couple of weeks, Marchetti said.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 6, 2018: Yoox has announced the brand will be called 8 by Yoox, and consist of a collection of stylish essentials for women and men, powered by artificial intelligence alongside human designers. It launches on site today.

The team have used advanced AI tools to review content from across social media and online magazines in key markets with a particular focus on fashion influencers. This insight is combined with predictive indicators into emerging lifestyle and style trends, analysis of own data from products sold on its site, customer feedback, industry purchasing trends as well as text search and image recognition. The result is a dynamic mood board that allows the design team to tap into the pulse of the Yoox customer, providing inspiration before they start to conceive items for the collection including everything from shape trends to colours, sleeve lengths, neckline shapes, fabrics, textures, heel heights and price points.

8 by Yoox
8 by Yoox

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent 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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Campaigns mobile technology

Cannes Lions 2018: Ikea’s latest AR app creates ingenious way to reuse packaging

#IKEAtoybox
#IKEAtoybox

Ikea has launched another augmented reality app, this time one that enables its flatpack packaging to become real-life toys for kids.

The #IKEAtoybox initiative sees AR used to determine what potential toys could be made from the amount of cardboard available, and then gives users the instructions on how to do so. The result is everything from rockets to castles, butterfly wings, sharks and beyond.

Announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week, in partnership with Wunderman and Kantar Consulting, the project went from concept to delivery in just five weeks.

“It’s about creating endless amounts of imagination based on the actual size of the packaging you have,” said Daniel Bonner, global CCO at Wunderman.

The idea for it came off the back of over 15 years-worth of insights from Mumsnet. That data showed that one of the largest concerns from parents surrounds child development – second only to childbirth. Further research also highlighted that 50% of parents say they struggle to find the ideas to bring creative play into the home.

The app is still a prototype at this stage, but will be rolled out to consumers shortly. Ikea is also said to be looking at how to open up the project to a wider audience thereafter. Given its broader focus on sustainability and reducing waste as an organization, it’s considering how to open this AR app up so packaging from other retailers could also be utilized in the same way.

For more about Ikea’s sustainability mission, listen in to this episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast with Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at the brand.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

Cannes Lions 2018: Apple’s Angela Ahrendts on the human side of retail

Angela Ahrendts of Apple at Cannes Lions
Angela Ahrendts of Apple at Cannes Lions

“We decided it was important that the largest tech company in the world, makes the largest investment in humans in the world,” said Angela Ahrendts, SVP of retail at Apple, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week, with regards to her ‘Today at Apple’ initiative.

The scheme, which picked up the Brand Experience & Activation Grand Prix at the festival’s awards last night, sees 18,000 events held in Apple stores around the world every week. The focus particularly is on education, both in terms of helping consumers understand technology, but also the creative or liberal arts.

This links back to something founder Steve Jobs said in 2011: “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”

As a result, the teams at retail had to evolve too. While Ahrendts has been leading a mass redesign of the stores to what are now referred to as “town squares”, in a bid to drive a sense of community, she has also been rethinking who services those spaces.

The renowned Apple Geniuses continue to exist, but so too do new “creative pros” as a result. These are to the liberal arts what the genius is to technology, she explained. Today there are 3,500 of them worldwide, who all teach everything from photography to art, music and design skills in store.

“These people are our secret sauce,” Ahrendts explained. “This is something Apple has, and Amazon or Alibaba doesn’t: people on the front line.” What’s key is that they are hired for their empathy, rather than their ability to sell. In fact, no one who works at Apple is on any quotas or commission, which is also something that goes back to Steve Jobs’ original vision.

“He told all of the original employees when he opened the first Apple stores, that they weren’t allowed to sell, that their job was to enrich lives and they had to do so through the lens of education,” Ahrendts outlined.

That objective is currently rolling out worldwide, with Apple upping the size of its retail footprint (doubling and tripling some of the existing ones in the process) in order to make space for the boardrooms and educational forums accordingly. Upcoming new openings include a legacy theatre renovation in Milan, a five-storey flagship on the Champs Élysées in Paris, and a reworking of the Washington Carnegie Library in DC.

Retail isn’t dying, said Ahrendts, but it’s evolving fast and it’s only through focusing on human needs that you can today survive. Apple dedicates 40% of its staff hours to service and support and a third of its square footage, she noted. All of that is aiming to cement the notion of the company being primarily a “human” business.

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Editor's pick technology

Cannes Lions 2018: How Samsung is focusing on the sweet spot between brand, tech and people

Samsung
Samsung

In the end it’s not about the technology itself, but the outcome it delivers, said Samsung’s global CMO, YoungHee Lee, on stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week.

Speaking about whether tech would be the downfall or saviour of creativity, Lee highlighted that Samsung’s bigger mission is to hit the sweet spot between brand, tech and people.

To further enforce that point, Lee presented the company’s three major trends that it believes will shape this new era of transformation:

  • Personal empowerment: As title and money begin to lose importance, consumers are seeking to know what makes them better personally. Tech in this case will enable people to achieve their personal goals.
  • People demanding for brands to take a stand: As a result of consumer introspection and the search for a sense of purpose, brands, Lee urged, need to demonstrate they share their consumers’ perspectives of the world.
  • People seeing tech as a force for good: The way consumers are experience tech is different, as a result of being better informed, better entertained, and better connected with friends and family. Technology is changing the lives of people for the better, she explained, and it is a brand’s responsibility to demonstrate that and behave responsibly.

Emphasizing technology as a vehicle for human transformation and creativity is key because tech has and always was about human change, Lee said. Her advice to marketers in the room was to live in the intersection of tech and humanity. This is particularly important because within 10 years of the first smartphone coming to market, there are now 2.6 billion people connected to the internet, 84% of which are on mobile.

With every consumer now considering themselves a content creator – in the case of professional YouTubers, a one-man media company – Samsung hopes to exist in the space that enables those behaviors, as well as pushing for the good of humankind as a whole.

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data Editor's pick Podcast technology

How Google Zoo is thinking about machine learning

Tomas Roope and Rachel Arthur

There’s a very simple filter that comes with working at Google, and it’s about putting the user first, says Tomas Roope, creative lead at Google Zoo, the tech giant’s think tank focused on pushing the limits of creativity through technology.

Talking to Rachel Arthur in a live recording of TheCurrent Innovators podcast from the FashMash Pioneers event in London, he said: “The way we think is always user-first. Are we really solving something for somebody here? …At Google we’re about solving problems at scale.”

That attitude should be applied to every business, including those in the fashion and retail vertical, he explains. The Zoo is a small team that is designed to be a conduit between creative agencies and Google’s own products, its engineering teams and its data. The result is all manner of both creative and technology-driven projects for different industries, from a coded couture dress for H&M’s Ivy Revel brand, to an advertising campaign redefining what masculinity really looks like today from Axe.

While Roope admits some are more PR or headline-driven than others, his process, whether the result incorporates buzzworthy terms like augmented reality, artificial intelligence or beyond, always comes back to whether the solution is something that answers a consumer need. “What shifts the bottom line is making things more relevant, and making them simpler. [It’s about answering] what do people really want?” he asks.

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Anchoring much of that work these days however, comes data. “[At Google], we have seven to eight products that have over one billion users monthly, and so we have a really great understanding of what people are doing… and what they’re thinking,” he explains.

That insight is what informs the work his team does as a result, while machine learning (ML) then takes it to the next level, Roope notes. He refers to ML as an area that’s not yet being explored to its full potential.

“We’re in the middle of two massive revolutions – one of which is still the smartphone coming from 10 years ago, and now the rise of machine learning.” He refers to this as not only a powerful and extraordinarily interesting tool that allows you to fix problems in a way you couldn’t have done before, but as the most exciting underpinning to the future we’re currently building.

It’s completely reshaping what our world looks like, and what opportunities there are for brands in it as a result, he explains.

To get there, he says experimentation for all industries – including fashion and retail – is key. “For me, you’re not going to sit and discover the future by dwelling on it… it’s all about test and learn,” he explains.

As to where it will take us, he adds: “There’s a great quote by Bill Gates that says we tend to overestimate what’s going to happen in two years, but underestimate what will happen in the next 10. If you look back 10 years, we didn’t have smartphones, but in two years nothing’s happened. Only when we look over a good chunk of time do we see how much it’s changed.”

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how 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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Categories
product technology

Artificial intelligence empowers designers in IBM, Tommy Hilfiger and FIT collaboration

A design by FIT student Grace McCarty for Tommy Hilfiger's Reimagine Retail project with IBM - artificial intelligence
A design by FIT student Grace McCarty for Tommy Hilfiger’s Reimagine Retail project with IBM

Young fashion shoppers today are demanding personalization more than ever. According to an IBM study, 52% of female Generation Z would like to see tools that allow them to customize products for themselves.

This coincides with an ever-increasing expectation for speed in delivery of product. While several fast fashion retailers can get product to shelves in weeks, the majority of clothing items take anywhere from six to 12 months of development.

Technology is impacting throughout the supply chain to shift this forward, including in the creative process itself. Artificial intelligence (AI) for instance – incorporating computer vision, natural language understanding and deep learning – is being used to produce key insights on trends to both expedite the initial design process and better predict demand for hyperlocalized products.

IBM has teamed up with Tommy Hilfiger and The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Infor Design and Tech Lab on a project called Reimagine Retail to demonstrate this. The aim is to show how AI capabilities can give retailers an edge in terms of speed, and equip the next generation of retail leaders with new skills using AI in design, according to Steve Laughlin, general manager of IBM Global Consumer Industries.

To do so, FIT students were given access to IBM Research’s AI capabilities including computer vision, natural language understanding, and deep learning techniques specifically trained with fashion data.

Those tools were applied to 15,000 of Tommy Hilfiger’s product images, some 600,000 publicly available runway images and nearly 100,000 patterns from fabric sites. They then brought about key silhouettes, colors, and novel prints and patterns that could be used as informed inspiration to the students’ designs.

Head over to Forbes to read the full story.

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business Startups

UK fashion entrepreneurs take note: $1.5m up for grabs via WeWork’s Creator Awards

WeWork's Creator Awards will take place in London on September 14
WeWork’s Creator Awards will take place in London on September 14

Co-working business WeWork is offering a grant of over $1.5 million to UK entrepreneurs, SMBs, non-profits and artists as part of its Creator Awards this summer; a global initiative that will hand out a total of $20 million worldwide to innovative projects and the people behind them.

The team is looking to recognise and reward those who are thinking in new ways, building fresh projects and achieving real change across all industries. Fashion falls comfortably within that bracket, but what’s better is any stage of growth is relevant; whether you have an established business or even just the beginnings of a good idea.

Prizes from $18,000 to $360,000 are up for grabs across three categories in a bid to offer opportunity to as many different types of creators as possible. The Incubate award is for individuals with an idea or project that needs funding; the Launch award is for start-ups and non-profits that have launched but are still learning; and the Scale award is for those with a record of success that are ready for the next level.

“We’re a company that wants to provide people with an energy source. We want to provide people with motivation, excitement. We want them to love what they do,” Miguel McKelvey, co-founder and chief creative officer of WeWork, says in the above video. This is the first year of what’s set to be an annual programme.

The barrier to enter is low too – all you have to do is fill out a form and submit a 90-second video by the deadline of August 24. The regional finals will then take place in London on September 14, before the Creator Awards Global Finals in New York in November.

At the first three regional finals in the US, Emily Kane won $36,000 for GirlForward to bring her English Language Learning curriculum online to support girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution around the world. Donovan Morrison won $72,000 for Luna Lights to help bring the safety light solution to 20 assisted living communities and 600 older adults this year. And Samuel Bain won $180,000 for Imerman Angels to take the one-on-one Cancer Support Community beyond the US.

London’s event on September 14 will also include a full day of public programming, a pop-up market with local sellers and a job fair. Further Creator Awards will be hosted in Berlin, Mexico City and Tel Aviv.