I don’t know about y’all, but after spending months at home during COVID, I was thrilled to be back in “real clothes” and out of lounge wear. Fashion retailers were ready to have us back, too, and technology played a significant role in driving consumers back to their favorite brands.
In fact, according to McKinsey & Company’s 2022 State of Fashion Tech Report, fashion companies invested between 1.6 and 1.8% of their revenues in technology in 2021. That figure is expected to rise to between 3.0 and 3.5% by 2030.
There are so may innovative things happening in fashion tech, and specifically, with women-led tech startups. I just had to go directly to the source of this innovation and learn more, again!
Founded in 2014, the Lab connects a cohort of women-led B2B, fashion and retail-focused technology companies that are fostering iteration, validation and acceleration of technologies to advance the industry.
I had a blast learning even more about the Lab and what Jackie and her team are doing to support women-owned tech companies. Enjoy our conversation!
For those readers who don’t know you, can tell us a little bit about you and your journey to the Lab?
I joined the New York Fashion Tech Lab at the end of 2014. They were looking for someone to run the cohort that was launching for 2015.
I’ve worked in fashion for over 20 years, and I’ve been an entrepreneur myself, so I understand both sides of it, which is why I was so excited when I had reached out to the Lab’s parent company, Springboard Enterprises. I just thought what they were doing was so cool and I wanted to learn more. And here I am, many years later.
What was the catalyst for the creation of the Lab, and why the focus on women-led companies?
Founded in 2000, Springboard Enterprises is a nonprofit organization specifically focusing on women-led companies. Springboard runs a myriad of programs (i.e., bootcamps, accelerators, etc.) in a wide variety of sectors such as life science, biotech, women’s health, general tech and ad tech.
In 2014, when they were looking to expand into different sectors. They realized that the fashion and retail industries were a bit behind some of the advancements they were seeing in technology in those other industries. That’s when the NYFTL was born!
I describe Springboard as a venture catalyst because their main mission is to help give women resources to raise money and grow and scale their companies. The Lab does that too, but we are more of a business catalyst. We are in partnership with leading retailers and brands that are looking to keep their finger on the pulse of new technologies that address pain points or take out an area of friction for them.
I would love to hear your insights on innovation and the changes that you’ve seen in the fashion tech industry since you’ve been with the NYFTL.
It has been exciting to see the progress that’s been made within the industry over the past eight years. In the beginning, we were mostly engaging with CTOs and CIOs because that’s where technology really sat at some of these larger retailer and brand partners.
Now, there are so many different points of contact within these retailers and brands. We often engage with CMOs, innovation leads, digital strategy, or eCommerce. It’s really everyone’s job to know what’s out there from a technology standpoint. Tech is everywhere and in everything!
We’ve become another way for fashion retailers to keep their finger on the pulse and to do it together. It’s important that they feel like they are not doing it in a silo, but as an industry.
I would imagine that all this work and the things that you’re doing at the Lab inspires you every day!
Yes! I think I have the coolest job in the world as I kind of get to sit in the middle of being in contact with retailers and brands, understanding what’s happening there, and getting the opportunity to meet inspiring women creating these awesome and needed solutions for this industry.
My personal mission with all of this is to be a connector for our retail and brand partners, the alumni companies, the companies in the Lab, and for the industry in general. It’s exciting to see what can happen when you make that connection.
Can you provide a few examples of how the Lab has helped to propel women in fashion tech forward?
We’ve had 69 companies go through the program since its inception. We’ll be onboarding another group of Lab companies for 2023. What we have seen and what we track with the Lab companies are the partnerships and pilots that come from the program, which happens all the time.
There is also so much that can come from candid feedback from the retail executives as part of this program, which can save the startups so much time as they continue to build and iterate on their product. We also have another network of 80 industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors that they get to connect with and get feedback from, and of course opportunity for investment.
The Lab is an ongoing community that is part of the companies’ entrepreneurial journey – whether they are looking to hire, pivot, get acquired or fundraise.
As you look ahead in your crystal ball, what are you most excited about with regards to the fashion tech industry?
On our website, we have this whole list of “areas of interest” and it’s something that we are constantly adding, removing and refining. What excites me most are the things that we don’t even know exist!
If you think about the very buzzy tech trends, like NFTs and Web3, they didn’t exist before a few years ago. I know there will be other new innovations and advancements like that. It’s exciting to think that we are going to get to uncover them, spend time learning about them with the retail and brand partners and make them part of our areas of focus.
I agree you do have the coolest job in the world! As we wrap up, what opportunities are available for anyone interested in becoming more involved with NYFTL?
Application for our 2023 program has already closed, but if you are an entrepreneur interested in applying for the Lab for next year, I recommend getting in touch with us as soon as possible. We start connecting with and tracking companies very early.
If you’re a retailer or brand that wants to learn more about becoming involved, it’s a great time now to potentially join us for 2023, or we can do sessions with you so you can meet some of the alumni.
We also have an active expert network made up of industry experts, entrepreneurs and investors that connect in with the Lab companies as part of the program.
How can we learn more?