PowWow or the Fashion Tech Week Italy. The virtual event offered a really packed program, with parallel sessions, presentations, debates, etc. Everybody could find something to remember. It would be impossible to cover all (next year, you should attend :P, and full discloser: unfortunately, we could not attend every single debate), but here are a few of our favorite debates.
The Metaverse Pannel
Mao Lin Liao – Reblika – character company developing high end digital humans;
Sallyann Houghton – Epic Games,
Moderator: Enara Nazarova, ARMOAR
There are countless definitions with different interpretations, but one thing is sure, it is a vision that is still changing. The main point that participants agreed, is that this 3D interactive space is an interconnected environment where people can go to concerts, movies, experiences, meet friends. It cannot be one game. A very important aspect highlighted by participants is that it should be inclusive, it should not be owned by anyone, it should be open for the whole world.
So, yes, Metaverse is on the way, but not here yet.
The panel discussed the evolving Metaverse and the impact that it will have on us.
Mao Lin Liao considers that with the success of automation through AI and other technological advancements, fewer people will be needed for different jobs. So, in the future people can have their extensions, do some parallel work. Or there will be a universal basic income, that will give people free time to pursue what they really like to do.
Epic Games recently democratized the creation of digital humans, with an easy-to-use tool put in the hands of creators across different industries – game makers, filmmakers, or people who want to represent themselves.
“Hopefully soon we’ll be able to dress them, will be able to have accessories”, sounded like a promise for the (near?) future. If we imagine the Metaverse as inclusive, we have to democratize information and tools.
“In addition to well-funded corporations that are building out the infrastructure and the layers needed for the metaverse to exist, the real architects are the people who get to create and contribute the content and experiences that we all get to love”, considers Sallyann Houghton.
And once the metaverse would be in place, fair marketplaces should be possible for anyone that has good products.
Mao Lin Liao warned that “the biggest mistake we can make is to try to make an exact copy of our world, () with all the physical limitations of the real world”. He highlighted that we should not rush to create experiences that are more than a physical copy of shelves or clothes.
The Fabric of Reality
Sam Field, RYOT Studio – Verizon ;
and the creators of Symbiotic Wear: Damara Ingles (Designer) and Sutu (Futurist & XR artist)
The Fabric of Reality was presented in VR in 2020, and it was an experience that made history – it presented VR fashion experiences, and showed what Fashion-VR can be. (And not just a presentation of physical fashion in an online format). It was a success, generating 4.6 million video event streams and 7 million video views.
When it comes to learning through this experience, Sam Field explained that by immersing the audience in the stories, 90% of those who attended made them understand the designer better, 77% made them feel closer to the designer, 80% said that knowing the narrative added positive values of the garments, which as marketers should be the goal – to tell stories for brands that resonate positively with customers.
Fashion designer Damara Ingles described the layers of different points of inspiration. The first was to create environments that people can only explore with the help of technology. As such the team looked at the ocean where creatures develop their own sort of light to communicate in darkness, or the cosmos. Initially, she imagined the avatar as totally transparent, so it does not contain the idea of ethnicity.
“I decided that this avatar, this new era of existence will be, will have no color and will be transparent. But then, () I realised that every chance to create a legacy is a chance to create a legacy, and there is already so much in that, in the structure of that project that comes from my own cultural identity” said Damara.
The garment is very inspired by the notion of the African carnivalesque. And the process of floating in space came from discussions around rituals and connections and becoming one.
So, the inspirations for the creation had many layers, “but above all, there is my identity as an African woman in the diaspora, and in the metaverse” highlighted Damara.
In relation to where this immense digital transformation during the pandemic will lead, Sutu commented that as people spent a lot more time in front of our screens, engaging in digital content, the digital economy emerged out of that.
“People really started valuing digital content on an unprecedented level (), and paying money for it, because we spend much more time in these virtual environments, and they want to look good or they want to share and creatively express themselves”, said Sutu.
Also, there are a lot of conversations, mentioned Sutu, about how people can move from one Metaverse into another, so that the virtual avatar remains intact, and the purchases of assets remain with the avatar.
Damara is doing an investigation to understand how our brain absorbs the information that our bodies are receiving physically and digitally.
Because using XR, and as technology is evolving, people will be able to feel the physical presence of a digital object. And she gave the example of a spider trying to climb your face in VR, people will try to take it off.
“I’m very much looking forward to see how digital designers and specifically virtual fashion designers will create materials that don’t necessarily replicate a physical garment, but that will create a sensation on top of the user and therefore influence their state of mind” said Damara
Sutu said that he is involved in the NFTs as a new way of business model, and a lot of discussions are around the environmental impact of the blockchain. But, he is optimist that new platforms, eco-conscious platform are appearing, that are taking only a small cut from creators, such as HicEtNunc
When it comes to the future, Sutu mentioned that he is focused on creating safer online spaces, trying to take out the toxicity, and to make sure that these spaces where we will interact are respectuos and safe.
Virtual Creative Economy
Enara Nazarova, ARMOAR
What the pandemic proved is that the virtual economy is here, and people are willing to pay for it. But why virtual economy is relevant, how it will evolve, why to enter it, and what are the obstacles? Just a few of the topics discussed by Enara.
It is clear that the supply chains of brands have to change toward more sustainable ways. And this can be achieved if we can slow down either the ways of consumption (hard to achieve as people have a desire to have new things) or the rate of production by giving companies new ways to earn revenue.
“The real relevancy of the digital economy and virtual goods is their power to actually cut costs and supplement revenue for companies that they must use, and reinvent and reinvest into their current supply chains”, explained Nazarova.
For many companies, the physical and virtual is not an either-or option, but a hybrid model of functioning. On the other hand, for the younger digital native generation, avatars are a very natural evolution. As such, having a virtual presence will be necessary for brands, and how they will be able to engage in different virtual worlds will have a huge impact. A virtual creative economy is about to rise.
For businesses: the question is where to actually begin your digital transformation? In addition, there is a fear around costs when it comes to the risk of breaking into an emerging market
For designers: the market is expanding quite rapidly, but technical skills or 3D skills are not going to be taught at a school. So designers have to learn by themselves.
For investors: there is skepticism around the actual desirability of these assets or digital-only fashion
Related to opportunities for actually breaking into digital fashion:
Sustainability: Reduce risk of environmental impact to actually meet sustainability goals. Sustainability is a key element for brands if they want to remain relevant.
Efficiency: Brands can become efficient in the physical supply chains Studies show that psychologically, people view ownership of virtual assets in a very similar way that physical assets. As such, brands can easily learn which assets are performing well and improve on-demand manufacturing of items that people already love.
Collaboration: Being able to collaborate with great talent and attract designers to create unusual capsule collections, keeps the brand relevant within the cultural context as well.
Startup ecosystems: FashionTech
Christian Layolle, The Mills Fabrica, startup accelerator, based in Hong Kong, company is opening in London as well.
Christine Goulay, Pangaia is a direct-to-consumer materials science company bringing breakthrough textile innovations and patents into the world through everyday lifestyle products.
Moderator: Peter Jeun Ho Tsang Beyond Form, venture studio building impact-driven professional technologies
Peter Jeun Ho Tsang had the mission to shortly dissect the fashion tech ecosystem what’s working, what isn’t working. As in every domain, the pandemic accelerated tendencies toward digitalization, and brands realized that they have to really invest in innovation. Startup innovators are appearing, but there are challenges.
Christine Goulay considers that especially for the startups, there are very few one-stop shops where they get the experts to discuss with, such as biotech or digital, people from merchandising and design, etc. But, on the other side, investor attitudes start to change.
“Traditionally fashion has been under-invested in many ways and if you look at how much fashion brands have been spending on R&D, compared to other sectors like pharmaceuticals or cosmetics, it’s been really under-invested. There’s not such a great understanding of why to invest in this space, and not as much of an appetite for risk among investors to look toward innovators. I think it’s changing, but it’s new.”, remarked Christine Goulay.
Chistian Lafolley considers that the biggest challenge is when startups are trying to come up with new materials or new ways of doing things, often the prices of their services or products are higher than the traditional service. And the question is if the consumer is ready to pay for “the green premium” – that additional 20% or 50% on top of the traditional products.
The second challenge highlighted is on the side of supply and demand which always dictates the market. And here startups, “need a little bit more help, whether that’s from subsidies or whether that’s from getting the partners that they work with to accept that the technologies are still really early on and that they might cost more than the current system that they’re working with”.
How to overcome these challenges? Well, “Collaboration is key!” was the ending tone of the panel and advice for industry, a constant looking for partners, more inclusivity, and getting different experts in the room to work together.
Startup ecosystems: Beauty
Andrea Sasso – Skinlabo
Ashley Watton – FOREO
Mario Parteli – Abiby
Related to beauty products, digital solutions are in trend – people discovered that buying online is much more comfortable and easier, and getting virtual consultation on products is an added value. But, besides that, consumers changed their habits: the way they eat, choose products or ingredients. “People are really more conscious about the product that they’re choosing. In our platform, we saw a rise in organic products, much more than before. () And then another important thing that we noticed is the rise of the research in terms of ingredients, in terms of how to use, how to create treatments” outlined Mario Parteli, Abiby. This shift, this fusion between “beauty and wellness” is a trend that was noticed at FOREO, too.
Ashley Watton commented that people were accelerating their spending on beauty products that make them feel good. “People were looking to brands and products which not only gave them just the physical appearance change, but also it gave them a mental change”.
The media landscape changed for years with influencers getting traction. Watton highlighted that influencers are changing as well, with the rise of scientific content creators, alongside platforms that shift from YouTube to TikTok. The rise of “peer-to-peer anti-algorithmic platforms” is also new and much more organic and authentic in nature. What is the implication for marketers of all these changes? Gone are the days when influencers got detailed scripts of what to say about products, content creators need space and freedom to get their message across.
Getting close to consumers is also a priority for SkinLabo. As a native-digital company, what they are really focusing on is “having that direct contact to the consumer, and how can we use that to give the consumer, the best possible experience, really the products they need! No marketing, no branding, no fluff. We want to give the consumer, we want that each individual person gets the skincare that’s right for them!”, said Andrea Sasso, SkinLabo. Wouldn’t that be amazing, to cut marketing – intermediary strategy? 🙂
Another interesting topic raised by Andrea Sasso was “digitalization, but with a human touch”. “We’re kind of always thinking about digitalization, but how do we make sure that people stay connected? I can’t think of a better word than that despite digitalization right? We know digital is cold, so how can we bring the human touch back into digitalization? And use all the potential of digitalization which is information access, accessibility, reach, while at the same time making sure that people are connected”, said Andrea Sasso.
These are only few of the topics covered by Fashion Tech Week Italy. It is clear that Fashion is radically shifting and new trends appear. Stay tuned for more info’s about the Changing Landscapes in Fashion.