On January 15, 2019 the Premium Group once again hosted an intense conference day focused on latest evolutions in design, digitalism and fashion technology. #FashionTech is the name of the biannual event currently held at Kraftwerk on Köpenicker Straße in Berlin during Berlin Fashion Week. Founded in 2015, it was the ninth edition of the conference hosting 12 speakers at its latest event. Among them were Sebastian Klauke CDO of Otto Group; Justine Leconte, a fashion designer from France; Prof. Ulrich Weinberg from HPI School of design thinking; Hyper Island CEO Sofia Wingren; Reza Moussavian, SVP digital and innovation at Deutsche Telekom; Inga Griese, founder and editor-in-chief of Icon Magazine; and Hilldun CEO Gary Wassner, CEO–to name only a few. Key topics ranged from digital transformation and cultural leadership to the power of innovation and new shifts in fashion design. An audience of about 300 insiders attended.
Anita Tillmann, managing partner Premium Group, Michael Stracke, #FashionTech’s chief business development officer and Ole Tillmann, founder and CEO of Peak, introduced the speakers to the audience. “Listen, experience and learn” was the credo of the event: speeches where accompanied by workshops, master classes and an exhibition of international innovation companies.
THE BEST QUOTES FROM THE #FASHIONTECH SUMMIT’S SPEECHES
The first speaker Sebastian Klauke, the CDO of Otto Group, was in Berlin to talk about the groups’ successful transformation into an e-commerce business.
He pointed out four rules that helped the company to keep on track during the transformation.
First he suggested to start early. Although Klauke has been at the company for only 18 months, the group did their homework before and was one of the first big players in Germany to build up its e-commerce business. His second advice was “Funding the journey.” Klauke admitted that it is hard work to conquer companies such as Amazon. “They will always be a threat, as they adopt faster, execute better and have lean structures,” Klauke admitted. In his opinion the key pillar to digital transformation is systematically structured and consistent work. Number three on his list was “Finding the values.” Otto has founded two venture capital companies and invests huge amounts of money to build up their B2B and B2C businesses. Number four finally was “The culture, stupid!” “At Otto, we assign one full working day per month to talk about cultural issues,” the CDO reported. In this context Klauke recommended to use hierarchy where it is useful, but to get rid of it wherever it blocks. “Ideas have to bubble up freely to let communication grow” was his conclusive message.
Justine Leconte was next in the row and talked about how she built up her eponymous fashion label without budget, fame and connections. Within three years she got 500,000 followers on YouTube and 43,000 on Instagram. Her advise for building up a label without playing the fashion game is to communicate intensely via social media channels. The former marketer born and raised in France moved from New York to Berlin in 2015 to build up her own knitwear brand. “For me compromising on ethics and human rights wasn’t an option,” she claimed. So her standards were set right from the start. Broadcasting herself on her own channel was the key. “I wanted to share my creative process, to be accessible and show my work from the designers point of view,” she said of her first steps. In 2016 she had 13,000 subscribers on YouTube; one year later the number exploded to 282,000 followers and 41% of them visited her web shop. This year 505,000 followers subscribed on Youtube, but only 16% of her web shop clientele came through this channel. “This is a big advantage, having two pillars growing in parallel now,” she said to finish her speech. Leconte reaches customers in 200 different countries from all over the world and highly recommends Pinterest as an additional tool to gain more attention.
Prof. Ulrich Weinberg, director and founding member of HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, was named one of the Top 100 innovators by the Handelsblatt recently. He was third in the row and talked about why “WeQ is the new IQ.” At his school, students who afterwards work in companies such as Otto Group, Zalando, Bosch, SAP and Volkswagen learn in a two-semester course about what is needed in times of radical transformation and how to handle growth. “Getting rid of the competitive aspects, opening up more variable spaces–in other words, flexibility and variability are the key,” Weinberg said. He also suggests his students to “fail as early and as often as possible.” The core message of his speech was that if you want to change the industry, you have to change the company culture.“Interconnectivity is imperative, if we want to move from IQ to an inclusive WeQ culture. We need to transform from a linear thinking in an network thinking,” Weinberg concluded. He has also written a book about network thinking.
Sofia Wingren, the CEO of Hyper Island, a global learning provider, started her speech with a provocative claim: “Average is dead.” She added: “In the digital age we have to be the best on a global stage and we must stop to look at the world as one big audience with average taste and average size.” And she later noted: “We have the technologies to access new audiences. New business and new opportunities will arrive when we learn how to look at the world around us. The way we work in the future will be decided by data.” The audience also learned that“real learning comes from doing; we need to test and try and get on this way the insight for tomorrow.” To achieve this Wingren recommended to go through a couple of questions: “How do the new technologies apply to my brand? Do I really know my customers? Is my team prepared to work in new ways? Am I prepared? Do we know, how to figure this out?” Wingren’s advise is to “start by trying get your feet wet. Get out of your comfort zone, if you want to future-proof your business.”
Christoph Magnussen, founder and managing director of Blackboat, a consulting agency for digital transformation, remembered his formative moments. One of those for him was in 1989, when the wall came down. In terms of digital disruption those moments were for example in 2000, when Napster came up, and 2007, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. “By then, Nokia was the most valuable company with one billion customers. No one expected them to be overtaken so quickly.” Magnussen remembered and described the launch of the iPhone as a so-called “Oh Shit! Moment” for the Finnish hardware company. “Nokia recognized, that there was a dramatic change in its market but still felt unable to react.”
Magnussen recommends the following rules to turn “Oh Shit! Moments” into magical ones. His first advice: To be aware that nobody knows anything. “We are linear thinkers in an exponential world. You have to get over the critical thinking.“ Secondly: Knowing versus learning. “You have to convert from a knowing company into a learning company.” His third knowledge: “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.” Having all this in mind, Magnussen thinks that companies will be better equipped for future challenges.
Reza Moussavian, SVP of digital and innovation (HR) at Deutsche Telekom, asked the audience: “What differs between human mankind and an ape? It is the use of language, fiction and the art of collaboration. If you think you are the leading expert you are already lost. If you think you have a great product, but the market is not ready for it: too bad! We have to commit that we know nothing. We have to rethink our business models. We will never be ready, there will always be a next level,” the expert concluded. He assumed that a “lonesome cowboy attitude will have to disappear and team based bonuses and targets should replace it. Honest 360-degrees-feedbacks by employees are another important tool for the company culture of the future. As well as transparency, the balance of power and inclusive versus exclusive entities.” As an HR expert he recommended going into diversity in every aspect when it comes to hiring staff.
Alfredo Orobio, the Brazilian founder and CEO from Awaytomars, opened a data platform for the fashion market as a free space to develop collections. The first line he did with designers contributing from all over the world. Lately Orobio did a full collab with the Brazilian shoe brand Melissa and designers from all over the world took part. The process, which lasted over one year, is known as the biggest shoe collab of its kind worldwide with 50,000 pairs being produced. Recently Missoni approached the young startup and Awaytomars will be doing a ten-piece collection for the 65-year-old traditional Italian fashion house that will be launched in July 2019. “It was good for us to open up a physical space in London,” he reported. “It is a mix between open studio and pop-up store where we can meet and interact with our contributors,” is how he described the current working concept.
Inga Griese, founder and editor-in-chief Icon Magazine, and Gary Wassner CEO of Hilldun, talked about the experience that the New York-based Wassner made in the last decades by supporting fashion brands. With Hilldun, the fashion expert who holds a masters degree in philosophy, helps companies finance and manufacture their collections. “You can approach us with a product or with an idea,” Wassner encouraged the audience. “The fashion world is no longer occupied by gatekeepers; small labels can reach the consumers by themselves. This is a big chance and opportunity. Of course, heritage brands that are not evolving are suffering,” he admitted. “But for young brands there are more opportunities than ever. They don’t need coverage in Vogue or Elle anymore. They can show their products via Instagram. I think Millennials don’t care about what is in Vogue.”
Asked about his criteria about a relevant collection Wassner explained: “The designers come to my office and we look at products and prices. Then we try to transform the collection into a wholesale model. The question is: Who is buying the product so far? There are some great fashion retailers out there who can give a lot of credibility to young emerging brands.”
Asked about his first steps in fashion industry, Wassner remembered how he met the New York designer Betsey Johnson, who had a problem: “She had $50,000 of pre-orders from stores and no idea how to produce and manufacture these pieces. Like this Betsy became my first client and we worked together for one and a half decades. At that time in New York banks would not touch crazy fashion designers like her.” Concerning the future, Wassner is optimistic: “Although the time for huge global brands is over, at least for a while, I think there are great opportunities for an eclectic mix of brands and for young designers in general.” In the end Wassner had a question for the audience: “I love German fashion. Why do most of them do not export to the US?”
Alexander Graf, founder and CEO of Spryker Systems, predicts that there will be a fashion retail monopoly in the forthcoming years. Increase of sales in 2030 will be dominated by 90% of software and data, not by better products. The current vibe in e-commerce Graf called the “The Amazon momentum.” He said: “Amazon is growing by $200 million every day–that means every day a small inner city in Germany is dying!”
Ana Andjelic, chief brand officer of Rebecca Minkoff, gave a speech called “Surviving the attack of the algorithm.” Instagram is creating a personalized feed. But people have to be aware and ask: “How much of the Web is fake? Sixty percent of the traffic on the Web comes from bots“ Andjelic believes. “Influencers use bots and bots pretend to be influencers so the whole social media environment becomes blurry.” But there is a good message: Company culture social responsibility, real content, a vibrant community and collabs are still strong currencies. “Algorithms can never replace a real brand,” Andjelic concluded.
Bonprix managing director Markus Fuchshofen admitted in his speech that “the transformation of the online sector at Bonprix was very successful, but efforts to change the brick-and- mortar business didn’t hit the companies expectations so far.” He added: “In 1995 the catalog business was holding very little of the market; nowadays the lines between online and offline are totally blurred” and believes that “omnichannel is the key.” Based on the experience of the e-commerce business, Bonprix invented a new brick-and-mortar business concept based on smart phone technology. Clients can reorder products without leaving the fitting room and can checkout seamlessly. “There will be no cashier anymore,” Fuchshofen explained. “Every piece that is left in the fitting room is automatically removed from the bill.” The first pilot showcasing this mix of shopping convenience and shopping experience will open in February 2019 in Hamburg.