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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.

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Editor's pick mobile technology

Augmented reality is set to transform fashion and retail

Burberry's augmented reality integration in its iOS 11 app
Burberry’s augmented reality integration in its iOS 11 app

“At some point, we’re going to look back and think, how did we not have a digital layer on the physical world,” Greg Jones, director of VR and AR at Google, said at Shoptalk Europe earlier this month.

The role of augmented reality (AR) is set to be transformative, he argued, and that’s particularly the case when it’s applied to retail.

Those words were echoed in an interview with Apple CEO, Tim Cook, published by Vogue magazine around the same time, in which he said he believes AR will impact everything from runway shows to shopping. “Over time, I think [these features] will be as key as having a website,” he commented.

The fact is both Apple and Google are facilitating this happening. While AR has been around for many years, 2017 will be marked as the beginning of mass consumer uptake, thanks to the smartphone integration we’re starting to see.

The introduction of Apple’s ARkit, a developer platform for augmented reality, and the subsequent launch of iOS 11, which hosts it, has paved the way on iPhones and iPads. Google’s ARcore meanwhile, brings the same to Android.

Consumer adoption follows the fact users have long been playing in this space – they know what AR is by the filters they put on their faces on Snapchat, or the characters they’ve chased around the streets using Pokémon Go.

The difference now, is having this utility integrated in a multitude of other apps on their phones; making it a second nature experience to add that digital layer to everything they are doing. Head over to Forbes to read the full story, including the fashion and retail brands already jumping on board.

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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)

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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.

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business e-commerce Events technology

Farfetch to unveil plans for its ‘Store of the Future’

FarfetchOS will unveil Farfetch's Store of the Future plans
FarfetchOS will unveil Farfetch’s Store of the Future plans

Luxury e-commerce platform, Farfetch, is set to reveal the technology behind its ‘Store of the Future’ concept in an event next April.

The company will host 200 people from global retailers and brands at “FarfetchOS”, to share insights from the team it has dedicated to this project.

The focus, it explains, is on putting the customer right at the heart of the retail experience. But more than that, it’s about taking the data driven discipline that has driven growth, efficiency and personalisation online, into the offline world. All underpinned, of course, by the Farfetch platform.

It will demonstrate how it is seamlessly weaving technology into stores, moving it beyond just being about gimmick, and instead thinking about how it can bring new meaning to luxury fashion in order to cement a brand’s relevance with the next generation.

José Neves, founder and CEO of Farfetch, said: “The e-commerce model that most companies embraced until now needs to change to become much more customer-centric. The future of luxury fashion – we believe – will involve to a large extent the physical store, where nine out of 10 transactions still take place. But the future of the physical store will be augmented by digital platforms. At this intersection of physical and digital retail, many new customer-focused unique experiences are suddenly made possible; at FarfetchOS we will reveal a series of such experiences in partnership with some of the world’s luxury super-brands.”

Taking place at the Design Museum in London, the event will be a day of “major unveilings and future thinking” to drive change and demonstrate innovation. It will also include a panel of industry experts looking at future trends, discussing how disruption is influencing and shaping the industry, as well as thoughts on how to master omnichannel strategy and the emerging behaviours of the millennial shopper.

Further detail of the event, including the full agenda, will be announced in January 2017. You can find out more via www.farfetchos.com.

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business Comment Editor's pick product sustainability technology

From the TEDx stage: Why technology and innovation matter so much to the future of fashion and sustainability

Rachel Arthur on the TEDx stage
Rachel Arthur on the TEDx stage

“Often the perception of the fashion industry is that it’s a frivolous entity, based on silly ideals about what we should wear, and how we should look.” So goes the opening line to my TEDx talk delivered in London in late October this year.

Feeling extremely privileged to be invited to give one, I wanted to use the occasion to dispel the myth that it’s a superficial, vain and vacuous world, and instead prove how intelligent the clothing we wear on our backs really is. More than that, I wanted to show how essential innovation within fashion is for the future sustainability of our planet.

I spend a lot of my time writing about things like wearable technology; the future of fashion through the lens of how it connects to the grid. And yet, truthfully this isn’t about that, it’s about a new generation of textiles that are less demanding on the environment – bioengineered solutions and beyond, that can reduce the damage this industry does.

Fashion and textiles is considered the second largest polluter in the world after oil. It also accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, uses a quarter of chemicals produced worldwide each year, and falls just behind agriculture in the amount of water it consumes.

On top of that, our greed for new clothes, now sees more than 100 billion pieces produced worldwide each year, according to McKinsey & Company – more than double what was made in the year 2000. What’s worse, is three out of five of those items then end up in landfill within the same 12 months.

Fashion no matter what angle you look at it from, is seriously damaging our planet. So we have to change it. We have to look at producing less on the one hand, but we also have to think about alternatives through innovation because the commercial side of this business is never going to really change that argument around volume.

So often we believe the idea of fashion and technology working together is a new concept. And yes, in some ways that’s true – partnerships between the big technology companies and fashion brands is incredibly recent if we’re talking about integrating things like sensors, batteries, cloud computing and beyond.

But, the very notion of textiles has really always been about technology; from trading in ancient times all the way through the industrial revolution and beyond. We take for granted items like our tights, shirts and even our bras, yet some of the work behind them was mind-blowing when they first came to the fore. Stretch (aka Lycra), crease-resistance, moisture wicking, you name it, all things we’ve come to expect, but all a product of innovation in their time.

Rachel Arthur on the TEDx stage
Rachel Arthur on the TEDx stage

This one is a particular highlight: Did you know, the industrial division of underwear manufacturer, Playtex, was behind the Apollo Spacesuit? Thanks to an incredible book by Nicholas De Monchaux, called Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo, I was able to share this story of real ‘fashion’ triumph – a win for supposed frivolity over perceived engineering expertise. As in the caption above: “A company that makes bras, [quite literally], sent man to the moon.”

Today, we’re seeing companies like Modern Meadow and Bolt Threads starting to explore viable alternatives. We’re also seeing some exciting innovations coming out of companies like Google with Levi’s, and Avery Dennison with EVRYTHNG, all of which are important to drive innovation forward. And then there are designers like Stella McCartney leading the sustainability focus within the luxury sector.

The fashion industry at large now has a collective responsibility to truly get behind this. Working with technology companies is crucial of course, but so too is investing in research and development and the very science of textiles as it’s always done, in order to start coming up with solutions that are less impactful on the planet.

Quite simply, we need a future of more innovative textiles and sustainable textile production in order to protect the world in which we live.

Check out the full talk in the YouTube link above, and please do feel free to comment, send feedback and help share it. Given the current global political climate, there’s never been a more important time to shine a light on climate change and the industries that truly impact it.

Categories
mobile Startups technology

Emma J Shipley launches augmented reality app where whimsical scarves come to life

Designer Emma J Shipley with her augmented reality Scarfi app
Designer Emma J Shipley with her augmented reality Scarfi app

British accessories designer Emma J Shipley, known for her colourful graphic illustrations, has launched Scarfi, an app that allows customers to virtually try on and purchase her silk scarves.

Developed in partnership with the London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency (FIA) and technology company Meshmerise, the augmented reality app asks for access to the user’s smartphone camera, which on selfie mode enables them to try on 10 different print designs, inspired by elements of nature. Meanwhile, whimsical animations bring the designs to life and encourage the user to snap a photo and share on social media.

The app launched at Westfield London this week, where shoppers could otherwise try on, shop and pick up their purchase on the spot through iPads featuring the app alongside a display resembling a vending machine. Visitors to the shopping centre also had exclusive access to the feature scarf from Shipley’s spring/summer 2017 Sirens collection, which debuted on the day.

The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app
The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app

“It’s so exciting to see my designs come to life on the app. I want the customer to feel like they’re really entering the world of my illustrations, and feel like they’re almost becoming part of the story and the narrative that’s happening in the designs,” Shipley comments in the video below.

“The advances in augmented and virtual technologies are blurring the lines between physical and digital. Virtual try-on has the possibility to revolutionise the way consumers experience fashion and for designers create a new platform to showcase their collections,” said Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency.

The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app installation
The Emma J Shipley augmented reality Scarfi app installation at Westfield London

The launch follows Westfield’s recent “How we shop now” report, which presents an increasing consumer appetite for new technologies when trialling products. The study shows that 33% of British people would be interested in virtual assistance when trying on clothes, while 41% would like to use new technologies such as virtual reality headsets to see how furnishing looks in their homes. Meanwhile, a recent study by Barclays highlighted a willingness to visit stores that featured technologies such as VR, AR and smart fitting rooms.

The fashion and beauty industries are starting to better equip themselves in order to cater to this growing interest. Recently, beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury opened a store in the same Westfield shopping centre, which deploys a magic mirror as a selling tool. While at a recent #FashMash panel, industry experts predicted a bright future ahead for AR and VR.

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product technology

Reebok designs performance version of Hillary Clinton’s pantsuit

Reebok concept pantsuits for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
Reebok’s concept pantsuits for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

Reebok has reimagined US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s infamous pantsuit using its high-tech performance materials ahead of the final presidential debate tonight.

In both a marketing move and a statement of its allegiance for the election, the brand is positioning the three-look line as one that will help Clinton survive the heat of the battle, much like its elite athletes have to endure. The concept suits would be crafted from Reebok’s proprietary ActivChill fabric, a unique ventilation technology built with irregular, pentagon-shaped fibres, the team explains, all of which is designed to increase air flow through the fabric so the body stays cool and focused.

Reebok’s senior director of brand management, Inga Stenta said: “We wanted to imagine a collection of pantsuits that highlighted power and strength. Women like Clinton are tough and unapologetic. Although we don’t often see candidates sweat, the bright lights of the debate and the pressure of the national stage can raise temperatures. Performance wear seems to be the perfect choice for situations like this.

Also thrown into the suggested designs is an on-trend jumpsuit, cape and mesh neckline. The brand’s existing Dance Strappy Bra also makes an appearance. Clinton actually wore a Ralph Lauren pantsuit for the last debate.

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e-commerce mobile social media

eBay’s new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger aids contextual search

eBay's new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger
eBay’s new ShopBot on Facebook Messenger

The move for AI-enabled personal shopping assistants is heating up, with eBay the latest to join the chatbot movement.

Debuting on Facebook Messenger in beta at this stage, the ShopBot, as it’s called, is a new commerce experience that combines AI (or artificial intelligence), cloud computing and human judgment.

Says eBay’s chief product officer, RJ Pittman, about the announcement: “With more selection available to online shoppers than ever before, finding items that are perfect for you and your budget can be time consuming. At eBay, our focus is to help shoppers find their version of perfect and simplify the shopping experience.”

The conversational nature of the bot is designed to make it feel like you’re talking to a friend; one that can quickly sift through the enormous amount of inventory on the site, and one that can do so contextually in ways that search can’t.

Head over to Forbes to read more about this contextual capability, as well as how it can surface results from images, and more.

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Editor's pick fashmash mobile technology

Augmented reality in fashion and beauty: problem solving, experimentation and the need for quality

augmented reality
Augmented reality was the theme of our latest #FashMash L!VE event

Technology initiatives in the fashion and beauty industry are too often for the sake of it, rather than built around problems that needs to be solved, said Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of creative agency Holition on a panel about augmented reality (AR) at #FashMash L!VE this week.

He called on the industry to consider its use of AR as well as virtual reality (VR) as solutions, not just a means of PR. By doing so the tech will be much “stickier”, he said, meaning people will keep coming back to it.

His latest initiative with Rimmel London is one such example. “Get the Look” is an AR make-up tool that allows users to try-on different cosmetics based on the looks of others they like – that might be a friend or a picture of a celebrity. It then serves up relevant colour-matched products accordingly.

“We were very struck by how difficult it is for girls and women to explore new looks without actually walking into a shop and trying on make-up. If you do that using AR, then you can experience [them] very easily,” he explained.

Elodie Lévy, global digital marketing director at Coty Inc, which owns the Rimmel brand, said the goal behind using the tech really had to be about servicing consumers. Before even deciding what that tech would be therefore, they had to understand what the consumer wanted and needed. “It was really important for us to be grounded in consumer insights to make sure that this app would have utility, otherwise we’d have been pretty sure people would’ve downloaded it and dropped it,” she said.

augmented reality
The #FashMash L!VE panel: Rachel Arthur, founder of Fashion & Mash; Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of Holition; Elodie Lévy, global digital marketing director at Coty Inc; and Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency

One of the particular insights observed surrounded the shift in the consumer journey for buying make-up today. “What we had before is glossy advertising in a magazine, where the model was wearing the look and this was aspirational enough to go to the store to buy the same look. Over the past few years we’ve seen a drastic change in the consumer’s habits, where the sources of info have completely changed. Now it’s all Instagram looks, Pinterest, YouTube… and consumers record or screengrab them on their phones, then they go to the shop and they try to guess.”

To solve that issue, as well as help them see what make-up suits them as an individual, AR proved the most beneficial technology to use, she explained. Today, 60% of consumers return to the app, rather than the industry average of 20%.

In spite of this, Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, urged the audience to consider the fact that there also needs to be experimentation in the industry in order to help move it forward. “I don’t believe we have to always justify the use of technology as if we always have to solve a problem. I think if you look for a problem to solve, you end up with something that is almost predictable. There are times when experimentation just needs to happen; we need to put technologies through trial and put them into market,” he commented.

Within a university context, compared to say a corporation like Coty, he is of course afforded more in the way of opportunity to experiment, to test and see what certain technologies can do for the industry. But without that, we wouldn’t be able to get them ready for mass consumer adoption, he urged.

augmented reality
One of the guests trying out Hololens’ mixed reality during the #FashMash event

His latest project, focused on mixed reality (essentially a next generation augmented reality), saw designer Martine Jarlgaard London’s collection showcased during London Fashion Week in hologram form using Microsoft’s Hololens headset.

That was achieved by the whole collection being scanned using DoubleMe’s Holo Portal to turn it into a volumetric 3D mesh. Unlike with virtual reality, which isolates you from the environment you are in and instead transports you to another when you have the headset on, this technology superimposes the holograms on top of your natural surrounds. In other words, you can still see the room and the people around you, meaning the collection could be explored by walking around it and up close to it as if it really was in front of you.

“This is early stage technology, so when you put it on I think you can see the limitations of Hololens, but to actually have a full scale hologram in front of you is quite exciting. To watch people’s reactions to it, is really exciting. When you have no point of reference and you see something coming alive in front of you, the application of that at fashion week for one, but also you can imagine in a retail environment, is also really exciting,” he explained. “Ultimately for consumers, we’re beginning to explore where this technology could allow us to create a new couture. Would consumers be able to walk into a space and begin to collaborate with designers on creating the product together, in real time?”

augmented reality
#FashMash guests trying out Holition and Rimmel London’s Get the Look augmented reality app

In all circumstances, the speakers agreed that the quality of the technology and the user experience was key, no matter the stage it’s at.

“Quality is absolutely everything,” Chippindale said, “Brands are not going to be interested in ‘that’s where the tech is, and that’s all you’re going to get’, they want it absolutely as photo-realistic as possible. If you can get that; get people believing that the make-up they’re trying on they’re actually putting on, the shoes that they’re wearing are real, then I think there’s a really interesting possibility to blur that digital and physical world.”

The biggest issue at the moment, he said, is that the hardware just needs to get better. While there are various headsets being developed, and others like Magic Leap, rumoured to be able to start moving all of this forward, the majority of experiences are still held through the 2.5 inches of our mobile phone screens.

“We need some major technological hardware breakthrough to liberate the power that AR can have in making our lives better. It’s not around the corner yet, but if we can unleash AR from our phones, that’s when it becomes interesting,” Chippindale added.


Additional reporting by Bia Bezamat. Thank you also to Huckletree for hosting the evening, to Nuva for the flavoured water refreshments, and the tech companies who came in and showcased their work, including Holition, DoubleMe and Exzeb.