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What you missed: Tim Cook on AR for fashion, the future of visual search, open sustainability

Apple CEO Tim Cook on the future of AR for fashion
Apple CEO Tim Cook

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

  • Apple’s Tim Cook on the future of fashion and shopping [Vogue]
  • Retailers continue to experiment with visual search [Glossy]
  • Fashion needs an open-source sustainability solution [BoF]
  • Alibaba to spend $15 billion exploring ‘moonshot’ projects [Bloomberg]

  • Giorgio Armani speaks on restructuring and succession plans [BoF]
  • Coach is changing its name to Tapestry [Bloomberg]
  • How Supreme grew a $1 billion business with a secret partner [BoF]

  • Fashion week engagements on Instagram nearly tripled compared to February’s fashion month [AdWeek]
  • Snapchat is twice as popular as Instagram when it comes to teens’ favourite social apps [AdWeek]
  • Will Dove’s ‘Pepsi moment’ affect the brand in the long term? [The Drum]

  • Walmart and Target are banding with Google to take on Amazon [AdWeek]
  • Black Friday shoppers more likely than ever to go online this year [Retail Dive]
  • ASOS launches same-day delivery service [The Industry]

  • Mastercard offers first checkout option for VR with Swarovski [AdAge]
  • What Sephora knows about women in tech that Silicon Valley doesn’t [WSJ]
  • Marie Claire and Mastercard showcase the future of shopping [BrandChannel]

  • What goes into making an earth-friendly $68 pair of jeans at Everlane [Bloomberg]
  • Spider silk and stem-cell leather are the future of fashion [Engadget]
  • Stella McCartney is pioneering synthetic spider silk in high fashion [QZ]
  • Kering announces 2017 sustainable winners [FashionUnited]

  • With the launch of a lower-price subscription service, how Rent the Runway’s ‘closet in the cloud’ is changing the face of sustainability [Fashionista]
  • Digital closet start-ups want to give you the Cher Horowitz experience [Racked]
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Six learnings from Rent the Runway’s Jennifer Hyman at SXSW


Jennifer Hyman is one of just a handful of female founders that has received over $50m in funding for her business, Rent the Runway.

She took to the SXSW stage to discuss female entrepreneurship, seeking champions over mentors and what other industries she’d like to see disrupted.

1. Rent the Runway is the largest dry cleaning business in the country

That’s some feat. This is a vertically integrated system aiming to mazimise the lifetime wears of every garment. Efficiency is key: there’s a zero day turnaround time intended with strict quality control. “Building out the technology and the logistics to do that has been unbelievably fun, challenging and an adventure. Thank goodness it’s been so hard because that’s why we don’t have any competitors,” said Hyman.

2. Good old-fashioned word of mouth works

Hyman had two major fears when Rent the Runway launched – that women would think it was disgusting to wear something someone else had already worn, and that if they were complimented at a party they would merely say the designer of the item and not advocate the fact they had ‘borrowed’ the piece. Actually the opposite happened. Women shout about the fact they’ve got it on loan. Last year over 95% of Rent the Runway business was driven by word of mouth, said Hyman.

3. The shipping system needs to be ripped up

One of Hyman’s biggest statements was around the state of shipping in the US. “We need to put FedEx and UPS out of business,” she demanded. Costs for both are constantly on the rise for Rent the Runway despite how much they ship, so she called for start-ups to disrupt the space; for the system to be “ripped up and recreated” in order for e-commerce businesses to have sustainable profit margins. “We need to get the level of e-commerce across the board up from 10% of total retail sales to 30% or 50%, and the only way that is going to happen is if the delivery method changes.”

4. Data is pivotal in fashion

“The reason data is so much more important in fashion than in any other industry is because there are no blockbusters in fashion. If I recommend a blockbuster movie to you, 95% of the time I’m going to be right [that you’ll like it]. There’s a much higher chance of success there than with an item of clothing. Data is the most important aspect to personalised, competitive online retail,” Hyman explained. Rent the Runway uses data to sift through and offer recommendations, but also to price by demand. It likewise offers that data back to its suppliers and designers, helping to inform them on what the five million customers using the site are doing related to their brands. “That’s a big sales asset for us.”

5. There’s a difference between mentors and champions

“When you get any sort of VC funding or seed funding, everyone in the world wants to help you, mentor you,” Hyman commented. But she emphasised someone that can give advice is not the same as someone who can pick up the phone and intro you to someone to get you to the next stage with your business, to help open doors and champion you. “That’s what will help women become more entrepreneurs.”

6. The VC nature of pattern recognition is dangerous

“I want to challenge this nature of pattern recognition – it’s dangerous,” Hyman declared. This is about venture capitalists investing in proven industries and proven business models, rather than new ones. But Hyman also insisted half the battle is about convincing VCs to invest in female entrepreneurs full stop, especially if the product involved is something they’re not personally interested in (that being fashion in this case). She pushed airbnb as a prime example of a success story that potentially only worked because its founders were men. This is a business that now sells as many rooms each year as the Hyatt hotel group does. “Did anyone see the pattern in airbnb when it launched?” she asked. “Thank god the founders were men because someone gave them funding for what was an obscene idea.”

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SXSW: our tips, tricks and must-attend sessions for 2015

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SXSW Interactive has steadily become a must-attend for fashion industry folk playing in the digital and technology space. But with over 30,000 people in town, and hundreds of talks, panels, exhibitions, meet-ups and parties to attend over the space of five days, navigating it is no easy feat.

Fortunately, we’re now somewhat veterans. So here are our three fast rules, and a highlight panel pick from each day so that you at least have one talking point at drinks each evening!

1. Think outside the box. Don’t just go to the fashion sessions because you’re in the fashion industry – you’ll find more inspiration from other categories (as we’ve almost entirely suggested with our picks below).

2. Accept that you can’t get to everything. There are over 1,000 things in total so it’s impossible. Be ruthless with what you stick with therefore – if a panel you’re in is weak or you just don’t get in, leave and make speed to another. Worst case scenario you’ll stumble upon a spur-of-the-moment gathering elsewhere that will serve you far better anyway.

3. Make a plan, but don’t expect to keep to it. There’s a lot to be said at SXSW for getting swept up with a crowd and going with the flow. It’s much more relaxing, plus usually just as fortuitous.

Top 5 sessions:

Our selection of not-to-miss sessions are based on themes we’re picking up on so far including wearables, women in tech and virtual reality, as well as some broader talks that will hopefully make for inspirational listening:

FRIDAY: The Emperor’s New Wearables
This is about as ‘fashion’ as we’re recommending this year. There’s no escaping wearable technology at the moment, and especially not in Austin this year. It’s an interesting cross-section of speakers including Intel, Fossil and law firm Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP, which should make for a good conversation around what’s happening in partnerships between consumer brands and technology companies particularly.

SATURDAY: Princess Reema’s Mission to Empower Saudi Women
This is one of this year’s keynote sessions and up there as something we’re looking forward to the most. Princess Reema is the CEO of Saudi Arabian luxury retailer Alfa, Intl. Her focus on employing (and empowering) Saudi women fits within a wider theme across the festival of the role of women in technology and in business.

SUNDAY: Oculus Effect: How VR Will Change TV and Retail
Virtual reality is something we’ve been tracking in a big way, from interactive campaigns to the promise of immersive fashion week experiences. Oculus has a big presence at SXSW this year, but this session with Saatchi & Saatchi promises to dive into VR’s application for the likes of retail. The fact there are hands-on demonstrations is another win in our eyes.

MONDAY: How Innovation Happens
It’s the speakers that have wooed us for this one: Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google. Their aim is to discuss how great ideas become technologies that truly transform business, government and culture.

TUESDAY: Moonshots and Reality
If like us you’ve been lucky enough to see Astro Teller, captain of moonshots at Google[X] (real name, real job title), speak before, you’ll know to add this one to your list immediately. This is the guy responsible for making ideas that sound like science fiction a reality, from Project Loon to the self-driving car. From the write-up there’ll be a good focus on failing fast and trying again, which is a pretty great way to end the week.

Be sure to check out Fashion’s Collective’s Survival Guide for many more top picks from WGSN throughout the week. And head to their Fashion Brain Bar on Monday where, as sponsors, our team will be congregating.