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Will the next big technology company come out of the fashion world?

I’ve had a very interesting evening at the latest Sydney event of Decoded Fashion, a global network of events on the future of fashion.

Here are a few of the many interesting insights and ideas that came up during the evening, either directly from the speakers or evoked by what they said.

Fashion will lead tech.
Perhaps the next technology giant will come from the fashion space. Technology will no longer be about devices but will dissolve into our environment, probably into our clothes more than anywhere. So one of the current or newly emerging fashion and clothing companies might be at the center of your interface to technology and connectivity.

We will use our clothes to buy.
Australian menswear retailer M.J. Bale has launched “the world’s most powerful suit“, enabling men to pay for goods with an embedded chip in the suit with a wave of their sleeve. It is easier than pulling a payment card out of a wallet; it makes sense as a phase in which our clothes will contain more of our technology. However apparently it was a challenge to use the technology without detracting from the aesthetics of the clothing.

Make clothes buying easier for men.
Kent and Lime is an Australian startup that sends out a box of selected clothes, often for a particular occasion, to its male customers, who can either keep or return the clothes. It strongly evokes the US-based Trunk Club, that I often mention in keynotes on how retailers can build profiling and personalization, though with some differences including it being delivery on demand rather than on seasonally.

Fashion is a monetization point for personal profiling.
Kent and Lime is looking not just to build fashion profiles of its customers, but also of what they drink, the music they listen to, and what they do socially. These are all deeply interconnected in understanding a person, however fashion is very likely the domain which can best be monetized by a company that is building rich personal profiles of its customers.

Media is looking for better ways to select and access brand content.
It is a truism that brands are now content companies. Australian company The Photo Diner is providing a platform for brands across fashion, homeware, and other domains to share images with media in a protected way. Journalists can search for what they want to feature and with the right permissions access pictures for editorial features.

Dating can inspire how we discover fashion.
Stashd app was inspired by the dating app Tinder, which provides an intuitive interface to allow people to identify (and potentially be matched with) others they find attractive. The Stashd iPhone app shows a series fashion images to its users, allowing them to either swipe left for images they don’t like so they never see them again, or swipe right for those they do like, building a virtual wardrobe that you can later browse and buy from. The app has been downloaded in 80 countries, with 4 million images shown and 400,000 images selected. The service is monetized through affiliate revenue, and is looking to improve its recommendation engine and provide insights to brands on what fashion is being liked.

The power of RFID must be used with discretion.
RFID can embed rich data into clothes, including where and how it was manufactured, from what materials, and when and where it was bought. This data can also be linked to customer profiles so that when someone returns to a store wearing the clothes they have bought, even years later, the sales assistant can have immediate access to that information. It is critical that this is used to benefit customers, and potentially with explicit opt-in, otherwise people may correctly feel that they are being tracked by their clothes.

Clothing can link us to others.
The team of designer Billie Whitehouse and technologist Moir came up with the concept of Fundawear, the “first wearable technology which allows personal touch to be transferred from a smartphone app to a partner anywhere in the world”, for Durex as a promotion but are now close to releasing it in production. They have now sold thousands of their ‘Alert Shirt’ which provides fans with a link to what their team’s players are experiencing on the field, and are taking the technology to the U.S. NFL. See it in action in the video below.

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Ross Dawson is globally recognized as a leading futurist, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, strategy advisor, and bestselling author. He is Founding Chairman of AHT Group, which consists of 3 companies: consulting, publishing, and ventures firm Advanced Human Technologies, future and strategy firm Future Exploration Network, and events company The Insight Exchange.

Ross is author most recently of Getting Results From Crowds, the prescient Living Networks, which anticipated the social network revolution, the Amazon.com bestseller Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships, and Implementing Enterprise 2.0. (click on the links for free chapter downloads). He is based in Sydney and San Francisco with his wife jewellery designer Victoria Buckley and two beautiful young daughters.

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