At a time in which technology is literally taking over the world, the rise of the fash-tech coupling is at hand. 360 Fashion Network is one such cross-border example.
360Fashion Network allows for creative designers to collaborate with brainy engineers and create products that are both techie-able and beautiful enough to sell.
Anina Net was an international model caught in-between the crosshairs of two computer engineering parents. Not exactly the match up one would expect. Although starting at odds with her family background, this story has a happy ending. With economic crisis in the foreseeable future, Net took a left at the Parisian catwalks and moved to the next largest emerging market she could imagine…China!
Encouraged by her divided background, in both fashion and technology, Net knew there was a niche market desperately crying out for her attention. We live in times where technology is literally taking over the world, ergo the steady rise of the fashion/tech coupling is now unstoppable. To live happily ever after. Net too was — as commanded by her very nature — moved to blend these unrelated concepts into a wonderful concoction known as “Fashion Tech”. The idea for 360 Fashion Network was born.
The Fashion Factory: The Non-Tech Trials
It all seems so obvious, you’d almost want to kick yourself. Over the past few years, I’ve heard whisperings and musings of such attempts, but they all sounded just too good to be true. People often tend to be ahead of their time… but not in the case of Net. She made out like Charlie and found the golden ticket at just the right time.
Unfortunately, not everyone was quite on board from the beginning. This concept back in 2007 was still perceived to be so foreign, people peered at the idea just as they did the iPod when it first came to market — that “why would I need this when I have all of these great CDs!” type of thought. Nonetheless, after a few years of dipping their toes into the largely uncharted waters and working with the provided tools, people warmed up to the “novel” idea. Moreover, they jumped on it. 360 Fashion Network turned into a home base for fashion tech and, what makes it even better, it lives in a country which throughout the 2010s has been paving the ways in both technology and manufacturing.
The largest issue at hand? Fashion itself — yep, that’s right, fashion itSELF. Although fashion never dies (a travesty, that would be), every year approximately 80 to 200 students graduate from the elite schools of fashion. With little success to follow. People love fashion, they want to create fashion, they want to make fashion. And of course they do! For many of us, it’s the only source of creative expression to be found.
As profoundly and deeply I wish to believe every single one of these freshly graduated talents will be the next Galliano, it’s just not going to happen — any time soon. Fashion tech is the future of fashion design, yet fashion designers in se are usually unequipped with the engineering skills required to bring to fruition such makings. Although very capable of conquering other fields such as technology, that’s just not where the immediate expertise exists.
Check out this tutorial on how to use LED ribbon (courtesy of the 360Fashion Network Youtube Channel):[youtube
The Fashion Network: The 360 Turns
The 360Fashion Network allows for creative designers to collaborate with brainy engineers — yes, they do have to sit at the same lunch table — and begin creating products that are actually tech enabled but beautiful enough to sell.
It’s been said that “one of the most significant trends among fashion tech startups is the disruption of the traditional consumer model; not so much dictating fashion trends, as upgrading the way that people can see them and buy into them.” Finding a place for fashion tech should seemingly be easy, especially in the world in which we live today. The pain point behind selling this concept is the cumbersome difficulty for people to envision an engineering brain and a designer brain recreating the wardrobes and shopping experiences as we know them today. Fashion brands were resistant to the use of technology, but this unimaginable train of though occurred at a time in which even words like “blog” and “app” were foreign concepts. The idea of purchasing a Prada bag sans touch and feel was a figure of absurdity.
Without falling victim to despair and discouragement, Net executed her dream of opening up a fashion tech company and revolutionizing the fashion industry from within (China). Although China may seem to lag behind in more than one way, it in reality is one of the most forward thinking and incredibly progressive societies. The craftsmanship of young brands such as Azrael YM, with whom Net worked on producing a smart glove, was one of the many fashion tech products found on TaoBao, one of China’s largest online shopping malls.
The above notwithstanding, in a country where people are trying to amp up their eco-friendly behavior and businesses are striving for sustainability, the looming question is whether or not introducing fashion tech into an otherwise already wasteful and polluting industry is, when all is said and done, the smartest decision. Allow me to be.. The Devil’s Advocate — advocating China’s pros instead of cons, that is.
For one, this is a perfect way for China to maintain its manufacturing industry, whilst simultaneously challenging its reputation as a manufacturing state by adding a creative component. From Net’s perspective, as a technology company, they’re investing in soft circuits. The LED ribbon, as seen in the YouTube video above, is e-textile based. Its creators have woven electronics into the ribbon, meaning it carries less copper backing and, theoretically, is bio-degradable with minimal waste. The company has also created the 360 Fash Tech maker kit, helping to promote a recycling program where people can return old parts for disassembly and to be reused in a safe and functional way.
Check out the Smart Glove as unveiled during the CCTV Spring Festival Gala 2017 (courtesy of the 360Fashion Network YouTube channel):
“Very few businesses have the budget to develop concepts or experimental devices, but it does tap heavily into one of the fashion industries most admirable traits: Creating something new from something existing by taking inspiration from the world and the culture around it.” Forbes on Fashion Tech.
The Fashion Kits: All Decked Out In Tech
Creativity fuels the fashion industry, as does a thirst for creating new from the ashes of old. Admired for their open-minded approach to the world, creatives play a significant role in how the world evolves, with fashion tech as the next step. Why not take something that’s never been done before and turn it into a necessity? That’s what 360 Fashion Network is doing. They’ve provided a platform and launching pad in order to smooth the terrain for this new trail.
That’s also the purpose of the 360 Fash Tech maker kit. Fashion brands don’t have extensive engineering teams nor do they have the budget to hire such a skilled group of experts, especially when money and energy could be better spent elsewhere. Instead, the kit does all of the heavy lifting—it eliminates the need for coding know-how, which allows for brands to focus on the stuff their good at, integration and design. The 360 Fashion Network acts as an in-between guru for all mass manufacturing, pricing and bringing-to-market issues by canoodling with their hard-earned Chinese partnerships and networks.
“We’ve invested more than 10 years in creating systems and platforms and networks to help designers embrace technology and be able to implement it in their business, their products and their marketing.” Net in her own words.
Check out this testimonial from one “Robotic Dress” Kit Workshop participant (courtesy of the 360Fashion Network YouTube Channel):[youtube
The Fashion Future: Dress Me Up, Netty
Practicality is of the upmost importance and a fashion tech invention such as the all-seeing eye of Google Glass is a perfect example of how augmented realities and technologies should be approached slowly and methodically. People need to be eased into the idea, they must feel the product is user friendly and that it will improve their quality of life in one way or another, especially when it comes with a whopping price tag of USD1500. Consistently facing a chicken and the egg type situation, it bears the question: Who wants to go first and will enough people in the fashion industry stand strongly behind the product, as a unified front?
Net said it well. China is known for jumping on the bandwagon on these sorts of trends. So why start a company in a country where the lifespan of a product or idea is shorter than that of a fly? Although it is a viable concern to believe that fashion tech could take an ever-so-sudden, nevertheless expected, plunge into the valley of deceased trends, the 360 Fashion Network has your back. With a grip that’s only getting tighter.
The future of fashion tech still finds itself in the incubator stages, some would say, and that can be a scary place for investors, let alone any future “slaves to the trade”. Having said that, that all-too-often-applied saying “ignorance is bliss” holds no value here. To ignore fashion’s tech-friendly future would only be a negative. And yes, okay, we are all terrified of aliens taking over the world and we definitely don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to find our shirts and pants leaning over the bed with a belt in “hand” prepared to attack.
Even, when fashion and technology are placed in the right (well, “smart” might be the more appropriate term to apply here, I suppose) hands, there is no end to what can be accomplished and those earlier fears can be tossed to the side. The benefits take charge. Fashion tech can ease the shopping experience for those stressed at the sight of Nordstrom Rack and help defy the indecisive performance of the online shopper.
It’s the time of tech and that means it’s all about building a global network and working together. This is the exact reason why Net created 360 Fashion Network: To build a bridge between fashion and the technology. From online platforms to holograms and 3D printing, the experience surrounding fashion is changing and advancing with every waking minute, with Net as one leading catalyst for such change. Guess that left turn from the catwalk was the right turn after all.
Written by Jessica Laiter of Chinese Graffiti for Temper Magazine 2017 All rights reserved
Edited by Elsbeth van Paridon
Featured image: Led Ribbon Flower. Copyright@360Fashion Network
Images and videos: Copyright@360Fashion Network
Follow Anina Net on Instagram
Copyright@Temper Magazine 2017 All rights reserved
Laiter went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Chinese Studies and Communications Rhetoric at The University of Pittsburgh and a Master's Degree in Translation at NYU. Immediately after college, she moved to New York City and since then has worked in a number of different industries such as branding, manufacturing, fashion, public relations and real estate. China always acting as the common denominator.
Inspired by her career, Laiter launched a website called Chinese Graffiti, on which she features emerging Chinese designers, talks about the intersection of tradition and modernity in China, as well as the evolution of society and business culture. As time went on, she sought out like-minded businesses individuals who were interested in a similar market, which is how she became involved with Temper Magazine.
The China market is creating a whirlwind around the glob and it’s only just getting started.
The world can be a small place with a dash of mutual understanding and Laiter loves to be the storyteller who helps to bridge that gap.
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