I generally judge events by looking at two things: who shows up and the information presented (a well-run opp with decent wine never hurts). When you can look into the audience at a panel and spot numerous people that could easily sit on it, that’s always a good sign. On top of that, I want to walk out of an event with some kind of broadened perspective or new information that might help me do my job better (i.e. come up with new story ideas for the publications I write for or in some way gain more insight into an industry or subject area that will help as I’m interviewing sources and compiling stories in the future). Bonus points if the event lacks a bunch of panelists making canned comments and a bland moderator letting them run the show.
Third Wave Fashion‘s recent San Francisco stop on its inaugural West Coast tour delivered on the first two and, for the most part, avoided the super-canned and -bland (thanks in large part to TWF Founder Liza Kindred‘s saucy style. Mentioning your business crush on, say, Poshmark’s Manish Chandra as he’s about to introduce himself is the kind of thing that keeps audiences from falling asleep). If you pay attention to fashion and tech around San Francisco, you’d notice that the room was filled with people who are deeply interested in the space. It wasn’t your usual Silicon Valley who’s who kind of audience, but one that displayed how defined the fashion and tech landscape is becoming and, as part of that, how it’s building its own kind of little cultural pocket somewhere in between the traditional fashion and technology worlds.
Held at the Zappos Labs office in SoMa, the evening kicked off with demos from Copious, Combatgent and Schoolbags for Kids. Those were followed by a panel moderated by Kindred (who also just launched Lacquerous) with Poshmark‘s Chandra and Tracy Sun, Threadflip‘s Ligaya Tichy and Fashion + Tech Accelerator‘s Enrico Beltramini. Some takeaway ideas and comments from the night that I jotted down:
- “The most important thing about fashion tech is that you can reduce costs and increase efficiency,” said Beltramini. This idea is at the core of how technology stands to change fashion and its future, and new companies would do well to keep this in mind.
- Companies the panelists praised as fashion and tech leaders and innovators: Kate Spade, DKNY, Bergdorf Goodman, Lyst, Burberry, Anthroplogie and Madewell.
- When it comes to funding, Beltramini mentioned that investors care mainly about the team a company has assembled and your ideas about navigating your market, while Chandra said, “If you’re looking for very early stage funding, a lot of it is going to boil down to you. As you go further along, you have to have more and more proof points.” The point: who you are and who you know matters a great deal very early on, but as you grow, you need to be able to show evidence that you can succeed and pull off what you’re proposing to pull off. Kindred capped this discussion by pointing out that “funding does not a good company make.” Someone should put a snazzier version of that line on a t-shirt.
- In the Los Angeles vs. New York vs. San Francisco Bay Area fashion showdown, it seems the consensus stacks up something like this: In New York, you’ve got the benefit of the traditional fashion industry and big name designer brands, but not as much tech talent. In Los Angeles, fashion tech startups have the advantage of easier celebrity connections, but less access to investor dollars and tech talent. In the Bay, there’s investor access and tech talent in spades, but not as much highbrow fashion, and that has led fashion tech players here to build reps as social shopping innovators, rather than fashion with a capital F startups.
And on that last point, you could see that theory in play just by looking at who was participating in the event: Copious, Threadflip and Poshmark are all secondhand marketplaces with social components. Given the Bay Area’s deep roots in social networks, eco, person-to-person marketplaces and the shared economy, it’s not surprising to me in the least that you’d see a lot of companies innovating around secondhand and social shopping, and I expect you’ll see that continue.
For more upcoming fashion and tech events you may want to check out, visit the Digital Style Digest Calendar.
Photography by Jennymay Villarete for Digital Style Digest
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