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Ideas for Change Conference Spurs Creative Collaboration

There was no shortage of shows, events, meet-ups and exchanges during NYC Textile Week, but one conference that promised to stimulate change in the industry brought together a group of leaders—and those looking to be inspired—to do just that.

The invite-only Ideas for Change conference was held at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) last month and Tricia Carey, director of business development at Lenzing and a co-organizer of the event said in opening the conference that the organizers of NYC Textile Week wanted to bring their ideas to the industry in order to promote progress.

“We want to foster a space, take a look at what needs to change, what remarkable ideas we can have together,” Carey said.

Sarika Doshi, co-founder and CEO of Rank & Style, Julia K. Hughes, president of the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA), Mark Dorfman a Biomimicry chemist and Haysun Hahn, CEO of Fast Forward Trending were among the day’s speakers.

Rank & Style, the popular startup that publishes daily top 10 lists is dedicated to helping the style savvy find their next favorite fashion, beauty or lifestyle product.

But according to Doshi, the search for white jeans, say, can return as many as 364 million results, making online shopping—which Doshi said is supposed to be fun and easy—anything but.

One in five women shops online each day, she said, and women account for 60 percent of total online spending. Rank & Style, which launched in 2013, has stepped in to tap that opportunity.

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“We leverage technology to improve consumer engagement and influence choices during the online shopping process, from research to discovery to purchase,” Doshi said.

The company identifies what it calls proven sources of influence, like user reviews, social buzz and best sellers, builds an algorithm to replicate the consumer brand/product search, discovery and decision-making process and aggregates data to amplify those proven sources of influence. Rank & Style then uses the technology to create automated, scalable content and capture “the growing obsession with lists and data resulting in above average conversion rates.”

And at an event designed to encourage creativity, Rank & Style wasn’t the only one with innovative ideas to share.

Mark Dorfman, the biomimicry chemist (not the typical type expected at a textile event) talked about how the functionality and sustainability of materials all boils down to chemistry.

Biomimicry is the design and production of materials, structures and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes.

Today, textile makers can search nature for materials that are naturally strong, flexible, water-resistant, antibacterial, self-cleaning, slippery, biodegradeable and responsive, Dorfman explained.

“We are entering this sweet spot where biomimicry is not just something useful,” he said.

In talking trends, Haysun Hahn said paradigms are constantly shifting, we are entering an era of shared everything and that in 2030, 50 percent of the planet will be living on 25 percent of the land mass because we will all be urbanites.

Hahn identified three main consumer groups of the future: the Mass Class, Suburbanite Community and Ultra Culture.

The mass class group will look for the familiar, for synthetic materials and cost-friendly natural fibers. The Suburbanite Community, on the other hand, goes to cocktail parties and plays tennis and looks for textiles with functional features and philosophy-based organic fibers for the sustainability agenda.

Ultra Culture consumers will want advanced technical performance materials and cultivated natural-luxury fibers—and they won’t be fooled by anything less than the high-performance products they seek.

“Maybe we can have a lotion that will clear the air on a plane,” Hahn said by way of example. “That’s the direction this is going.”

What it really boils down to, she said, is: No one needs stuff, they’ve got to want it and brands have to be aware that the status quo sans innovation won’t cut it with tomorrow’s customer.

“We are delighted at the response to the Ideas for Change Conference and the creative collaboration we can foster in the apparel industry to make true progress,” Carey said. “The unique expertise of each presenter will support bringing real advances. We look forward to producing our next Ideas for Change in July 2016.”

Gail Strickler, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Textiles, attended the conference and in closing the question and commentary portion said, “We have the opportunity to take from what we learned, look at what we have now and make a better plan for the future,” adding, “The days of just consuming more and buying more are over.”