What the future of fashion tech looks like in the fashion capital of the world #381


Is the traditional Parisian fashion landscape ready to make space for disruptive fashion tech startups?

A stroll down the Champs-Élysées or Rue de Rivoli, past shiny shop windows and carefully arranged designer silk scarves, framed by uniform Hausmannian buildings, is enough to remind anyone that Paris is the fashion capital of the world.

Known for its ateliers de mode and haute couture culture, the city is home to some of the biggest names of the fashion industry like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Balmain.

Now some of those same houses are taking part in one of the biggest changes fashion has faced in decades: the fashion tech revolution. And this has not gone unnoticed by fashion schools in the city, which have started integrating startup and fashion tech education in their programmes.

“Is it going to change the industry? Yes, I am very convinced it will,” says Thomas Delattre, director of the Fashion Entrepreneurship Centre at the Institut Français de la Mode (IFM).

Fashion tech innovation and incubators

Delattre isn’t the only one guiding future fashion entrepreneurs towards fashion tech and business innovation; Paris now has a handful of fashion startup incubator and accelerator programmes. IFM’s accelerator works with nascent brands to help them expand, from strengthening brand identity and streamlining supply chains to preparing to pitch to investors. This has worked well for world-famous brands like Jacquemus and Vetements, which were followed by the accelerator. Meanwhile La Caserne, the biggest accelerator dedicated to the sustainable fashion transition in Europe — backed by French corporate giant Impala — is collaborating with PSL University in Paris. Students from the university develop their own sustainable innovation projects, and benefit from workshops and meetings with industry players. The aim is to produce environmentally responsible brands that can popularise the concept of sustainable fashion through innovation in materials, durability and supply — like Loom or Le Slip Français, both La Caserne success stories.There’s also the LVMH Maison des Startups — a programme launched in 2018 inside coworking campus Station F that encourages collaborations between emerging international startups in the world of luxury goods and the business group’s 70 “Houses”. The six-month programme consists of online workshops, events and collaborations that aim to constantly modernise the luxury sector. The Maison has produced collaborations like the one between luxury watch brand Zenith and tech company Orbis, which has seen Zenith integrate augmented reality and holographic elements to its marketing strategies.

French fashion tech still has room to improve

For Peter Jeun Ho Tsang, director of the Foundry Incubator programme at the International Fashion Academy (IFA) in Paris, however, France is still far behind its international counterparts when it comes to fashion tech and innovation. Although he’s having more conversations with French brands wanting to test innovations and technologies in their operations and business models, he finds a problem with investors and luxury houses wanting “everything to be shiny and glossy and perfect immediately, which if we’re talking about startups, innovation and nascent technologies, is kind of counterproductive”.He hopes to educate the market to open up to these kinds of technologies through IFA students, who will bring fashion tech and innovation education with them into their professional lives. By making fashion tech more visible, he expects the field to attract more capital, investors and angels.

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