Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Disruptive Magazine - print issue 2

For my second Disruptive Mag piece, I focused on the ever-devloping discipline of Digital Humanities, and how technology has always faciliated the creation of art through new explorations of concept.

It was a bit of a tricky one, but I'm really pleased with the final piece - especially as I'm fascinated by the area of research.

Let me know if you'd like more info - and in the meantime, I'm researching and pitching to more print magazines, papers and zines for specialised content relating to 3D printing (so get in touch).

Monday, 22 June 2015

How Tech Trends Take off

Crafting the Customer Experience through Technology

The NET-A-PORTER-GROUP X London Technology Week

Regardless of the idea, there’s a core aspect that runs the length of every technology, product and service available: customer experience. Initially hidden – and when it’s good, it’s left un-noticed – customer experience is an essential part of every company’s mission in offering a solution. It’s simple: if no one likes using your product, then no one will pay for it - no matter how great the apparent demand may be.

Despite my seemingly knowledgeable and experienced opening to this post, these ideas in fact only occurred to me a few days ago at a London Technology Week event. Admittedly, my initial draw to attend was a result of the event’s host and location within The Village at Westfield. And of course, The NET-A-PORTER Group’s London HQ was everything I had hoped for: sophisticated, monochromatic, functional and beautifully inspiring – and on top of all that, it smelt like Aesop Skincare Products everywhere.

The evening consisted of Prosecco, Walkers Sensation crisps, canap├ęs and a very well chosen pre-networking panel discussion:

  • Sarah Watson, VP Social Commerce, NET-A-PORTER.COM
  • Jonathan Earle, Head of Strategy, Planning, Innovation and Customer Experience, O2 UK
  • Ophelia Brown, Index Ventures (replaced by someone I can’t remember the name of)

Chaired by Alex Wood, Editor-in-Chief of a new techy publication that I’d never heard of (called The Memo), it was clear that there had been plenty of preparation for the conversation to come (always appreciated). The eventbrite preface to the event read as thus:

“Technology has allowed forward-thinking companies to radically disrupt industries, from luxury fashion, to entertainment and communications. But technology's real power lies in its ability to create the perfect customer experience. Hear from three pioneering companies and a technology dealmaker, as they discuss how technology is being deployed to refine every customer touch-point.”

In reality, the discussion explored the different approaches to customer experience (using technology) via each company representative in attendance – and it was fascinating.

Across industry, it’s openly understood that technology has disrupted the paradigms and norms by which we all work. But what struck me about the evening’s panel was the level at which companies are guided by the technological habits of their users. As an example, Sarah Watson, VP Social Commerce at NET-A-PORTER, revealed that 40% of the company’s sales happen via mobile devices. That profitable jump from E-commerce (online shopping) to M-commerce (mobile shopping) has been rapid – and doubtlessly played a decisive part in Sarah’s role managing ‘The Net Set’. This relatively new retail platform form NET-A-PORTER illustrates the next move for the company: a move from M-commerce to ‘S-commerce’ (social commerce). The Net Set gives users the chance to follow the style of people they admire and aspire to – and there’s no doubt that instagram culture has almost single-handedly prompted this development of buyer’s habits. Since the majority of those who shop with NET-A-PORTER are apple technology (iPhone) users, it made sense for Sarah and her team to utilise and develop more ways for people to spend money with the company via this medium – and on a critically social level.

My interest in 3D printing within the fashion industry found a platform during the Q&A part of the evening, and in sync with the previous discussion, helped me to understand the challenges that this technology is still facing. Just like any other tech, 3D printing cannot be widely used until it is widely adopted. When I asked Sarah about how NET-A-PORTER predicts and prepares for new technology, her answer very much overlooked the potential of 3D printing – simply because until her customers are interested in it, then neither is she. I felt as though my question would be better suited to a CTO – but nevertheless, the attitude of the industry itself was very much evident in her reply. 

What this event really spurred me to consider is the extremely essential concern of customer experience when using technology (like 3D printing) to (one day) engage with actual physical products. The quality control needed for the future of 3D printed garments is beyond anything that I can currently imagine - especially since home 3D printing at present is fraught with print failures even for the most simple of objects. Apart from a small mention of 3D scanning to homogenize data for cross-brand sizing solutions, my field of industry was not mentioned any further. Whilst 3D printing everyday clothing feels further away than ever, I’m convinced that in a few years, some serious progress in materials will be made, which might just excite people enough for large (retail) industry players to take notice. 

Friday, 5 June 2015

Disruptive Magazine: print issue 1

We've finally recieved and started distribution of Disruptive Magazine's first edition (of many) in print. It's been an exciting process to be a small part of, and I'm really pleased with how my article has been presented in the issue.

See some images below - and let me know if you'd like me to send you a copy. Work on issue 2 is almost complete and we're just finishing off content for issue 3.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Research Project: A Fashion Q&A

Over the last few months, a number of different Fashion students have contacted me to learn more about how 3D printing will / already is effecting the industry. I'm really pleased to be able to help, and moreover, I really enjoy answering their questions.

I thought I'd post a recent Q&A I answered from an LCF student, who is conducting a research project into 3DP. If you have any thoughts or objections about my answers, please do get in touch as I'd really love to extend my knowldge in this area.

Your opinion on 3d printing and fashion:

I’m incredibly excited about the integration of 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology within the realm of fashion design and production. For me, the idea of achieveing perfectly tailored / couture clothing opportunities via 3D scanning and printing signals a natural progression within the industry, and I love the possibilities that such tech suggests. There are a number of critical tensions involved however - mostly that the maintenance of craft and hand-skill within the creation of (high-end) garments cannot and should not be overlooked. Contemporary designers working with the technology are finding ways to combine both tradition and tech to create innovative aesthetics for wearable pieces.

If these two fields are merging:

‘Fashion’ and ‘Technology’ are two extremely wide-raging terms to indicate industrial field - and with this in mind, I hesitate to simply answer ‘yes’. That being said, technology has always been an important part of fashion design and production, and I do not see the development of 3D printing to be exempt from supporting Fashion in the future.

Is there a viable future for fashion tech:

Wearability will always matter, and currently, I see the options for ‘wearable tech’ as being quite limited. Despite it’s invention over 30 years ago, 3D printing is still very much in its infancy with regards to end-use opportunities (perhaps the aerospace and medical sectors are an exception here). Especially within Fashion, usability still has a very long way to go - and essentially, the use of 3D printing within the production of a garment is very different to the use of robotics / electronics: a talking point which feels rather in vogue at the moment.

Where will 3D printing be in 2016:

The one thing that matters the most to interested people (across industry verticals) at the moment is materials. Without materials which can maintain the necessary properties once printed, appropriate end-use cannot be properlly achieved. 3D printing a rigid nylon cage (as a dress) has so far been recognised by the industry as 3D printed fashion - but only when more robust, flexible, and comfortable materials can be built into the production process will real progress be made. I do not think we will see a shift like this in 2016, but perhaps in the coming 5 to 10 years we will. Hopefully I can be proved wrong!

Is there a sustainable ambition with 3D printing:

Certainly. The opportunity to produce fast fashion efficiently (with minimal waste) continues to drive interested individuals and companies - and perhaps most overlooked in this area is the benefit of distributed manufacture via 3D printing. The transport of mass produced fashion goods costs the environment more than many of us realise, and it’s exciting to imagine the digital delivery of fashion files to be 3D printed, instead of racking up the air miles.