The issue of whether the fashion sector is a pioneer in matters of digitalisation or whether it is lagging behind is a hotly debated one. There are many established companies that went through a process of digital transformation early on, and thus many successful business models today that only became possible thanks to digitalisation. By contrast, others, especially brands that counted on their legacy, have fallen behind because of it. No matter whether we have our own digital transformation ahead of us, or we're in the middle of it, or think that we might have already gone through it: none of us can afford to stand still.

#FASHIONTECH BERLIN takes place twice a year during Berlin Fashion Week. At the conference fashion bumps up against not just the tech industry but also the start-up community. The topics for discussion include digital transformation, innovations, change management and disruptive technologies. “We have invited the leading experts in the community to give keynote speeches and take part in panel discussions on the main stage, but also to network within peer groups in the masterclasses, the exhibition area — which in January 2019 will be three times as big as in July 2018 — and the networking areas,” says Michael Stracke, Chief Business Development Officer at #FASHIONTECH BERLIN. “We want to communicate a new spirit and promote the desire to experiment. On one hand we want to provide those who have already gone through the transformation process with fresh inspiration by means of our best cases. On the other hand, we want to give those who still have transformation on their agenda the tools and motivation to venture to take the first step.” The inspiration should not only come from the fashion industry, since the impetus for innovations can also be initiated by completely different disciplines.

The core issue at January’s #FASHIONTECH BERLIN will be “How to transform your organisation”, since this change doesn’t just mean implementing digital technologies within the business. The key is to promote and implement change at every single step of the value chain. Above all, it is the people within a business who are responsible for making this happen. The focus of the conference lies on four aspects of the digital transformation: Leadership & Culture, Innovation & Technology, Customer Journey and Future of Work. 



It’s only at first glance that the digital transformation appears to be exclusively about new technologies. They play an important role, of course. Yet they are worthless if the corresponding culture is not already firmly in place within the business. In the digital era it’s primarily a question of speed. Today, it is possible to become the market leader faster than ever before. By implication, that also means that companies can fall behind the competition much faster too. Only those who can innovate rapidly and continually will achieve success with their customers and users, who are more demanding than ever. Innovations come about when the company has no fear of failure. Silicon Valley exemplifies this mindset. Those who learn from their mistakes will improve the next time — in line with the motto “Failure is one step on the journey to success”.

The Otto Group is a perfect example of this: the Otto catalogue was stopped after a publication run of decades and start-up culture was brought in-house with About You and the collaboration with the venture capital firm Project A. Ultimately, the Otto Group continually disrupts its own business model — before anyone else does it for them. Sebastian Klauke is Chief Digital Officer at the Otto Group. His example clearly shows where the digital culture of a company must be anchored, namely at management level, from where it can permeate through to all other areas. Klauke says “There are lots of unhappy CDOs who ought to take their business digital but don’t have the budget or the clout. It doesn’t work. That kind of role is like being a jester — it can be fun, but doesn’t lead to much and seldom ends well. In short, a Chief Digital Officer needs to contribute responsibly to making existing, functioning business models sustainable for the future; and, at the same time, drive forward innovation and new business models. I therefore believe that a successful CDO also needs to be strongly anchored within the operational business.”



Traditional development methods, where a product or service is polished and perfected in the design studio under lock and key, are a thing of the past. While all this is taking place, nowadays a competitor will have already launched their innovation onto the market far sooner. We’re not only talking about the development of new collections, but of investigating the digital potential of the whole value chain. It’s all about modern, digital marketing and innovative sales channels: apps, networking events, experience and connected retail are the buzzwords here.

Agile methods, where solutions are continually improved by means of an iterative process, are in demand. At the heart of everything are the wishes and needs of the customers and users — and their feedback. For over 40 years Gary Wassner has been responsible for the financing of some of the most successful US fashion brands like Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs, and he knows the market better than almost anyone else. He says “Know your consumer. Speak to your consumers. Address the needs and desires of your consumers.” It is no longer the company or the brands but rather customers who define what they want to consume when, where and how.

This makes communicating with users easier today than ever before and it can be done qualitatively, e.g. through a conversation on social media, but above all quantitatively through analysing data, whether from online or from the physical store. Today, customers and users expect not only a personalised approach; platforms where, with the help of AI, the offer can be tailored to each user based on their individual preferences are particularly effective — see About You. The trend towards customisation is also continuing to grow. The customer is becoming the co-creation partner ad infinitum and the community is practically designing collections for itself, e.g. as seen with hype label A Way To Mars.



“If the 20thcentury was the age of the corporation, the 21stcentury is that of the consumer,” says Ana Andjelic, Chief Brand Officer at Rebecca Minkoff. The textile retail industry, whether physical or digital, has long been competing with other leisure time activities such as eating out or Netflix. Time is a scarce commodity nowadays and anyone investing it wants to see a return on their investment. The retail trade is moving away from pure point of sale and consumers expect an experience, so, despite the ubiquitous trend towards digitalisation, physical meeting places where members of a community can meet up and talk face-to-face are becoming increasingly important.

For retail and brands it is crucial to keep the fount of inspiration flowing, to give customers a reason to visit them again. Connected retail therefore not only means that users can continue the customer journey offline that they began online — and vice-versa. Markus Fuchshofen is Managing Director at bonprix: “If the traditional strengths of stationary retail outlets are closely interwoven with technology — ideally so that the join is barely visible — it can lead to an exhilarating shopping and brand experience for the customer.” In the future, nobody will need to queue in-store in order to pay. Sizes and colours that are no longer in stock at the store will be ordered for home delivery via virtual sales counters, and apps will accompany customers through the store like digital assistants.

Connected retail also means that retailers profit from data about their customers, which they can analyse to show what customers are currently interested in. The retailer can then align the content and experience to match. “Linking stationary and online channels, e.g. via the customer’s smartphone, also opens up new opportunities for retail to gain better insights into the needs of their own customers. If, for instance, it’s possible to buy via an app as well as in-store and online, the data can be used, among other things, to personalise the offers and recommended products more effectively, and to optimise the shopping experience across all channels,” explains Fuchshofen. In the first quarter of 2019 the theory will be put into practice, as bonprix will be opening a new style of store concept in Hamburg as a pilot project under the motto of “fashion connect”.



The digital transformation will also result in changes to the demands of the whole of the professional world. The employee profile will be new at all levels. Rather than the perfect CV the required attribute will be the courage to try out new things, make mistakes but also learn from them to improve quickly. Flat hierarchies are needed to shorten feedback loops and to be able to act quicker and in a more agile way: connected working in cross-functional teams instead of drawn-out meetings. “The digital world needs a connected mindset that no longer thinks competitively but allows collaborations, even across departments,” says Professor Weinberg, Director of the HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam. This requires not only a mental rethink, but also brand new workplaces, moving away from individual offices to open structures that promote interdisciplinary communication.

Brand new jobs and apprenticeships need to be created. MediaMarktSaturn is leading the charge: with a new apprenticeship as ‘eCommerce Manager’, offered by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 2018. The requirements for recruiting are also new. The fashion industry is constantly evolving into a tech industry and, as such, increasingly requires so-called MINT jobs (Mathematics, IT, Natural Sciences and Technology). Graduates in these disciplines often move straight to a start-up or tech company after graduating, where the salaries tend to be more lucrative. This gives rise to new challenges for employer marketing, job portals and personnel consultants. How can the fashion industry be made more attractive — e.g. for developers?

Reza Moussavian is Senior Vice President Digital & Innovation (HR) at Telekom. He says that, when it comes to employee qualifications, it’s all about the mix: “I essentially see two areas of competence here: 1. technologies and 2. culture — let’s call them hard and soft skills ... I am not a fan — at all — of concentrating purely on the soft skills and only considering mindset. Naturally it’s important, however there must be a combination of tech and cultural skills. Conversely, it’s not enough either to ‘only’ have a command of technologies.”

Continuing Professional Development also needs to work differently, so it can for instance make sense to place managers in a coding workshop occasionally. “You don’t need to understand every single aspect of the technology; you just need to know what’s possible,” says Michael Stracke, Chief Business Development Officer #FASHIONTECH BERLIN.

Sofia Wingren is CEO of Hyper Island, a digital Business School that originated in Sweden and has already gained the moniker of “The Digital Harvard”. She says “Training and learning processes have evolved hugely. Antiquated, textbook-heavy, learn-by-rote methods have now developed into something that reflects the demands of modern leadership. Learning is collaborative and progressive; less theorising, more doing.”This new view needs to be anchored at leadership level, along with a digital mindset: “A workforce must be constantly learning, unlearning, and relearning. This will not happen unless it comes from the top down.”


#FASHIONTECH BERLIN 15 January 2019 | 10AM–6PM                                

KRAFTWERK Berlin Köpenicker Straße 70 | 10179 Berlin


Register now for the #FASHIONTECH BERLIN conference on 15 January 2019 / 10AM–6PM



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