What Does Fashion Tech Mean In 2016?

In 2013, Third Wave Fashion, our favorite think tank for insights and ideas about fashion tech, tried to define what Fashion Tech meant in 2013. TWF had seen the how the space exploded with companies since it started in 2010. The posts starts with a simple definition, tech startups that are focused on the fashion world, but then immediately explained why it’s not simple. For example, they excluded wearable tech from their definition. TWF also asked movers and shakers in the scene what their thoughts were on the definition including Fashion Is Your Business‘ very own Rob Sanchez.

At the time, a major theme of thriving fashion tech companies was they were shaking up long established relationships, especially between customers and fashion brands. Brands were interacting directly with customers on social media platforms and in-person, becoming publishers and communities, as well as using data to get a better understanding of what customers wanted. The customization space was emerging, so more and more customers could tell brands to make nearly exactly what they wanted.

Recently, Wired senior staff writer, David Pierce, declared wearables dead–or at least the term and the past conception of them dead. Using similar logic to our own post on the subject, he explains that the trend is that technology is now more seamlessly being interwoven into clothing, almost disappearing. With capital-W wearables slowly becoming less of thing, we wondered what else about fashion tech has changed over the past three years and what will change in the future as we begin 2016.

To do so, we also asked those in the fashion tech space their thoughts on the definition of fashion tech. Here is what they said:

One way fashion technology was defined was as something that allows clothes be more than things that are worn or that allows shopping experiences to be easier or even exciting.

Fashion Tech is technology that enables a fashion experience when you wear it or interact with it.

– Tito Chowdhury, Owner & Executive Producer of FashioNXT

Some see fashion tech as where the fashion and technology industries meet to create things, improve situations and accomplish goals that they might not be able to do so separately.

Fashion Tech to me is the merging of two industries to find new ways of exploring each industry. By introducing technological advancements to the world of fashion, we get to create deeper and more interesting conversations in what both technology and fashion can accomplish.

– Michael Roderick, Founder & CEO of Small Pond Enterprises

Fashion Technology to me is only worth talking about if it provides a solution for either the designer and their company or the customer. Anything that doesn’t meet that standard isn’t technology that needed to be created. The answer to the question then is Fashion Tech are new tools to improve fashion.

– Seth Friedermann, Owner & Founder of IgniteDMA

For others the only constant is change. Specifically fashion tech means changing how we, including customers and brands, interact with each other, our clothes and the world.

(Fashion tech is a) totally disruptive way to approach fashion that can be both profitable and ethical in the long term.

– Maria Kuch, Co-founder & Chief Dapper Officer of DapperNine

Fashion Tech, to me, is about pushing the boundaries of traditional ways of thinking about things, opening up unique avenues for fashion, technology, and design.  It uses the technology of the future to redefine our relationships with online and offline stores, brands, consumers, publishers, social communities, and ourselves.

– Stephanie Benedetto, Founder & CEO of Queen of Raw

Finally, some found fashion tech hard to define distinctly in this day and age as the space has grown broad in the past few years. However, what could be agreed on was that perhaps less should be focused on the tech itself and more should be focused on people–both, on the people in fashion tech community and on what fashion tech can do for people buying and wearing clothes.

Fashion tech means anything that either combines ‘fashion’ in its traditional sense, clothing or accessories or that targets the fashion industry and technology. As a result it is very broad! From wearables to software and everything in between! Perhaps its most defining feature is the passionate community that has emerged in support of this movement.

– Danielle Lewis, Founder & CEO of Scrunch.co

Fashion Tech is an exciting space growing everyday with innovative new products and startups. It has matured enough to have some stand-out veterans such as Gilt Groupe and Warby Parker, but is still young enough to have a very fluid definition. I believe the difficulty of finding a cut and dry definition for Fashion Tech comes from the ubiquitous nature of both fashion and technology in our everyday lives.

Fashion is a way for an individual to make a statement and express themselves to the world. Whether or not we subscribe to a trend, keep it simple or complex, make it artistic or utilitarian, it all boils down to self-expression and how we choose to present ourselves. Technology has several different definitions, one of which is the application of information and design in the organization of human activities. The most powerful technologies redefine human behavior – the printing press, personal computer, and social media are all examples of this.

Putting these together, I see Fashion Tech as a space of products that orchestrate the way in which human beings express themselves to the world. With this definition in mind I believe Fashion Tech products adhere to two tenants:

  1. They are highly ‘me-focused’ and customizable.
  2. They democratize the definition of fashionable by adding a heavy layer of personalization to the space.

As Fashion Tech continues to grow, become more rigid, and birth new sub-categories, one constant is that it will remain an extremely human space driven by disruptive means of self-expression.

– Tamara Austin, Founder of OpenStile

What is Fashion Tech to you? Let us know in the comments.

This classic artwork by @BradleyTheodore was taken in SoHo, NYC.  Unfortunately, it has since been painted over.  Bradley’s work can be found scattered throughout NYC, mostly in Manhattans Lower East Side.


Alex Tunney

Alex is Managing Editor of Open Source Fashion. His work has appeared in The Billfold, Lambda Literary, The Inquisitive Eater and The Ink and Code. Alex earned his MFA in Creative Writing from The New School.