Are Innovation & Sustainability Fashion's saviors? Thoughts after 2 days @ Remode
What I love about Los Angeles is how focused it is on life balance, healthiness and sustainability. It seems natural that the first (1st edition) innovation and sustainability conference Remode was based there.
Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel and his team managed to bring together a stellar community of innovators, brands, investors, and media, who are all passionate about the future of fashion.
Fashion is by far one of the top polluters in the world. In fact, in going through the X-Ray Fashion VR experience at Remode, I learned a few important facts — 60% of clothes are thrown away the same year of purchase, totaling $500B worth of clothing that goes to waste each year. It’s clear that the future of fashion will reinvent how we produce and distribute clothing.
Consumers demand change.
Consumers are putting pressure on brands to be more transparent and sustainable, as well as provide a seamless omni-channel experience whilst pressuring brick and mortar brands to reconsider their distribution models.
Curious about innovation in fashion on a more granular level, we teamed up with Remode to map innovation across small brands in the start-up space. We wanted to understand which brands were starting to disrupt the fashion industry.
We broke down innovation into two main blocks: Fashion Technology — production and distribution level — and Retail Technology — how brands enable technology in their stores.
Whilst funding pace in dollars is still on track to be one of the highest in the past 5 years, the total number of deals in both Fashion Technology and Retail Technology is substantially declining in 2018. Funding rounds are getting bigger on average indicating a slower funding pace at Seed stage.
We then divided the space into four main pillars: Manufacturing, the Uplifted Store, New Distribution models and Transparency.
Below is an extract of some of the companies we had the chance to meet, most of which were at Remode. You’ll notice that we intentionally chose not to focus on D2C brands unless we felt they were disrupting the value chain through their business model.
We are excited about all the new materials being developed, from molecular developed Silk @ BoltThreads or the often forgotten. We were also impressed by the dying technologies used by companies like ColorZen, key in the production of safe and sustainable clothing.
From the materials used to the way companies design and produce their products, these companies are pushing existing players to be more innovative. For example, a big European brand shared that more than two thirds of their prototypes are wasted. Their challenge is figuring out how to get as close as possible to 100% digital when it comes to prototyping using AI to design better before testing in real life.
2.The Uplifted Store
It is no secret that the brick and mortar store is being challenged today. It is in need of total re-thinking from an omni-channel perspective to the actual experience that powers the store. How do you transform the store for ‘store pick-up’ or ‘ship from store? How do you bring the store experience to the customer?
Brands like Gucci and AllBirds, with their flagships in New York, have understood the key is using technology to enable a perfect customer experience. The CEO of one of the largest Global Luxury group shared that their store looks “tech-less” to the consumer, but is in fact full of it to support the consumer experience.
3.Circularity, creating new business models
How do we consume better and not more? This is what I am most excited about, and we broke this up into two sections: upcycling and sharing.
What is most interesting for us is the circularity aspect of the products and the demand from consumers for brands to reuse material/old clothes. We are excited about Fordays ( we are also investors ) and The Renewal Workshop, who take this idea to the next level at supply chain level. During a panel session, one of the hosts, Clare Press, Editor of Vogue Australia, said to Fordays founder Kristy Caylor, “New brands have it easy: They can directly go to a new supply model whereas older brands are more difficult to adapt to these new circular models.”
How do we consume better and not more.
Finally, the last block of interest lies in transparency and traceability. With the success of brands such as Everlane, established players are looking for technology and content to share information about their products lifecycle.
Fashion is at a crossroad today where the pressure that the consumer is putting on its existing value chain and business models is challenging the survival of some of the world's biggest brands. Many small companies are enabling this change for them. Can incumbents seize these opportunities in time?