June 6th, 2014
China Connect met up with Anina Net and Sonny Wu on May 6 in Beijing, at GMIC
1/ When and where, did you both first start to work on connected objects, fashion and mobile ?
Anina Net : Actually, I started 360Fashion Network together with Nokia Corporation and Sixapart’s Loic Lemeur as a 360 degree overview of the fashion industry with live blogging. I brought the first mobile blogs to the fashion industry and at that time no one even knew what a blog was, let alone how to do it from the mobile phone. I had skyrocketed to the top of the search because of my model blog anina.net, and it caused me lot of problems just like everyone else with my model agency threatening me to not post information from backstage etc on the web. After that I got noticed by other companies and did projects with them applying emerging technologies to the fashion industry: live streaming from mobile phones with Vodafone, geo-locating stores on maps with France Telecom, creating mobile fashion dress up game with Adobe, and launched a DYI fashion app platform called MobileMags to support emerging designers. In China I caught the attention of the CNGA (China National Garment Association) who produce the largest fashion expo in Asia. When they saw what I was doing with fashion and mobile they agreed that this was the direction that the fashion brands should take and offered me to co-organize with them the CHIC 360Fashion & Tech Zone at their exhibition, and 800sq meter space for me to showcase the latest technologies and explain to the brands how to use them in their retail, business, and marketing campaigns.
Wildly successful, we have produced this event together for the last 3 years. I caught the eye of the Beijing Design Week who then invited 360Fashion Network to create a 3D Festival and expand our reach to the design, architecture, and related fields. We won 2 awards for best digital exhibition, and most loved by media and visitors. In 2012 GSMA invited 360Fashion Network down to Shanghai to bring 250 sq meter exhibition on fashion and tech again, wildly successful as it offered a view for technology companies on how to create solutions for the fashion industry. We have build mobile apps for brands like Vero Moda, and helped them with their O2O marketing by integrating activity seamlessly from online to offline.
Dress Design by Fatima from Raffles College of Design and Commerce (Sydney) at the China Graduate Fashion Week 2014
Sonny Wu : We’ve been thinking about wearables and other Internet of Things products for a number of years now and think that the ubiquity of mobile internet has really made these products much more viable and useful for the consumer market.
2/ Wearables were on GMIC Agenda early May in Beijing: what’s really going on on the Chinese market ? What are the key challenges as well as the main opportunities in China vs the West ?
Anina Net : I see the next generation of young designers fully focused on technology. The last China Graduate Fashion Week was a testament to the digital natives who didn’t know a time when there wasn’t a cellphone, chat, or apps. Their clothing reflects our times and shows that they are yearning to live in an interactive world where they can consume information in a visual, electronic, and experiental way. Augmented Reality will become commonplace and the physical manifistations of pointing your phone at something and receiving information a common user experience. The problem is that the decisionmakers at the top need to die to the old way of doing things in order for this party to get started. I believe that we don’t see wide adoption of technology because the fashion industry, the very fabric stitched into our every day lives, have not adopted the modern digital communication tools throughout their business. Once the fashion industry makes digital lifestyle fashionable, we will really see the world around us in a new way. Tech industry often underestimates how important fashion is, but the polkadot doesn’t lie on the mark, when it’s in–its everywhere from clothing to toothbrushes, to couches, to curtains, to winebottles to our bags. Fashion touches everything and it is the wearable bridge that will build it in and make it accepted.
Sonny Wu : I would say the top two challenges for both the Chinese and Western markets are: first, getting product execution to a level where users can have truly seamless experience and where technology is providing for really compelling use cases and aren’t just high-tech toys; second, getting the level of consumer awareness of these new product categories to a level where the early majority is readily adopting them rather than just the early adopters and experimentalists, otherwise the markets are simply not large enough to support an interesting ecosystem.
3/ Can you tell us respectively about the 1st Fashion & Tech Show you organize at GSMA in Shanghai June 11-13, and Misfits you introduced at GMIC ?
Anina Net : Today we are producing the largest fashion and technology show June 11th at GSMA, which will be the first in China. I am featuring many of the wearable brands in the fashion show that I met at GMIC,such as Misfit Shine. The GSMA 360FASHION & TECH RUNWAY SHOW is my personal swan song to the fashion industry, a wakeup call from a fashion model to show them in their own visual language the technologies that are available today and how they should integrate them. I am very grateful to the Chinese fashion government for being so visionary and giving me the opportunity to share my vision of fashion tech with the world and I’m very grateful to the technology industry for giving me the opportunities to share my direction with them.
The runway show will consist of a dialog between the models wearing clothing on the stage that suggest the young generation’s desire to integrate technology into their fashion apparel, and the latest directions and trends of the technology industry that will aid this integration. We need to inspire the technology industry with visionary designs which show how we will become part of the network, wearable screens, be 3D scanned, and create even our own Digital Me. The fashion industry needs to be informed about wearable, 3D, flexible screens, solar power, and mobile technologies available today and coming soon advancements that will get them thinking about these new technologies and how to incorporate into a high design lifestyle. The fashion show will be a visual conversation about the leading technology trends touching our life today and the fashion designers of tomorrow. The GSMA 360Fashion & Tech Runway Show will be accompanied by an exhibition showcasing the technologies from the stage, and participants will have the chance to speak at the wearable conference to share their point of view.
Sonny Wu : At GMIC, we introduced our first product, a wearable device, called Shine which is an elegant fitness and sleep monitor that you can wear anywhere. It’s a small metal disk that lights up when you double tap it and tells you how active you’ve been (steps, calories, distanced walked) as well as how long and how well you slept. It has a number of available accessories so you can wear it in a number of different locations on your body and for various occasions, not just for exercise.
We’re very excited to be at the Fashion and Tech Show in Shanghai where we’ll start to show off some of the most beautiful ways Shine can be worn with the new accessories that we have. Unlike other wrist-worn activity monitors on the market, Shine can be worn in numerous different ways and can fit into a variety of fashion tastes. We’ll be showing off a number of different clothing and jewelry accessories that were designed to host Shine. Our first customers are in China, where we sell through several e-commerce platforms such as JD.com since October 2013, Tmall, Taobao, Funtalk, Apple Premium resellers, and Amazon
4/ Why should brands embrace fashion and mobile technology / wearables in China ? Can you name a few which you think are pioneers and/or may lead the path ?
Anina Net : Because China is the manufacturing capital in the world. One pocket created inside every garment can make it possible for Shines to be easily ported and carried around with us without being clipped on, or dragging down my neckline, etc. Integrating a single chip for P2P into the hem of a dress can make MESH technology so widespread that we never know anymore what it means to be OFFLINE. Fashion has the ability to radically multiply distribution of technology, an building it into the very fabric of the textiles, glasses, or shoes is what it really means to make technology transparent and a part of our lives
Sonny Wu : I think in order to move onto the early majority of users and beyond the experimentalist crowd, we need to have products that are going to be more broadly appealing and have more storytelling power, and this is what fashion brands can help provide. This is especially true if we’re going to be trying to reach female market segments which have largely been ignored by wearable tech companies. One of the earliest pioneers is LG which did probably one of the first smartwatches a major fashion brand several years ago. Since then I haven’t really seen too many significant efforts.
* Anina Net was speaker at China Connect 2011
Read this article on Jingdaily for the feedbacks on GSMA / Mobile Asia Expo
JINGDAILY: Why Wearable Tech Is The Next Big Thing In Chinese Fashion