Fashion X Technology

After a refreshing Fashion Brunch at the Fashion Café, visitors are gathering at Hall 4 to hear all about fashion and the role of technology. Fashion, design, and marketing experts are speaking during the panel discussion “Fashion X Technology”, or the importance of media, marketing and technology for the fashion industry.

Entrepreneur, design consultant and artist Danish Farhan, e-commerce and digital marketing specialist Narain Jashanmal and Joshua Cox are speaking about design thinking, media, marketing and technology and their importance in fashion and retail industry. Two ladies are joining to make the conversation even more interesting – journalist and fashion expert Ritu Upadhayay, also Women’s Wear Daily correspondent for the Middle East, and Rolla.

How can we connect technology to fashion?

Seemingly opposing, those two are actually not that different. Today, fashion is becoming more high-tech, while technology could use some polishing. Right now, smart watches are becoming more and more popular and it’s only a matter of time, before they enter the fashion world. Of course, one of the best examples of true synergy between  fashion and technology is from three days ago – Burberry CEO was just hired by Apple to polish the image of its online store and improve the customer service and experience. Angela Ahrendts, famous for transforming Burberry from a faded British icon into a symbol of global luxury, is joining Apple next year as senior vice president of retail and online stores.

It seems technology can also help fashion. The speakers focus on e-commerce in particular, stating that online retail is more cost-effective. “It is almost free of charge, while actual retail space in the mall is very costly”, says Rolla. “It is not the consumers you are reaching to, but the entire media – an international consumers base.” Dubai-based Danish Farhan admits “Economy is allergic to businesses like ours”. According to him, the growth of e-commerce is slow, because Dubai is just not that big. “But you can use the city to expand to other Middle Eastern regions – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc.” His advice to designers and retailers is: “If you have an idea, find an investor and go global! Online retail in Dubai is small and it just doesn’t have the conditions to grow. According to Narain Jashanmal, the entire GCC region is still relatively small in comparison to Turkey, for instance. “It is very difficult to create highly professional and competent business, because you will not see the return of investment from it. E-commerce and marketing go hand in hand.”

Small businesses that are just coming up can gather audience and build a community online very quickly. “The mass will pick up who they want to follow”. And if you manage to achieve this, you already have a platform to launch your business. But how a young designer should use technology to launch a product? “First, you have to create and then, you have to share. Third, you have to communicate the essence of your brand and this is where social media comes,” says Danish. Designers should build up a fan base,  not of their product, but of what they are doing. Once they have followers, they can quickly introduce their product. “You have to be able to communicate your brand through pixels.”

On the other hand, technology can improve designer’s work. “My team is all across the world. All is done through Skype and we are sending images back and forth,” says Rolla. It’s simply faster and easier. Indeed, speed is of the essence, “You have to quickly check the response of the public, because your perception might be all wrong.” And here, social media plays a crucial role.

“Storytelling is a part of it”, says Danish. “If you, as a brand, can represent your story, this is the basic level for marketing. A step further – create a video. People want to buy a personality, brand, vision.” On the other hand, luxury business grow on the back of aspirational costumer. You need loyal consumers who will be with you for years.”

So, how a designer or a business can deal with digital marketing and technology?

“A brand’s digital team may involve as much as 30 people and they work consistently to spread the message. You can buy data from credit card companies and build a database, which is actually not a new practice,” Narain Jashanmal comments.

“International brands have a legacy perception. But when they come here, they need to develop a new story suitable for this region. This is a layer of complexity. But this brands should not lose their essence when they come here.” According to them, the biggest regional fashion industry are the perfume and cosmetic industries.

“The beauty of technology is that without too much of research and funding you can start and grow strong on the market. You don’t have to be a big brand to use technology for your brand, you can start from zero.” Joshua adds that no matter where in the world you are based, you can create a brand and communicate it to the world. “If you are moving, people will follow you and that’s great, because it means you are good,” he says.

According to Danish, in order to attract investors, a fashion business needs a person with identity. “Of course, there will always be people who will try to copy you. But there is no way to avoid it”, says Rolla.

Another threat posed to creativeness and designers, is the fact that the legal matter of intellectual property intellectual property is still in the making in Dubai and the region. “Fraud is not really such a big issue, because it is much bigger offline than online. Legislative and cultural side of regulating is far behind people’s actual behavior.”

The cost of starting and operating e-commerce  is also not a big motivator for business. “To open corporate bank account here is very expensive and shipping cost is also very expensive,” the panelists comment. In addition, shipping is also expensive.

Getting back on the theme of technology, Danish explains how critical to the design and prototyping process 3D printing could be. Here is another great example at the end of the discussion for how useful high-tech inventions can be to fashion industry.

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