LONDON — Remember fashion week, pre-lockdown?
There was the kissing, party-hopping and soaking up designers’ creativity, which many industry professionals — undeniably — miss. But there were also the endless delays, scheduling conflicts and lots of unnecessary running around that ate up much of the excitement and positivity of the week.
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The shift to digital hasn’t made market scheduling that much easier, as brands need to arrange for hundreds of virtual appointments across time zones and video platforms. Even if professionals now only need to travel from their couch to their desk, delays and last-minute changes remain.
ModaResa, a tech business that recently joined LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s “La Maison des Startups” accelerator program, wants to change all that and pave the way for what it calls “sustainable planning.”
The platform takes care of the planning process leading up to fashion week and buying seasons by offering brands the technology to optimize their itineraries, link to buyers and sellers, avoid timing conflicts, and collect data along the way.
“We’re in 2020 and our society is built around instant gratification, brand [sellers] and buyers don’t even want to wait five minutes in the showroom. Those are the standards that people have now. It can be a bit ridiculous sometimes, for sure, but I think there are a lot of valid points as well,” said ModaResa founder Stephanie Smith.
“It’s all about bringing the excellence of customer experience to [business-to-business] in the same way we’ve become obsessed with [business-to-consumer]. The industry has slowly gotten into e-commerce, but they never stopped to think about the behind-the-scenes experience, which is where everything starts. These buyers are the ones who get your products into the shops and your wholesale team is the one presenting the collections. If they don’t feel satisfied, and don’t feel like they have the right tools, then they’re not going to do their best jobs. That’s how we’re coaching brands in getting into technology.”
Balmain has been one of the earliest adopters of ModaResa’s technology, with other buzzy names like Marine Serre, Nanushka, Jacquemus and By Far following suit.
Through the company’s app, brands can invite their buyers to book an appointment, with real-time visibility into their seller’s availabilities — which helps to cut down endless e-mail exchanges between buyers, sellers and assistants to figure out the right appointment times.
For their part, buyers can sign up for free, synchronize their ModaResa and Google calendars and also add the runway shows they want to attend to their itineraries. ModaResa aggregates all show information from the Milan, Paris, London, New York and Copenhagen schedules, with more cities to come in the future.
“It’s about how to optimize the hundreds of appointments a buyer has across Paris, Milan, New York and London and making sure they have the best itinerary,” said Smith. “Ultimately, you need to know who’s showing, where and when they’re showing, and how can you combine those shows with other appointments.”
Smith said she wants to keep the company focused on fixing industrywide scheduling issues, rather than creating yet another digital showroom.
“Anything that deals with the coordination and real-time buyers’ feedback, that’s what we work with. We don’t want to get into wholesale ordering. People are already doing that, and doing that very well,” said Smith, adding that in the future she will look to integrate the ModaResa platform with digital showrooms like Joor, as brands now tend to work across both.
The shift to virtual appointments has increased interest around the platform, which allows brands to connect all their Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype profiles to the app, with buyers then choosing what tool they’d rather use.
But the company still believes that physical fashion weeks, seasonal industry gatherings and wholesale buying will continue to be relevant, so much of its services are focused on improving the experience of attending those physical events, once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and they are able to resume.
“When we first went into lockdown, everyone was thinking in extremes, saying that all we know is going under, and it’s all about augmented reality. But the truth is that there are certain [industry processes] that will remain. There will still be wholesale because it contributes to a brand’s visibility across the globe. There are just so many logistics around dealing with wholesale by yourself — and that’s what we want to change,” said Smith, adding that real change needs to happen with sustainable prototyping or more on-demand buying, rather than shifting fashion week schedules or moving off calendar.
“The whole point of the schedules was for buyers not to have to travel back and forth. If Saint Laurent says, ‘We’re going to show outside the schedule,’ ultimately, the buyers will need to travel to see the collection because this is luxury. You can’t just order everything through Joor,” noted Smith.
“Brands need to reunite, in a way, and see that it’s not sustainable to dispatch presentation dates that aren’t in sync, but rather focus on the actual problems around what to produce and what comes in the store when: That’s the interesting discussion.”
Next on the company’s agenda is extending services to journalists and influencers who also tend to balance attending shows with showroom appointments during fashion month.
By spending six months with LVMH — the company will have an office within the group’s accelerator La Maison des Startups — Smith also plans to make the most of the workshops and networking opportunities available to accelerate the company’s growth and brand network.
“We’re now growing the team and setting sales strategies, so LVMH can come in and push us even further and quicker. Now more than ever, it’s important to build this ecosystem for buyers and press to have an overview of what’s happening in the market, who’s showing when and which are the key brands to support,” she said.