New York Fashion Tech Lab Connects Retail to Crucial Innovations
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the brand, style, price, and even, perhaps, where to purchase the item. It does this through a mash-up of augmented and virtual reality technologies with camera and search capabilities.
“This is improving their ability to identify who their potential customers (are) and bring them in,” Koplovitz says. “This is the integration of in-store and online.”
There are other technologies, too, that are being adapted to the retail sector beyond customer acquisition. Koplovitz says the Fashion Tech Lab has worked with startups in manufacturing such as Sundar, which has digitized the process of sourcing textiles, embroideries, and other clothing components globally. Shimmy uses AI and robotics to make the manufacturing process more efficient, giving retailers and brands “time and energy to spend on design and marketing,” Koplovitz says.
Another interesting startup that went through the program is Zeekit, which uses mapping technology developed by the Israeli military to apply it to a person’s “topography” in order to see which clothing items fit best. This is a major concern of retailers since returns are costly—$351 million in lost U.S. sales in 2017, or 10 percent of total sales—especially in light of unlimited returns policies.
Koplovitz also points to lab startup EON, which is developing a digital identity for garments using RFID technology in the thread itself. “It can tell the brands and retailers when it was bought, and connect it to the purchaser,” she says. “It can follow the garment through its life cycle through washing and wearing to find out how the product is being worn.”
Koplovitz says Springboard saw the need for retailers to be better connected to new technological tools about six or seven years ago, with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and how consumers were turning to those devices to shop. “Legacy retailers were struggling to keep up,” she says.
The New York Fashion Tech Lab launched with its first cohort of startups in 2014. Koplovitz says the lab operates as a non-profit; it doesn’t take equity in the startups in exchange for investment. Each startup pays a fee to access the lab’s classes, events, and network, she added. “If they don’t pay something, they won’t take the advice; they won’t value it,” she says.