As the Apple Watch courts the luxury market, meet five other digital pioneers taking the industry to infinity and beyond.
With French wearable tech fanatics lining up overnight outside Colette to get first dibs on the Apple Watch (sorry freezing plebeians: Kaiser Karl already has an insanely luxe gold chain link version, the only other model of which is possessed by, who else, Beyonce), the rest of the fashion world is challenged with pioneering new ways to bring the industry boldly into the future. But there are a few standout firms leading fashion's digital charge. From the developers behind the Instagram of e-commerce to the social media savvy twenty-somethings behind a new kind of consulting agency, meet our top five digital fashion pioneers.
Spring: Heralded as the Uber-meets-Instagram hybrid of e-commerce enthusiasts' wildest dreams, the Spring app made a big splash when it launched just ahead of the spring/summer 15 season. Fed up with having to bop from app to mobile e-commerce site back to app, all with different checkout procedures, founders Ara Katz, Octavian Costache, and brothers Alan and David Tisch sought to create a clean, central hub that allows customers to shop directly from labels they love with a single swipe. Users choose which brands to follow (everyone from Opening Ceremony and Jason Wu to Carolina Herrera and Public School signed on for the August 2014 launch), resulting in an Instagram-esque feed of completely shoppable imagery that's produced and curated by the brand itself. Although there are still a few kinks to work out (how to maintain a steady stream of images and products during fashion's off-seasons chief among them), it was announced last week that Spring secured an additional $25 million in investment funding, increasing its potential to completely revolutionize the way we shop.
Maison MRKT: Matt McGlynn and brothers Matt and Lexi Nastos are the bright band of mid twenty-somethings behind Maison MRKT, a new digital consulting agency that helps smaller brands beef up their e-commerce sites and strategies. The social media savvy trio brings the kind of data analysis that previously was only employed by blue chip luxury labels to smaller clients, which include Michael Bastian and Orley, looking to make a big impact through e-commerce. But more importantly, Maison MRKT advise on putting this data to practice, helping its clients build strong web platforms through proactive search-engine marketing and optimization, social media strategy, and email marketing, among other fields. As a recent New York Times profile explains, the group's clients often "had access to this information themselves, but not the insight to interpret or act upon it."
Shapeways: Dutch designer Iris Van Herpen has been opening our eyes to the possibilities of 3D printing in fashion ever since her first haute couture collection hit the Paris runway back in 2012. But for designers that don't have Van Herpen's hookups at the MIT Media Lab, there's Shapeways, the company looking to bring 3D printing out of science fiction films and into the mainstream. While Van Herpen has employed the likes of Stratasys—one of the leading manufacturers of 3D printers and production software—to produce her ethereal creations, designers with slightly less tech expertise than the Dutch master have reached out to the New York-based firm to help guide them through the production process. As Fashionista reported, Shapeways printed the sculptural gown Dita Von Teese rocked a few years back, and has created jewelry for runway presentations. As 3D printing becomes increasingly accessible, we're excited to see what other designers can dream up with the help of fashion-focused manufacturers.
Intel: Apple might have won Karl Lagerfeld's heart, but Intel isn't backing down from fashion without a fight. The firm hopped on the wearable technology craze early, smartly partnering with Opening Ceremony to create MICA—the intelligent communication accessory targeted towards women who are on the go and down to rock a snakeskin, semi-precious stone situation on their wrist—which launched at Barney's last Christmas. And Intel's in it for the long haul; as WWD reported, the multinational corporation has taken strides to connect CFDA designers with "a broad ecosystem of hardware and software developers it has cultivated." Intel has partnered these engineers with design talent from brands like Chanel, Cartier, Michael Kors, and more. It also launched a Make It Wearable contest to discover ideas and develop products that will change the future of wearable technology, and plans to repeat the initiative this year.
New York Fashion Tech Lab: New York is already one of the world's leading fashion capitals, but the New York Fashion Tech Lab wants to put the city on top for fashion technology. The twelve week accelerator program provides a group of fledgling fashion tech companies with access to the city's leading retailers. Unlike other accelerator programs—funded mostly by venture capitalist firms trying to turn a quick profit on investments—the retailers themselves fund the NYFT Lab, fostering lasting partnerships and inspiring technological innovations that really matter to the industry. WWD reports that this year's Demo Day is slated for June 12.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Collier Schorr for Opening Ceremony x Intel