It’s a business trend that is suddenly grabbing a lot of attention. Female founded fashion-tech startups are developing innovative technology solutions to rethink how brands and consumers can connect and interact in completely new ways or launch entirely new types of products that address real market needs.
A handful of female founders from Stephanie Smith, CEO of ModaResa,whose clients include Balmain, Marine Serre, ByFar, Jacquemus and Nanushka; fashion industry veteran Lupe Puerta, Founder and CEO, of the newly launched The Floorr to Ali Kaminetsky, the CEO and Founder of Modern Picnic and Rahel Abraham, Founder of Climaguard, have each developed a fresh, innovative way to approach and rethink fashion and tech conundrums that have befuddled some of the best minds in the fashion industry.
The perfect example of this new paradigm is fashion-tech startup, ModaResa, founded by Stephanie Smith, who is based in Oslo and Paris. As the world’s first solution for efficient and more sustainable fashion week market planning, ModaResa’s software enables brands to organize their showrooms in the most optimal way, for both face-to-face and virtual buying appointments.
As insiders know, the luxury industry is built on theories of secrecy and exclusivity, which breaks with modern open source culture. ModaResa represents a refreshing new bridge between these poles. Smith’s objective is to become the standard for meeting arrangements, as well as to continue to stir up a conservative industry.
Smith shared how 2020 has been such a transformative year with “ the fashion world having to adapt and innovate in order to overcome tough challenges brought by the pandemic and this is why ModaResa exists. We’re eager to show brands that there are better, alternative ways to coordinate their processes – and most importantly, we want to empower them in this new era of virtual markets.”
Smith must be on to something because on November 16th, ModaResa was officially accelerated by the LVMH group through their unique La Maison des Startups program which is designed to propel innovative technologies in combination with their brands in order to shape the future of luxury.
Smith shared five insights into why fashion-tech solutions and brands are gaining traction in 2020 and beyond.
1.Fashion Brands Are Seriously In Need Of The Right Digital Tools. Brand teams are scattered all over the world now as they grapple with doing business in the midst of Covid-19 restrictions and shelter at home orders. Remote work might even become a standard for some as we many never return to our pre-pandemic worklife scenarios. The result is a major need to provide the right digital solutions for staff and teams is now essential.
At ModaResa, the objective was to bring real-time visibility on all showroom planning across any type of company organization (wholesale, retail, plus a mix of internal and external sales agents) for physical or virtual appointments. They also cleverly and quickly gather macro buyer feedback, making it easy for anyone at a brand’s team to access and act upon in real-time.
Smith noted, “It’s incredible how brands, regardless of size, still use spreadsheets to plan their sales campaigns and don’t gather important data on their prototypes. It’s a highly bottle-necked process for the sales team, that beyond being time consuming and human error prone, does not create any particular value from season to season either.
2.The Well-being Of Teams And Team-Centricity Is Key. Smith, who is 30, noted, “ Our generation is about immediacy, efficiency, but also the well-being of the human in general. We’re much more conscious of how we do things, why we do things, and how we invest our precious time on earth. If your startup can provide a solution that also puts that at the heart of its value proposition, you’ll hit the nail on the head, beyond ROI reach and obvious monetary goals.”
When Smith set out to build ModaResa, it ultimately came from the observation that the most important time of the year for both the brands and the retailers worldwide – sales campaigns during fashion weeks were also the most stressful and apprehensive time of the year for employees. Smith and her team wanted to change that by continuously gathering feedback from their customers and community to create digital solutions that promoted and improved better human project-focused interaction.
3.Increasing Brand Awareness Qualitatively At A Higher Pace Is Critical To Growth. The barrier for demos online has been radically removed in the fashion industry. Just a year ago, an online demo of ModaResa and other brands was out of question. In person meetings were a must while a screen share of prototypes, products, being in-store or a virtual coffee was not common practice. Now online meetings are a new, definitive standard. This is a game changer for startup, established brands, and consumers, regardless of industry.
4.The Fashion Industry Is Open To Listening More Than Ever. It’s common knowledge that the fashion industry and its systems are some of the most archaic ones, and difficult to pierce through. Despite actual designs and products being associated with renewal and innovation, the B2B processes have remained the same with hardly any innovation beyond the actual wholesale ordering systems. Due to Covid-19, a shift in behavior has taken hold and is opening entrepreneurial opportunities that were not previously available.
5.Top Advisors Are Much More Available. In this new climate, advisors and industry professionals (who were previously inaccesible) are now virtually giving advice, sharing their experiences and thoughts online. Even better, directly connecting with these individuals is now very doable.
The timing is also perfect for a true fashion industry insider, Lupe Puerta, Founder and CEO of THE FLOORR. Puerta forged her career with some of the world’s most prestigious luxury retail institutions including Harrods and Selfridges, leading to a 15-year tenure as Global Head of Personal Shopping and Global Director of VIP Client Relations for NET-A-PORTER and MR PORTER. Puerta pioneered a renowed new era of client services and shaped NET-A-PORTER’s offering into the one-of-a-kind proposition it is today, honing a nuanced and personalised service that set NET-A-PORTER as the industry leader.
Based on her years of first-hand experience, Puerta created and recently launched THE FLOORR, the world’s first global luxury fashion platform driven by the shop floor community as a unique luxury fashion platform to combine the expertise and service of luxury retailers with a digital experience like no other.
Puerta shared, “When we set out to create THE FLOORR, we established two key components – the customer and the voices of the shop floor. The shop floor community holds such unique insight and incredible knowledge, beyond trends. They know so much about their customers, and they think about their lifestyle and needs in a way no one else in the industry can. But little did we know at the start of this venture the challenging new era we were entering into. We reassessed our initial business idea and realigned priorities to ensure we offered solutions with a strong sense of responsibility. It feels like the right moment to be offering a shared economy and for the community to be able to monetise their knowledge and style through their curations for the benefit of the customer. Everybody wins.”
Besides great launch partners including NET-A-PORTER, Matches Fashion, Moda Operandi, My Theresa and Intermix, what makes THE FLOORR different is its ability to provide inspiration and curation from the ultimate fashion insider, the shop floor community across the globe. Customers are able to search looks by occasion in the ‘Looking For’ section whether it is for a work video call, a walk in the park, first date, a job interview or a weekend getaway.
Separating itself from the fashion pack, THE FLOORR stands out because users can also view looks from the shop floor experts they admire, find the city they want to be inspired by or to see how trends are being translated there. Personal style preferences differ hugely across different locations and so even if a person in Los Angeles owns the same pieces in their wardrobe as someone in Hong Kong, they will absolutely style it in a different way. Each product is also tagged by the community on where to wear it and for what purpose, users can find inspiration through the curated feeds showcasing the plethora of different ways to style each item.
Another key element that Puerta wanted the platform to provide is styling inspiration for pieces that people already have in their wardrobe, to get more use out of them. Starting in 2004, Puerta has also had support and guidance from Carmen Busquets, who, as well as being THE FLOORR co-founding investor, was a Founder at NET-A-PORTER, and a guiding force in implementing their global EIP strategy.
Having both worked on the shop floor for luxury retailers since their late teens, Puerta and Busquets shared a wealth of ideas on how to enhance the EIP customer experience at NET-A-PORTER. This marked the start of their long-standing professional and personal relationship which has carried over to THE FLOORR incubation with Busquet’s joint goal “of be able to create something magical together.”
Fashion-tech is also about reimagining a tired, possibly overlooked product category in a wholly new way. Ali Kaminetsky, CEO and Founder of Modern Picnic launched her startup with the mission to provide women with a chic alternative to the traditional lunchbox. How many women over the decades have wanted a stylish alternative to the brown paper bag or an embarrassing lunch box?
The wait is over. Kaminetsky was in an entry-level retail career position bringing her lunch to work daily because it was faster, cheaper, and healthier. After searching online for a stylish but functional lunchbox, Kaminestsky “only saw options for little kids and men and nothing for women who wanted to look and feel their best.” After two years in business she’s been “floored with the response and scaled the company faster than anticipated with a full product range (and still growing) with an incredible team of women by my side.”
Besides being chic, sustainable, and providing the ability to pack a healthy breakfast, lunch or dinner, the pandemic has made Modern Picnic products even more relevant with the socially distant gathering or picnic gaining in importance with bringing your own food taking on even greater importance. Key growth sectors for Modern Picnic include essentail workers and teachers as they are “still going to work and actually feel safer preparing their own meals than ordering out.”
Modern Picnic has also partnered with several social charity initiatives to help raise awareness, such as a limited edition BCA pink Luncher in October partnering with The Pink Agenda, and a capsule VOTE Collection donating to IAmAVoter.org. These initiatives, combined with a new fall/winter collection have helped drive awareness and sales to expand the brand’s reach.
Adversity helped spawn an innovative tech solution. Climaguard CEO, Rahel Abraham, is a Hurricane Harvey Houstonian survivor, a Black female engineer, and an emerging start-up founder on a mission to empower people at risk of flooding. Based on her experience, Abraham, a solo entreprenuer, was in search of a simple defense in the midst of a natural disaster – setting out to create an innovative solution to prevent a repeat of her devastating flood experience.
Her easy to stow and unpack brainchild, ClimaGuard, launched just as this Fall’s historic Atlantic hurricane season unfolded. Abraham designed a Temporary Protective Enclosure, Climaguard, as a (TPE)- a military-grade, one-person set-up, portable, and reusable enclosure to protect cars and other valuable possessions like home goods from flood damage.
The result was a simple, real-time flood protection device which allows flood zone residents to safeguard their possessions, giving them assurance all will not be lost upon their return home. Since Climaguard is reusable, the added bonus is being able to annually repurpose it from June-November. It’s a practical tech solution to ensure greater resiliency for indivdiuals and communities in uncertain times.
If your entrepreneurial spirit is leading you in the same direction as this diverse group of accomplished founders and newly hatched brands that are all taking off, what unites them is they are great listeners. Each founder has taken key insights and findings to build a unique new B2B or consumer-centric solution. By using technology, the right digital tools, outside advice, and team-centricity to their advantage they are changing the fashion-tech paradigm by filling critical market gaps and the timing couldn’t be better.