Our stand at chloédigital, fashion technologists who create web solutions that develop and market fashion brands, is to find more women who love fashion and CODE. I wrote an article late last year on being an unlikely female in tech and since then, through the business, I have been extremely fortunate in meeting women who meet this description.
This article is all about showcasing their talents and work whilst celebrating the increase of women in fashion technology getting their geek on!
The Fashion Technologists:
Jenny, Owner of Snap Fashion, a fashion product discovery platform.
Kim, Owner of Finest Imaginary, a jewellery & t-shirt etailer.
Maxim, iOS Developer, currently launching Beauty Geek, a mobile shopping app.
Amrita, Senior Product Manager for Fab.com, one of the fastest growing eCommerce websites worldwide.
1. Tell us how and why you got into technology, especially coding?
Jenny: As a child I spent many a happy afternoon wandering around the Science Museum, and I have to admit that I became slightly addicted by Commander Keen on Windows 3.1. I began to develop a fascination with everything technology, but especially ones that combined science and engineering with more creative topics, like fashion, art and film. I wrote my first line of code on my first day of my Computer Science degree at Bristol University, and soon figured out the niche areas of Computer Science that I enjoyed the most - that's how I got into Computer Vision.
Kim: I've always been quite technically minded. I started playing with making websites when I was around 13, and continued to do so through necessity more than anything. I started my brand Finest Imaginary (designing jewellery & t-shirts) when I was in University. I needed a website to sell things through, as etsy was still in its infancy, and I couldn't justify paying someone else to make me one at the time. I taught myself how to make ecommerce and wordpress websites for my personal use, then managed to get myself a junior developer position at a web agency after I graduated.
Maxim: The first time I sat behind a computer I was five. I was immediately hooked. By the time I was 11, I was 'developing' websites, though mostly in HTML/CSS. I knew I wanted to study Computer Science and it was during my degree that I started writing code regularly. Why I was drawn to it? You can create anything with code! It enables you to dip into many different interests and touch many people's lives. Also, when I was young, I thought computers were just magical, really.
Amrita: I got into coding at the age of 14. I remember hating it at first and asking my teacher if it was too late to switch electives. She made me realize that I was doing great and she'd be glad to provide additional assistance if required. The problem solving aspect grew on me, and I've never looked back since. This was in the late 90's, the days of BASIC programming and when I'd also help my brother assemble PC's. Moved onto C++ and Visual Basic and in high school, HTML/PHP/graphic design in the summer before joining Information Technology engineering undergrad.
2. Have you always been into fashion...tell us about it?
Jenny: I've always loved fashion. I love reading the magazines and picking out my favourite things, watching trends evolve from the catwalk to the high-street and looking at what other people are wearing. However, I used to really struggle with picking what to wear myself, trying new trends and finding clothing within my budget. That's why I had the idea for Snap Fashion - I wanted to shake up the way that we shop online so that people with a passion for fashion could discover more things that they love.
Kim: I've definitely always had my eye on fashion, I always seemed to stray towards looking at fashion movements. I had a keen interest in Vivienne Westwood's punk movement during high school, and honed down my interest to t-shirts during university. I wrote my final dissertation on the history & cultural impact of the t-shirt. I do like to keep up to date with the exciting things going on in the fashion world. Not only to improve my own brand, Finest Imaginary, but also to inspire my own personal aesthetic.
Maxim: Yes! Especially at school, me and my friends would watch all the fashion shows on our iPods during class (sshht, don't tell anyone). I can really appreciate style and I love putting outfits together. My primary passion is beauty and make-up though.
Amrita: Not always, was a slow starter in that sphere! I was the geeky nerd who didn't care about her looks. The wakeup call occurred when I was interning in finance at Bank of America and moved onto a sales job visiting fancy asset management companies. Got myself a bunch of formal suits including a Calvin Klein, lived in my heels and developed a weakness for shoes and nail art. I had a series of moves that made me downsize my wardrobe and learnt to shop less but more efficiently. Mainly being an online shopper helps me compare several sites for calculated fashion influenced purchases (and also check out their site/app features as part of my job, two for one!) In my current workplace, am into casuals and flats and do have use some dressed down yet style driven daily necessities including my Tom Ford glasses and Michael Kors bag.
3. Do you think it is important to know both in order to be successful in the fashtech industry?
Jenny: I think that it's definitely an advantage. I believe that being able to code is integral to starting a tech company - it lets you bootstrap for longer and prototype your concepts and brainwaves. Instead of having to scope work and subcontract out prototyping you can sit down, code all night, and take it to your team in the morning. It's a great motivator and this quick idea generation and prototyping is what makes it so exciting to be a tech startup. Another really important aspect of starting a business is knowing your target market inside out, and consequently a love of fashion in a fashion tech company is a definite plus! You can relate with your audience, design a product which is beautiful and deliver answers to problems that you've personally experienced. I think that it drives you to find a better solution if you want the product as much as everyone else.
Kim: Yes, without a doubt. I don't think you can offer your clients the same amount of support and advice if you don't know about their industry, even just the basics of it.
Maxim: It definitely helps, I always think it's a good thing for the non-tech to roughly understand what is and isn't' possible with regards to technology, just like the developer should aim to understand where the users are coming from and what their priorities are.
Amrita: YES! It's definitely good to have a working knowledge of both. I'd say I'm 65% Tech, 35% Fashion. The Fashion% has only been rising as the Internet keeps providing me with a wealth of the latest information to update myself, provide a platform to express myself and connect with others. Knowing both definitely helps identify the pain points in Fashion and how Technology can help fix them. I maintain a list of innovative FashionTech startups on my blog and come across several addressing them or multiple geographically varying me-too's. I've noticed that technological efforts are initially simply outsourced but the truly successful ones have an in-house tech team and a strong (technical) Product Management culture that intersects the two silos.
4. Do you think the fusion of digital and physical consumer experience, especially in the fashion industry, is important? If so, how in your place of work do you strive to make this possible?
Jenny: I believe that it's such an important thing - and that fashion as a whole is not properly bridging the gap between online and offline yet. With Snap Fashion people normally assume that we're trying to drive footfall away from the high-street and moving people online but that's definitely not what we're about. Our goal is to enhance shopping, be it online, offline or even just imagining your dream outfit! It's really important that the fashion industry is beginning to embrace the change that's happening and offer users a streamlined experience which lets people enjoy fashion wherever they are.
Kim: For me there's no question of there being a fusion, it's inevitable. Using my own brand as an example, I'd say that the majority of my customers find us online, so having a representative online presence is crucial in brand development and customer contact. I'm working on a big re-brand for Finest Imaginary, one of my main goals is creating a more cohesive link between our online presence and the physical items that the customer receives. This includes making sure our online voice matches our product ranges, our packaging is in line with our online designs and ensuring that whether online or offline, the customer always knows it's Finest Imaginary.
Maxim: I do think it's important. You can easily extend the information available to you by incorporating tech. My aim for my application for instance is to be able to walk around shops, but not miss out on the deals or options available online.
Amrita: The success of several pure play etailers has proven that it is not a constraint. Shoppers around the world as can be seen on Net-a-Porter's Live Feed use high resolution images, videos and curation across a large product variety. Easy returns, convenient shipping and cost benefits have only made the digital experience simpler yet the physical fit and feel issues do cause a high number of returns. A multi-channel approach of integrating the digital and physical worlds can definitely make reaching out to consumers who may not be aware of their brand and experience better. Some notable examples include: Macy's Endless Aisle, live streaming of runway shows and being able to purchase while viewing by Topshop & Burberry, the #ASOSunbox Vine campaign, and popup shops tried by several eCommerce sites including eBay, Etsy, and Everlane.
These women are doing amazing jobs and we at chloédigital salute them! Knowing there is a growing community of fashion technologists out there is so amazing and we hope this spurs more people to get into the industry. We look forward to showcasing more people in fashion technology to continue the celebration. Keep it up!