The Freestyle Conference hit DC Saturday [December 6], the premiere fashion-tech collaborative conference explored the business of fashion and technology. Launched by Open Source Fashion (OSF), the New York City-based networking group offered attendees series of sessions related to business and growth strategy within established companies and startups alike. We caught up with some of the speakers to get their take on the best business strategies to cultivate sustainable success.
Speakers included: Joe Rubin, Founder of Funding Post (keynote); Lila Wilson, NY Fashion Tech Lab; Matthew Capala, Professor at New York University and Founder, SearchDecoder; Jonathan Smalley, Founder Brilliant Collaborations; Boaz David, Designer Consultant at HumanB, Spencer Kohn, Spencer Kohn Photography.
Beginning with Mike Malloy, CEO of Wave Born, who explained to us that there is a tech component to every business – and if you’re not using technology, you’re not utilizing all your resources! Wave Born, acquired by Malloy in 2011, is a high-end glasses company founded on a philanthropic concept. The company donates ten percent of its proceeds to fund cataract surgeries in underprivileged countries; literally changing how people see the world! Wave Born sales already broke one million with projections set to break two by next year. Mike [Malloy] told us he was introduced to Under Armor founder, Kevin Plank who he has learned through his own business model. His number one suggestion for e-commerce startups: crowd-funding!
Rising star, fashion photographer, and photo editor at Lady Gunn magazine, Spencer Kohn remarked about a photographer’s stance on technology and how to utilize it in planning your shoot from concept to fruition. Spencer [Kohn] told us he accidentally fell into the tech world but what it has taught him has proven to be indispensable. The best advice he can give an up-and-coming photographer is, “to budget, conceptualize your shoot, and use your online resources [specifically Behance, Model Mayhem and Instagram].” He told us, “fashion isn’t so much seasonal now because of the internet, so we must be custom content minded – focus on being genuine and consistent.” Spencer’s work is currently being featured, for the second year in a row, at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
One of the most tech-minded speakers of the day was Matthew Capala, founder of SearchDecoder.com and current adjunct professor at NYU. Focused primarily on the technology sector, Matthew [Capala] has been featured in the Huffington Post, built a million dollar business from the ground up, and has mentored many based on life-hacks he has taught himself just by paying attention and keeping abreast of trends. He told us, “SEO has been and continues to be the way of the future.” Why? He says because 80% of consumers search for productive services before actually purchasing – so the role of SEO, is simply to show up! Like Woody Allen said, “80% of success is simply showing up.” His book SEO: Like I’m 5, [read OSF’s recent review on his book here] delves in to why with SEO, you don’t need to sell your product because it sells itself! Matthew’s book explains how the internet [specifically social networks] are an extension of human connections. The biggest takeaway from our conversation: philosophy of growth is not just going viral; need to figure out our talents and dedicate ourselves to them!
Finally, one of our last conversations was with SVELTE, LLC founder Elaine Mensah about her drive, persistence, and lessons learned along the way. The entrepreneur launched her fashion firm with a focus on creative strategy for lifestyle and fashion alike. Elaine [Mensah] is also the founder of AllThingsFashionDC.com, and the producer/director of film The Politics of Fashion, officially selected at the Miami fashion film festival. The biggest piece of advice she gave us was, “not to be afraid to take the backseat to break into an industry,” specifically referring to her career change and the un-paid internships she accepting with major fashion brands, in order to get her foot in the door. Once she gained the experience she established her brand(s) telling us, “the only way to do the type of work she wanted was to create it.”
Open Source Fashion hosts The Freestyle Conference annual in New York and now Washington, DC – soon to open in a city near you!
Heather Mahoney, Haute Haus Agency