The spirit of entrepreneurship was burning bright on Tuesday evening when I attended a networking dinner for journalists and bright young things from the field of fashion technology.
Around a dozen entrepreneurs - most only in their 20s - were there to transmit in convincing terms how excited they were about their developments. It was uplifting to see how much creativity, business acumen, ambition and drive our industry continues to attract and nurture.
Fashion technology is a catch-all term that embraces many different aspects. My rotating dinner companions included Kate Unsworth of Kovert Designs, a soon-to-be-launched business that creates wearable technology in the form of premium jewellery. The initial idea is that a stylish ring or bracelet will discreetly vibrate only when an important email or call comes in to your mobile. Interestingly for a self-confessed “gadget girl”, her main aim is to free us from the tyranny of 24/7 communication, checking our mobiles even during relaxed social occasions. Kovert has exclusive designs agreed with Net-A-Porter for imminent launch, and other options will be more generally available.
Plugging into the increasing importance of personal shoppers in large stores and multiples is Alexis Cuddyre, who co-founded Bespoky (my favourite name of the evening) a couple of months ago. The concept is for personal shoppers from major retailers to each have a page on an app to show their own tastes, influences and likes, thereby allowing shoppers to get a feel for who may be on their wavelength. As most independent retailers regard themselves as personal shoppers, this approach should interest them as well as large department stores.
Waving the flag for the indie sector is Luciana Bhangu, who works with StreetHub, founded by Maxim Berglund, Mandeep Singh and Alex Loizou, in order to promote individual shops to consumers. Now representing 300 or so shops in London, she and her colleagues are about to descend on Brighton. I am sure Luciana would appreciate suggestions of other locations that are rich in independent boutiques.
Along similar lines, but looking at small designers and labels, Silk Fred is a site that sells directly to the public the products of myriad small firms. The partners behind it, Kate Jackson and Emma Watkinson, also run TableCrowd, the “meet & eat” networking club for young entrepreneurs that brought us all together. Well done, both, you are doing a fine job.
Of direct interest to many Drapers readers is Luke Thomson, whose venture ReChannel aims to take ordering and reordering of fashion stock online to speed up the entire process and get bestsellers to a stockist’s shop or website more quickly.
It was fascinating to hear these fledgling business people talk so confidently about their ventures, many of which are being developed in their spare time alongside full-time jobs. It was intriguing to hear their anecdotes about dealing with investors - they are not shy of putting healthy seven-figure valuations on their companies.
The dinner crowd seemed to be evenly split between fashion people who had got into technology and techies who had ended up in fashion. Daniel Murray, whose Grabble service alerts shoppers when desired items are being reduced in price, is in the former group. His family’s business is womenswear supplier Sidney Murray, which will be familiar to any seasoned habitué of the Great Portland Street area in London.
I wonder how many of these determined young business people will make a long career in the fashion sector. As Marion Foale shows, this is an industry that really gets hold of you. My companions this week were merely another new breed in a long line of talents.