HIGH FASHION MEETS HI-TECH
“France is back” announced Emmanuel Macron, the maverick president at the vanguard of the latest French revolution – in tech. Having actioned important business reforms and increased investment in France’s technology sector, Paris is now a contender to rival London and Berlin as the tech capital of Europe. As prices in Silicon Valley continue to skyrocket and Brexit uncertainty looms large, crossing the Atlantic or the English Channel is an increasingly attractive move for tech firms worldwide.
In order to support France’s tech boom, Station F was launched by telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel last Summer in Paris as the largest startup campus on the planet. The 34 000 m2 space accommodates over 1000 international startups and boasts Facebook and Microsoft as founding partners. Offering various incubator and accelerator schemes, Station F rang in the new year with the launch of a luxury and tech programme with none other than LVMH.
Fashion and tech were destined to come together in France as naturally as cheese and wine. For instance, the annual FashionTech Expo has been running since 2014, while ModeLab was one of the first publications dedicated to fashion tech. In 2016 LVMH also partnered with the Viva Technology conference from where they present the LVMH Innovation Award; and of course, Paris played host to the biggest luxury fashion tech event to date in the form of the Future Tech Lab (formerly Fashion Tech Lab) inauguration party, graced by fashion royalty from the late Azzedine Alaïa to Diane von Furstenberg, Alber Elbaz and Demna Gvasalia as well as François Henri-Pinault, CEO of Kering.
Aside the glitz and glamour, between the Men’s and Womenswear weeks, Paris is also host to two of the biggest apparel fabrics and accessories trade fairs – namely Première Vision and a Texpertise Network group show organised by Messe Frankfurt (who were also behind Berlin Fashion Week’s FASHIONSUSTAIN conference) – each of which has their very own fashion tech showcase.
Première Vision began in 1973 when 15 weavers from Lyon decided to present their fabric collections in Paris. 45 years and 1 900 exhibitors later, Prèmiere Vision launched its Wearable Lab in February 2017 to assess and support the burgeoning relationship between fashion and technology. Situated over 900 m² at the centre of Prèmiere Vision, highlights this season included the “Reveal the Invisible” exhibition by tech couture designer Clara Daguin, Gemetiq’s intelligent identification chip to ensure full product traceability and the adjustable, robotic Euveka mannequin. The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode even provided a one-page statement in the Wearable Lab booklet expressing their commitment to digital technologies while “cherishing traditional savoir-faire”.
Kicking off two days before Prèmiere Vision, the smaller Messe Frankfurt affair features around 1000 exhibitors across five shows, 20 of which were part of Avantex Paris. Going strong since 2015, much like the Wearable Lab, Avantex presents a range of fashion tech products, prototypes, services, talks and pitches. For its sixth edition, the site grew to 1300 m² with stars of the show including Fashion Pitch Night winner INDUO with their stain and sweat resistant fabrics, and Parisian haute couture brand Armine Ohanyan who scooped the first prize at FashionTech Expo 2017 with her 3D printed, thermally bonded creations.
Although neither fairs had a designated sustainability zone like Munich Fabric Start, it was good to see that both exhibition catalogues clearly labelled suppliers offering sustainable materials and small minimum quantities – whether that’s less than 50m of fabric, one to ten animal skins or production runs starting from 100 pieces. Not only does this make things more manageable for smaller brands, but it also cuts down on waste, be it deadstock fabrics or finished garments.
Whereas Germany’s focus has been more on green fashion, France has innovated hugely in the tech area: there is undoubtedly great potential to be had from merging these two areas of expertise. And with Macron’s France flying the fashion-tech flag high, this is a rallying call for Europe to be the great innovator in this global arena.
Save these dates for more French fashion tech! (All in Paris)
Viva Tech: 24th – 26th May 2018
Avantex: 17th – 20th September 2018
Prèmiere Vision: 19th – 21st September 2018
FashionTech Expo: 19th October 2018