ITW | ESCP-Europe’s Fashion & Technology Chair on the Future of Fashion

7 min read

The “Fashion and Technology” Chair aims at analysing and promoting, throughout ESCP Europe students and alumni but also a wide community interested in these issues, the role of the technology as a catalyst of innovation for the Fashion and Luxury sectors. At the crossroads of fashion and technology, the Chair’s aim is to develop and convey knowledge on innovation within the fashion and luxury sectors, thanks to cutting-edge technologies.

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Lectra and ESCP Europe started collaborating in 2011 with the establishment of i7, the Institute for Innovation and Competitiveness, of which Lectra is a founding member. The Fashion and Technology Chair is the next step in this cooperation and intends to create a joint center for teaching, passing on expertise and research, with an emphasis on the interaction between technology and fashion. This will be one of the themes studied by ESCP students every year and the subject of field reports and thesis.

Market globalization, competition from emerging countries, fast-fashion, and growth of retail and communication channels are requiring the fashion and luxury sectors to address major issues mainly related to innovation. The Chair’s main objective is to explore the specificities of the fashion and luxury sectors and their approach to technologies linked to design and supply chain management. There will also be a focus on the challenges of digital development and on the emergence of value-added strategies for innovation and original business models in developing countries, particularly China.

I had the chance to interview Valérie Moatti and Céline Abecassis-Moedas, the ESCP professors behind this initiative, and asked them a few questions about the future of fashion.


INTERVIEW

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Clausette: Hi Valérie & Céline, thank you for accepting our interview request. Please tell us more about the ESCP-Europe Fashion & Technology chair, its purpose and how it was created?

Valérie & Céline: The “Fashion and Technology” Chair aims to deepen and promote the role of technology as a catalyst for future innovation in the fashion and luxury goods sector among students and ESCP Europe alumni and the large community interested in these issues.

In particular, the Chair will analyse the emergence of new strategies and new “business models”, examine the specificities of the fashion and luxury goods industry and their approach to creation and innovation in the face of new technology, embed technology in the developmental challenges of the supply chain, the digital world and of retailing…

The Chair was created in 2014 as a partnership between Lectra and ESCP Europe sharing a common vision on Fashion and Technology and willing to develop and diffuse knowledge on this topic. More precisely, “Fashion and Technology” Chair activities include teaching to ESCP Europe students, research and publications as well as business events and conferences.

C.: Could you tell us more about your partnership with Lectra, and how the brand does assist you in your research activities?

V. & C.: ESCP Europe, creator and supporter of the Institute for Innovation and Competitiveness i7 and Lectra, a founding member and historical partner of i7, have long cooperated on issues relating to innovation. It is in this context that the “Fashion and Technology” Chair was created, dedicated to teaching and research on the interaction between technology and innovation in its many different forms in the fashion and luxury goods sector. Research topics are defined in partnership between Lectra top management and ESCP Europe Professors. When relevant, Lectra customers may be part of the research sample of interviewed companies.

The Chair is led by Valerie Moatti, Professor at ESCP Europe and specialist in growth strategies and the strategic dimension of Supply Chain Management, and Celine Abecassis – Moedas who is a Professor at the Universidade Católica Portuguesa, where she teaches strategy and innovation management, and a visiting professor at ESCP Europe.

C.: In the past few years, numbers of projects linking fashion & technology have emerged. But we see they either lack a fashion sense or a truly innovative technology. Do you think fashion is left behind within the technological revolution we are living, across other sectors such as real estate (Airbnb) or the car industry (Uber)?

V. & C.: Creation, Production, IT, Retail, Supply Chain… many are the professions and activities in the fashion industry in which technology is a source of innovation. These multiple viewpoints will give structure to the work and activities of the Chair.

The work of the Chair focuses on new approaches to innovation and new business models in fashion. We have a broad perspective on Fashion and Technology. A lot of fashion firms have adopted technology in innovative ways with a true sense of fashion. It is true that at the same time some technology developments are not as fashion oriented as they could be, such as some wearables initiatives. It is the intersection of the two worlds that interest us.

We don’t think that fashion is lagging behind other industries, but is has characteristics that are unique like a strong esthetic dimension, a complex and very international supply chain and the touching need associated with its products.

C.: One year after launching the chair, what results have you observed?

V. & C.: We are happy to report that it is a very active field. Everyday there is a new initiative visible in the press. From Farfetch expanding worldwide, to 3D printed shoes and accessories, to the Apple I watch, including multiple players in evening dress rentals or the numerous shazam of fashion….

Technology is shaping the fashion industry and at the same time fashion is increasingly present in the technology world. Also, our students received the new course offer “Fashion & Technology” with enthusiasm and we are now part of the business community such as Fashion Tech week organization committee.

C.: You mentioned a course, what kind of students’ profiles have been chosen to take these courses?

V. & C.: This year we launched a 15-hour elective course at ESCP Europe called “Fashion and Technology”. It attracted around 40 students of different nationalities and backgrounds and they are all working on projects at the intersection of the 2 topics, ranging from the implementation of PLM in fashion of luxury firms, to the digital strategies of luxury firms, to touchscreen gloves, or fashion mobile apps, or technology uses by fashion brands or retailers. We also offer them the opportunity to listen and interact with guest speakers from the fashion and technology world.

C.: Thank you for answering our questions! Anything to add?

V. & C.: It is an amazing topic that brings interesting initiatives and surprises every day!

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