The Fashion-Tech alliance: marketing opportunity or change of industry structure?

As the 2015 Men’s Winter Fashion week draws to a close, we are granted a look at many brands finding themselves at a turning point in their history.
The meeting of two vastly different sectors such as technology providers and luxury players might result in unprecedented shifts in terms of customer base and business models . Probabilities are high that the Apple Watch, functioning as an all in one device integrating keys and payment facility, will  soon replace traditional accessory categories such as keychains and wallets for leather goods producers.

In the recent past (and present) the cross-sectoral movement has been headed by managers moving from fashion houses to tech firms, most notably with Ivy Ross(ex marketing VP of Gap) and Angela Ahrendts (ex Burberry CEO) managing respectively Google’s Glass division and Apple’s Retail operations.  Many tech firms are mimicking this move seeking to capitalise on the retail and Omni-channel marketing experience of these executives.


Technological disruption is both a threat to established brands and business models and an opportunity for reinvention.  The luxury sector is usually said to be conservative in terms of technology innovation adoption as brands are reluctant to change their image too fast at the risk of confusing customer perception, but this present order is on its way towards the dustbin of history.
Futuristic developments such as bacteria infested 3-d printed skins serving the dual purpose of clothing and terraforming distant world’s atmospheres can be discounted until their more tangible development.


Nevertheless more immediate trends should be addressed right now.  Audi and Renault are not waiting for the Google Car to be commercially available, but are already acquiring and developing solutions for their upcoming products, and there is no reason for fashion firms to be the ones lagging behind.

The most recent fashion weeks provide us a glimpse at the answers to how tech and fashion companies can collaborate in a mutually beneficial manner.
During the past week Uber customers were sent a notification of a “treasure hunt” in which users of  Uber’s Black Car service had the chance of finding invitations to a fashion show in the backseat, raising awareness for the brand while providing a boost to usage metrics.
In the September Paris fashion week Mr.Porter provided free Uber rides with the use of a promotional code, furnishing the rides with the latest issue of  the Mr.Porter Post and with gift cards to be used on the e-commerce portal.  In the words of industry expert Jon Noltz(product VP at HipCricket) “The benefit is exposing your brand to new and complementary audiences. Uber exposes its ride-sharing service to a high-income demographic while Mr Porter exposes the luxury and style of its brand to a tech-savvy audience.”
Accuweather, a purely tech player that is the largest provider of weather media forecasts has left its footprint at the New York September 14 fashion week by providing a “weather squad” ready to intervene at precipitation prone venues with umbrellas as a promotional activity for its mobile app.

Nigel Barker

Firms are also moving towards more long-term commitments with the advent of “tech wearables” such as Diane Von Furstemberg’s catwalk featuring modified Google Glasses and the advent of the e-watch with products by MontBlanc, TagHeuer, Tory Burch’s Fitbit, and the Diesel signed Samsung Gear.


Fashion houses are lining up to provide an experience to fashion conscious tech fans.  It makes sense that in the future these worlds might fuse into one.  This is an opportunity towards winning over a customer segment which spends  thousands in laptops and phones without blinking an eye but are not predisposed towards shelling out for designer outfits.
The Jellyfish Dress by Richard Nicholl is a step further towards this direction by featuring a fiber optic construct that emits different coloured lights and patterns from LED sewn into the fabric using kinetic movement to power itself in the upcoming version.


The movement towards cross-sectoral collaboration we have just analysed is manifesting itself in the clearest of ways at the latest Fashion Weeks as attendees are amongst the most important influencers in the world with millions of followers on social networks.  We are thus faced with a paradigm shift in which successful innovators will thrive and laggards will head towards irrelevance.


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