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business Editor's pick sustainability technology

Levi’s and Harvard University launch blockchain pilot for worker welfare

Levi Strauss & Co. has partnered with Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health to pilot a worker’s welfare initiative that will utilize blockchain technology.

The aim of the program is to better understand the wellbeing of its factory workers in real time and react accordingly because, according to the denim brand, “what’s good for workers is also good for business”.

The program features an annual worker survey, with questions developed by the School’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) center. The garment worker’s responses will then live on a blockchain platform powered by ConSensys, thus enabling a transparent and secure way for workers to share their experiences anonymously, with no fear of consequences.

It will be piloted this year at three factories in Mexico who produce for the brand, and together employ 5,000 workers.

“For the last 25 years, work in supply chains has been monitored mainly by audits,” said Dr. Eileen McNeely, director at SHINE. “A distributed system of inquiry on the blockchain that goes right to the source (workers) offers a new solution.”

The initiative is part of Levi’s’ existing Worker Well-being (WWB) program launched in 2011, which sees the company partner with its suppliers and local organizations to implement change focused on giving its workers financial empowerment, health and family wellbeing, and equality and acceptance. The program, which since its inception has reached over 200,000 workers globally, is available open-source.

“One of the aspirations of Worker Well-being is to influence the apparel industry and make WWB the standard for the sector,” says Kim Almeida, director of WBB at the Levi Strauss Foundation. “We believe that the SHINE work, in partnership with LS&Co., will provide an important tool that gets us one step closer to making this goal of scaling our approach a reality.”

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainable innovation strategy.TheCurrent 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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Campaigns product technology

Puma re-releases classic 80s connected sneaker

Puma has re-released its 1986 RS sneaker for the digital age, adding a small computer to the back of the shoe that links to a dedicated smartphone app to track data.

The original shoe, released in 1986, only featured a computer chip built into the heel, which registered data such as time, distance and calories burned when it was worn. Data collected was then transferred to a home computer via a 16-pin connector.

Puma’s new RS sneaker

In its new iteration the shoe still measures the exact same data, but this time it uses bluetooth technology to connect it to smartphone devices and relay it to the user via an app.

In a nostalgic twist, the app’s interface uses the same graphic displays (called 8-bit) as it did in the 80s, and as well as a game.

Only 86 pair of the shoes will be sold at Puma stores in Tokyo, Berlin and London and in the US, at streetwear retailer KITH.

How are you thinking about digital 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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Editor's pick Podcast

Gadi Amit on designing human-led wearables that evoke connections

Gadi Amit & Liz Bacelar
Gadi Amit & Liz Bacelar

In an increasingly digital world, designing physical products that are genuinely useful and evoke an emotion from the consumer, is a tough challenge, according to Gadi Amit, president and principal designer at NewDealDesign, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators.

With tech’s fast-moving evolution comes a need to design objects that are sustainable and desirable, he highlights in his conversation with Liz Bacelar. Best known as the designer behind the original FitBit wearable device, Amit thinks technology is still very much about utility, but that pioneers such as Apple’s Steve Jobs and Jony Ive have ignited change. Consumers are now becoming increasingly accustomed to technology pervading many aspects of their lives, and as a result are looking for objects that enhance their personal experiences by creating deeper connections, he says.

When developing a successful wearable product, for instance, brands need to look beyond designing status-seeking elements to ask basic questions, such as: “What does it do for you? How does it enhance your life?”, says Amit. He reiterates that an object’s uniqueness lies in its true experiential value, and not just the label.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

For luxury, an industry that has struggled to enter the fast-moving market of digital technologies while retaining its products’ values of longevity, Amit suggests starting with the values of the brand first, and building the technology that speaks to it.

For fashion the 2014 wearable boom was short-lived, as the market became overcrowded with products that consumer demand didn’t respond to. Although Amit thinks this is partly because devices lacked uniqueness, this is also due to the fact that wearables are so difficult to design, he explains. He particularly contradicts a common notion in the fashion industry that technology within wearables should be made to be invisible – from a usability standpoint, there are always design elements that need to prioritize function over aesthetics, he comments.

“Wearables are different animals, they’re not accessories in fashion. This is a piece of technology that needs to be on the human body, and therefore needs to be designed appropriately,” he concludes.

Scrip
Scrip

The self-confessed “contrarian by nature” is tackling payments next, an industry that historically champions frictionless and simplified interactions. Research around how exchanging physical currency affects behaviors and creates subconscious connections led him to design a new device called Scrip. This induces friction by asking the user to swipe at it a few times in order to share digital currency, meaning users make more conscious spending decisions.

It acts as a cashpoint in the user’s pocket, in which its tangibility plays a key role in triggering neural functions that automated payment systems like Apple Pay have hindered. In designing Scrip, Amit explains that it taps into the need to create objects that perfectly combine function and aesthetics in such a way that its owners will never render it obsolete.

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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Editor's pick product technology

Ministry of Supply introduces AI-enabled heated jacket

Ministry of Supply's intelligent heated jacket
Ministry of Supply’s intelligent heated jacket

US performance label Ministry of Supply has launched an intelligent heated jacket that uses machine learning to adjust the garment’s temperature.

The Mercury jacket creates a microclimate optimized to the wearer’s body by using a custom microcontroller heating system to heat up carbon-fiber heating pads sewn in the garment’s lining. The system takes in to consideration the weather and body temperature, motion data, and user preference to modulate power. For example, when walking to a train stop the jacket senses temperatures and an elevating heart rate, as well as user behaviour learnt through time, to regulate the system.

The machine learning element ensures that the more feedback the user gives its accompanying app, the better the system gets at learning their preferences. Meanwhile an added voice element allows wearers to naturally activate the jacket through a smart assistant like Amazon Alexa.

Ministry of Supply's Mercury Jacket
Ministry of Supply’s Mercury Jacket

“Our mission is to invent clothing that blends form and functionality — and temperature regulation is one of the most important factors in comfort,” says the brand’s team. “We’re excited to present our vision of what wearable technology can become, not just a way to monitor our vitals – but also act on it allowing us to become more comfortable and capable because of it. The Intelligent Heated Jacket is just that literally putting a learning thermostat in your jacket.”

Since Ministry of Supply’s inception, it has approached clothing through a human-centric, design-led methodology that takes into consideration both aesthetic and function. The jacket has been developed to replace any other outerwear alternative.

The jacket’s production is being crowdfunded via a campaign on Kickstarter. Since its launch yesterday (February 21) the jacket has trebled its original donations goal, to reach over $150K in pledges.

This is Ministry of Supply’s third successful Kickstarter campaign. In 2012, it launched the Apollo shirt, which controls body temperature after raising over $400K. Following that, the Atlas socks, which are made out of coffee beans that filter out sweat, raised over $200K or its $30K goal.

Categories
data Editor's pick product social media technology

Michael Kors launches smartwatch-focused chatbot

Michael Kors introduces chatbot to smartwatches, tech, fashion tech, smart technology, chatbots
Michael Kors introduces chatbot to support smartwatches

Michel Kors has launched a chatbot on Facebook Messenger and Google Assistant, designed to support its Access Sofie smartwatch for women.

The bot aims to teach users about the smartwatch’s features and functionalities, guiding new owners on the set-up process of their device when they first purchase, enabling them to get the most out of it thereafter.

It also provides style inspiration curated from user-generated content and shopping information about items to buy within the experience, including interchangeable bands for the watches. That is done within the Facebook Messenger feed, or via a voice-activated option available through the Google Assistant.

Should the user need help, the bot is also equipped with FAQ support and the ability to hand users off to a human customer service representative when the moment arises.

The chatbot is also available for non-watch owners, enabling them to explore the different Sofie smartwatch styles, then inviting them to either make a purchase on the spot or head to their nearest Michael Kors location.

This sort of move for chatbots as a key part of customer service is becoming increasingly commonplace among brands and retailers. Part of the reason, beyond the marketing drive it has facilitated initially, is the scale it enables. As the technology itself improves, this is only going to get smarter.

Across verticals, there are now more than 100,000 bots on the Facebook Messenger platform, all of which have the potential to reach the platform’s 1.3 billion users.

Categories
product Startups technology

Telekom Fashion Fusion challenge searches for fashion of the future

Telekom Fashion Fusion
Telekom Fashion Fusion

Deutsche Telekom has launched its second annual ideas competition supporting the future of fashion and technology; inviting young talent to realise visionary concepts for high-tech apparel through to digital lifestyle products.

The Telekom Fashion Fusion challenge, as it’s called, is looking for creative ideas from across Europe in three categories: connected devices and smart accessories, haute couture and show fashion, and business solutions and smart services.

Entries are open until November 17, following which a shortlist of 10 finalists will be empowered to develop quality prototypes of their concepts in the Fashion Fusion Lab in Berlin from February to May 2018, before presenting them at an exclusive award show at Berlin Fashion Week in July 2018.

International coaches from the nexus of cutting-edge fashion and technology, including designers Pauline van Dongen, Julia Körner, Jasna Rok and Danit Peleg, will support the initiative.

“In our Telekom Fashion Fusion competition, young talents are given the unique opportunity to realise their dream of high-tech clothing, wearables or digital lifestyle products and bring them to market with the help of experts from the industry, the fashion world and the start-up scene,” says Antje Hundhausen, VP of brand experience at Deutsche Telekom.

The 2016 edition of the challenge saw 120 applicants from 25 countries. Trainwear, a virtual personal trainer integrated in smart fitness clothing, emerged as the winner, closely followed by Mimime, an augmented reality app that allows consumers to add patterns, accessories and artistic forms to clothing. Third place went to TranSwarm Entities, which combines 3D printing and drone technology, alongside music producer Beorn Lebenstedt (Newk), to curate a fashion performance.


This year’s entries will be judged by an esteemed jury including Dirk Schönberger, creative director at Adidas and Anita Tillmann, managing partner at Premium Group.

True to the slogan for this year’s edition – Technology becomes Fashion – the seamless integration of technology and the need to keep an eye to marketability of a product, all the way from initial concept to readiness for market, will play a central role in choosing the three eventual winners.

The Telekom Fashion Fusion competition is sponsored by Adidas, Intel, Lufthansa, Zeiss and Wired Germany. It is open to start-ups, entrepreneurs, engineers, fashion designers and students of the European fashion, design and technology scene, to apply either individually or in teams.

To do so, they need to send in information about their idea of concept, illustrative material that supports and visualises it, and information about the people behind the project and their motivation to participate.

The challenge can also be followed on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and by using the hashtags #FashionFusion and #Telekom.

(This is a sponsored post)

Categories
product technology

Project Runway designer launches 3D printed shoe collection

Seth Aaron's 3D printed footwear line with Feetz on show at FashioNXT
Seth Aaron’s 3D printed footwear line with Feetz on show at FashioNXT

Seth Aaron, two-time winner of Lifetime’s Emmy award-winning TV show, Project Runway, has introduced a line of 3D printed designer shoes.

Teaming up with 3D printing footwear company, Feetz, the collection launched at fashion and technology event, FashioNXT, in Portland on Friday, October 13.

The concept is all about enabling custom-fit designs for consumers. As Feetz founder and CEO, Lucy Beard, said: “Seth Aaron’s creative design vision will explore the reach of 3D printing in fashion, enabling him to produce what only could have been imagined. That vision will be translated into ready-to-wear, customised for each customer’s unique needs.”

In the past, much of the experimentation with 3D printed footwear remained as concept pieces – rigid resin designs that were impossible to wear for their lack of flexibility. As the technology and materials have improved, that’s begun to shift quite rapidly forward. Adidas for instance, has started to 3D print the soles of a sneaker called the Futurecraft at scale; the first in the sportswear industry to do so beyond prototype or bespoke stage. It aims to produce 100,000 of them by the end of 2018.

Feetz meanwhile, uses proprietary polymers to 3D print the entire shoe; uppers and tread. Head over to Forbes to hear more about how Feetz produces its shoes, the details of the Seth Aaron collection and the sustainability focus that such footwear also provides.

Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce film social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: The sewbots are coming, retail automation, bots to buy Supreme

Sewbots - The rise of the "sewbot" marks a new industrial revolution in garment manufacturing
The rise of the “sewbot” marks a new industrial revolution in garment manufacturing

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past fortnight.


TOP STORIES
  • The sewbots are coming! [BoF]
  • Nearly half of all retail jobs could be lost to automation within 10 years [Fortune]
  • The botmakers who rule the obsessive world of streetwear [Wired]
  • The ugly problem of pretty packaging [Racked]

BUSINESS
  • New Ralph Lauren CEO has work cut out for him after dismal year [Retail Dive]
  • Is British fast fashion too fast? [Racked]
  • Why the rout in retail shouldn’t be a big worry for US economy [Bloomberg]
  • Zara and H&M back in-store recycling to tackle throwaway culture [The Guardian]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Publishers are using Facebook video to drive commerce revenue [Digiday]
  • Bringing retail to ‘the speed of feed’: Facebook’s quest to court luxury brands [Glossy]
  • Instagram launches selfie filters, copying the last big Snapchat feature [TechCrunch]
  • Sales of this L’Oreal product rose 51% after ‘everyday influencers’ promoted it heavily on Snapchat [AdWeek]

MARKETING
  • Why there’s no yoga in Lululemon’s first global campaign [AdAge]
  • Community is core to next-gen brands [BoF]
  • Bill Nighy asks ‘Why would anyone shop at TK Maxx?’ in retailer’s zany TVC [The Drum]
  • Selfridges leverages Positive Luxury’s Butterfly Mark to up transparency [Luxury Daily]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Inside 24 Sèvres, LVMH’s new multi-brand e-commerce play [BoF]
  • J Crew on underestimating retail tech [WSJ]
  • ‘Ultra-fast’ fashion players gain on Zara, H&M [Retail Dive]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Fashion and technology will inevitably become one [Engadget]
  • Is the ‘RFID retail revolution’ finally here? a Macy’s case study [Forbes]
  • How brands are using AI to find influencer matches [AdAge]
  • Mobile tech, digital platforms, AI among key topics at Decoded Fashion London Summit [WWD]
  • Why Amazon’s delivery-drone team is obsessed with geese [Bloomberg]
  • Google touts Assistant’s new e-commerce features [Retail Dive]

START-UPS
  • Miroslava Duma launches fashion tech lab with $50 million to invest [BoF]
  • Why do so many big fashion and beauty brands want to support start-ups? [Fashionista]
Categories
product Startups technology

Colette hosts fashion and technology exhibition in Paris windows

The Dream Band by Erik Halley and Luciding for Fashion Hack at Collete
The Dream Band by Erik Halley and Luciding for Fashion Hack at Collete

One of the biggest barriers for wearable technology’s uptake in the fashion industry has quite simply been around aesthetics. Something that puts functionality first, doesn’t fit so well in an industry geared to form.

And yet this technology is slowly morphing into something that is about so much more than biometrics, for instance, and rather entire experiences. In doing so, it’s opening enormous doors for the fashion industry, indeed the luxury world, to step in and think about where craft sits alongside.

That’s the premise behind a new exhibition called “Fashion Hack”, which opens in the windows of concept store Colette in Paris today for a week. 10 prototypes have been created by fashion designers; within them embedding various new technologies relevant to this sector.

Curated by Carole Sabas, a correspondent for French Vogue and the author behind The Fashion Guides series, the technologies were scouted from the west coast of the US, where Sabas is now based.

“In opposition to the ‘wearables’ category, these fashion accessories are first and foremost luxury goods, crafted as couture objects,” she explains. “Their invisible perks are limited to a few features: a surprising comfort (re-engineered soles) or stunning experience (self-heating sheer fabric, enhanced listening…) No biometrics will be measured, no apps will be downloaded. Seamlessly merged with fashion, the tech factor is an inconspicuous bonus. A secret layer of convenience, second to fashion.”

Included is a self-heating jacket from Thermaltech and ACRNM, enabled via solar panels coated on metallic threads; a 100% natural cotton shirt embedded with nano-encapsulated technology to ensure water, oil and wine stains are repelled, from Maud Jeline and Dropel; a headband designed to induce lucid dreams during sleep, created by Erik Halley and Luciding; and a pair of embellished earrings from Michael Schmidt Studios and Bragi, which essentially sees jewellery clipped on to a pair of smart audio earphones. Tech-enabled shoes, bags, belts and glasses all feature.

There are also nine mini robot balls that have been programmed by a choreographer to execute a baroque-inspired ballet in the window.

For Sabas it was really key to look at how to integrate technology, but not have it as the central feature – arguably the direction this space is set to move in. “After all, zippers and buttons are also tech,” she explains. “We’ll pretty soon stop aweing at connected jackets, as we long stop aweing at our iPhones. But we’ll still awe at cool, fashionable jackets.”

Sabas spends her time between fashion weeks and tech shows like CES in Las Vegas and is often left bewildered at some of the suggestions put out there, she explains. “I couldn’t believe that I was seeing the same umbrellas that buzz you if it’s going to rain, rings that blink when you receive texts and belt that text you if you’re on the verge of eating too much.”

But she also came to understand how the tech circle works in terms of secrecy, NDAs, patents and more, and wanted to prove how much more could be possible through collaboration.

“The idea is to suggest to tech start-ups to collaborate with fashion designers if their intention is to target luxury stores alongside electronic retailing. It also invites fashion houses to reach out to tech people, in order to get ready for things like the wireless charging bags, smart eyeglasses, high heels 2:0, connected jackets and jewellery and other ‘hearables’ coming their way in a couple of seasons,” she explains.

She’s a technophile at heart, but one with a vision that makes sense for both consumers and brands alike: “I would like what the rest of the world would like – IoT that grows meaningful, useful, invisible, weightless, universal, with no cables and long life batteries. Something that makes you feel chic, creative and efficient.”

More importantly, she believes the fashion industry needs to wake up to the revolution happening before the tech companies themselves become more powerful as brands within the same sphere.

Categories
Startups technology

London’s CFE announces latest cohort of fashion tech pioneers for incubator programme

Higher is one of the new entrants to the CFE FashTech Pioneer programme
Higher is one of the new entrants to the CFE FashTech Pioneer programme

The Centre for Fashion Enterprise, part of London College of Fashion, has announced the latest fashion and technology start-ups entering its six-month incubator.

The FashTech Pioneer programme, as it’s called, is supporting everything from wearable technology to a fashion rental business, on this, its third time around.

Included are AI-enabled fashion styling platform, Becoco; immersive AR company Meshmerise; customisable accessories brand, Okautumn; sample tracking and editorial platform, FavourUp; luxury rental business, Higher; and heat technology wearable brand, Emel + Aris.

“We have worked hard to build a brand and launch our first product and now, with the help and insight from CFE, we look forward to building a solid international business. We are particularly excited about working with CFE on technology innovation and collaborations with designers and other innovators,” said the Emel + Aris team.

Becoco’s founder, Katharina Vandamme-Eybesfeld, commented: “CFE’s program is the perfect fit for BECOCO – after having secured the tech grant from Innovate UK we are now looking to further develop the marketing and branding side of the business, and extend our network within the fashion industry.”

Each of the start-ups were selected on the basis of “having a unique and scalable business idea, the potential to disrupt existing industry models, and being at a stage where they can benefit from right time interventions”, according to the CFE team.

Part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the start-ups get access to a wide range of business support in areas such as branding, pitching, digital strategy and marketing.

The CFE is continuing in its 14th year supporting emerging London-based talent. Previous intake on its design programme has included the likes of Erdem, Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou. Earlier FashTech Pioneers (a programme started in 2015) include wearables company Studio XO, customisable bridal wear platform Prim & Clover, and just last year crowdfunding platform Awaytomars, among others.