#TheDress that Broke the Internet

In the end it wasn’t this dress that broke the Internet.

Kim Kardashian on cover of Paper Magazine

Kim Kardashian on cover of Paper Magazine

As you must know by now, the Internet exploded last Thursday into a heated debate about the colour of #TheDress. Was it white and gold or blue and black? The differing opinions on the colour combinations took over social media at warp speed – over 16 million people shared The Dress article in the first five hours.

The idea that two people could see such wildly different colours in the exact same item shook our collective sense of reality to the bone. Who knew a $90 (CDN) dress could wreak such havoc on the world? #TheDress was mentioned 11 million times on Twitter with celebrities like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Anna Farris weighing into the debate. Seemingly every brand piped in hoping for their Oreo/Superbowl moment. Few were memorable, even the UK store Roman Originals who made the dress.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.21.45 AMBut, as Wired magazine noted, this fight is about more than just social media, “it’s about primal biology and the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world.”  So is colour just a matter of personal perception? As with most things in life, context is everything. Colour artist Nathan Fairbairn points out, “Color perception is weird, but the most important thing to remember is that colors don’t exist in a vacuum. Colors are all perceived relative to the tone, value and saturation of the colors around them. Contrast is the key.”

The Dress by Nathan Fairbairn

The Dress by Nathan Fairbairn

Pantone, the global authority on colour, confirmed the dress actually is blue and black. Soon colour could come down to pure chemistry or technology rather than biology. Colour change is just one of the concepts being explored by the fashion tech industry and people like Lauren Bowker.

Bowker recently founded The Unseen, a trio of London fashion designers using chemistry, digital technology and exquisite tailoring to push the boundaries of fashion. Prior to launching the collective, Bowker was developing inks for use in fashion that respond to light, heat and friction, changing colour as the wearer moved.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.52.41 AM Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 9.52.57 AM

We can envision a time, not far in the future, where #TheDress can be any colour you want.

Decoded Fashion x TWG Toronto Meetup

Travel delays may have derailed Liz Bacelar’s arrival in Toronto, but it couldn’t deny her visit entirely. Bacelar arrived just in time to an event hosted by Decoded Fashion, the fashion tech event series she founded in New York.

The night, sponsored by Fashionotes, began with a networking hour where guests could also experience interactive Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard stations. A fashion tech accessory called Voye shared prototypes of their new clutch. The purse is designed to hold an iPhone with easy access to keypad and camera lens, plus ample room for lipstick and keys. It was stunning work, but these have been on the market for a while, sold by massive brands like Michael Kors (I reported on it here). It’s not yet clear how Voye plans to compete with them.

The session began with an in-depth conversation between The Coveteur and Olivier Van Themsche, Founder of The Cools. That was followed by start-up presentations from John Coombs, Co-Founder CEO of Rove; Bryan Gold, Founder of #paid; and Karn Saroya from Stylekick – great practice for those honing investor pitches.

Finally Liz, fresh from the airport, welcomed the crowd. She has been one to watch since she founded Decoded in 2012. Her enthusiasm for the industry is contagious and everyone wants a piece of her. I had a chance to catch up with Bacelar after the event, here’s what she has to say.

What are your impressions of Toronto’s fashion/tech scene?

I have met an array of founders with solid ideas, strong teams and the smarts on how to scale globally. Canadian startups fit all kinds of success stories – from seed to IPOs. And some are quite inspiring – like Indochino, experimenting with popup customization and Frank and Oak, disrupting the seasons with monthly collections.

The amount of support for fashion/tech related start-ups in NYC is impressive. How did the community rally the support from both brands and the city?

What you see in NY is the openness from brands and retailers to partner with entrepreneurs who can solidly sell a good idea. They recognize that R&D can’t be solely done in-house and the best way to stay ahead is to leverage the ingenuity and the passion from the startup community.

This year Decoded Fashion is an official partner of SXStyle at SXSW. What are you looking forward to most?

SXSW is an ocean of people, talks, places to go. At Decoded Fashion Mentorship Hub we want to give startups, brands, retailers and investors interested in the space a home for their worlds to cross – for the delicious SXSW serendipity to take place – while guaranteeing some great networking. These spots will be opened to the general public next week via an application foudn at our official SXSW site.

Venue, The Working Group
Photos by Chris Mudiappahpillai

The Social Side of the Fashion Business

Yuli Ziv

Those of us immersed in social media recognize its power for business to connect with its customers and grow a customer base.  It’s the perfect tool to build a brand, but not everyone knows how or where to start, or certainly where it’s all going.  Toronto’s Fashion Group International chapter (of which I’m a board member) hosts #fgiSMS this Wednesday, October 6th.  This networking and seminar will include a panel discussion featuring top business minds from the fashion, beauty and design worlds to share their knowledge and experiences with social media. 

Recently I spoke with Yuli Ziv, a New Yorker and co-founder of My It Things, Style Coalition, and the organizer of Fashion 2.0 discussion panels and networking event series in NYC about social media’s role in building a fashion brand.

How does a young fashion brand decide where to pour their energies in social media? How do you decide which avenue is right?
First of all, you should find out where your audience is and what social media channels they interact with the most. These things are easy to find out by doing a quick survey of your customers or simply looking at their demographics. For example, teenagers and young people tend to use Twitter less than other channels, such as Facebook. Working moms might not have the time to watch a five minute video piece you upload daily on YouTube, but they might be active in groups and niche social networks targeting their peers. It’s important to focus on the right channels, rather than have presence on all. 
What do you see as a young brand’s biggest challenges (e.g. Exposure, funding) in 2010?
With the democratization of fashion, there is no shortage in exposure avenues, so the barrier for entry is pretty low. On the other hand, social media is very personal and many brands are struggling with their identity in this new world. The biggest challenge these days is to come up with a good and believable brand story, which will make consumers identify with the brand and the products. It’s not enough just to make clothes these days, brands and designers are judged on their personalities, as well as the quality of what they produce.   
How do you think the social media landscape can help them override or tackle these challenges?
If a brand has a strong identity and a good story, social media would be a great catalyst for exponential growth. Smart brands are able to utilize the natural tendency of users to share their experiences via social media, and use it for their growth.  
What’s the biggest advantage right now in building a brand using social media?
There are multiple advantages – low cost, direct and personal engagement with the customers, collection of valuable data about customers. All these opportunities didn’t exist before in such an accessible way. 
There are a lot of new players, new apps, new tools, etc. coming to market in the social media landscape.  How do you think the next five years of social media will influence the way customers relate to brands, to the way they shop?
We will see more loyalty to brands, because of the connections created via social media. On the opposite side – brands that aren’t doing a good job in connecting and providing support will be challenged. Online shopping in general will increasingly become more customized to our tastes and needs, so brand positioning online will be extremely important. Mobile technologies will finally be able to connect the offline and online shopping experiences into one, and even enhance our in-store experiences. There is lots of innovation waiting to happen in that area.
Can you share any great examples of a young fashion brand using social media in a new and compelling way?
Among young brands Hayden-Harnett are great with keeping in touch with the customers online via blog, photo journal, twitter and series of short videos on Youtube. Rafe Totengco of Rafe New York writes a great personal blog. Both of these brands are really driven by the personalities of the designers behind them and it resonates with the people online.

Register now for this Wednesday’s #fgiSMS and hear more about how social media is used in the business of fashion.  Tickets are available online here – $35 for Fashion Group International members, $60 for industry.