NYFW: Where Fashion And Technology Meet

Robin Barrett Wilson

This September, my lifelong dream of attending New York Fashion Week (NYFW) finally came true. I’ve been in the fashion industry my entire life, and my family and friends knew how excited I was. I could hear the undertone of envy in their remarks, but I knew they were happy for me.

When most people think of a fashion show, they conjure up images of spectacular sets, live music, unique designs, and beautiful models. They also think of an audience filled with A-list actors, influencers, and editors. Dare I say, the perfect Instagram post.

SAP had a great presence at NYFW, and my role, as the industry advisor for fashion, gave me the opportunity to give back to a great cause (more on that below). I got to meet some amazing designers and be part of an emerging tech product. I also got an insider look at what it really takes, behind the scenes, to create a memorable 15-minute fashion show. It might look effortless on a TV, newspaper spread, or Instagram feed, but a lot of work goes into creating that perfect moment on the runway.

Disability inclusion kicks off NYFW

The Runway of Dreams Foundation (RODF) is a nonprofit organization that works with the fashion industry to create a culture of inclusion and acceptance for individuals with disabilities. For the second year in a row, RODF kicked off NYFW with a gala event and a runway show.

RODF began when its founder, Mindy Scheir, got a seemingly simple request from her son, Oliver: He wanted to dress like his friends and wear jeans to school. Oliver is in a wheelchair, and wearing jeans is extremely difficult for him. Mindy decided to use her background as a designer to make a difference, adding magnets behind buttons, designing pull-on jeans, and using Velcro in the back of high-top sneakers. I am incredibly touched by the way Mindy has used her passion for design and this cause to fix a problem close to her heart.

This is not the first time SAP has been part of the RODF runway show, but it was my first time working with the team to ensure the event’s success. It was exhilarating! I couldn’t have been more inspired by the group of individuals I met during show preparation, such as teams from Tommy Hilfiger, Kohl’s, and Zappos Adaptive, all brands that offer adaptive fashion, and the models in the show, individuals who live with a disability day in and day out. These are everyday people who embrace life and show great strength and determination. Their stories are truly heartwarming and inspiring.

Meeting icons

Some people have a heightened sense of smell or taste, but my heightened sense is for fashion. Some might even say that I am fully in tune with the fashion industry, as I have immersed myself in this world for my entire life. I also usually keep my cool when I meet new people, but I rarely find myself in the presence of Mark Badgley and James Mischka, the design team Vogue named one of the Top 10 American Designers.

This is the second runway show SAP has collaborated on with the Badgley Mischka brand. (Don’t get ahead of yourself; the technology tie-in is coming up!) The amount of planning and project management that goes into a show of this size is overwhelming. The final adjustments and alterations to the designs, the models (and their tight schedules), set construction, social media and public relations management, and the technology, including machine learning, included in the show… all of these moving parts would have caused most teams to be tired and incredibly stressed. But nope! Not this team. And by team, I mean the combined forces of Badgley Mischka and SAP. Badgley Mischka made us feel included, at home, and like we belonged.

The design house’s Spring 2020 collection is elegant and feminine, inspired by glamorous tropical getaways and actress Claudette Colbert’s 18th-century home on the island of Barbados, which she purchased in the 1960s. The white set and pink glowing lights gave the audience the feeling of being at the beach at sunset: warm, glowing, and that perfect shade of summer pink. The models looked at ease in their brightly printed suits, swimsuits, and dresses. The show was a huge success and covered by the most prominent fashion publications, including WWD and Vogue.

What about the technology?

“Tech’s Next Battleground: NYFW” was a WWD headline on September 9. The article covered everything from a surprising sponsorship, Amazon’s sponsorship of Rihanna’s livestream Savage x Fenty show, to YouTube’s launch of a new fashion channel.

So why is there a focus on technology in fashion? The answer is simple: the consumer. Technology is in the consumers’ hands and social media posts to Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat are propelling the industry into uncharted territory. Although some designers remain true to tradition and develop lines six months ahead of season, they are always listening to the consumer. Knowing what the audience “likes” or “loves” can guide a collection’s production quantities and lay the groundwork for a successful season of high sell-through and low markdowns.

For example, the machine learning-powered Runway by SAP app can use your iPhone camera (with Android support on the way) to identify an item of clothing. You can also “like” the garment, “love” it, add to your wishlist, buy it, and more. The app doesn’t hinder your ability to take pictures and post them your favorite social media app.

Once the show ends, the data is compiled and the results are shared with designers. This data could guide how many items in a collection will be produced, identify which color was preferred, and perhaps validate whether pantsuits really are making a comeback.

As for me, to say I was in awe is a huge understatement. The artistic talent is so impressive and all-encompassing, it’s impossible to walk around without feeling amazed by your surroundings. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk with Mark Badgley, a designer I have long admired, and for his decision to partner with SAP and include us in the show. It was a dream come true for this girl from Rhode Island to participate in NYFW and attend the designer’s runway show.

Do you want your business to understand how your customers are feeling? SAP’s Experience Management Solutions can help you with that! Learn more by joining our webinar series.

Robin Barrett Wilson

About Robin Barrett Wilson

Robin Barrett Wilson is an industry executive advisor, focused on the fashion industry, at SAP. Leveraging her past experience and knowledge within the fashion industry, she works closely with our customers to understand their respective businesses and growth objectives. Additionally, she is a recourse for when it comes to trends in the industry. Prior to joining the SAP team, Robin has held various roles including founding her own omnichannel, socially conscious women’s clothing brand and developing and producing her line in New York City. She also has held a wide variety of roles for well-known brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, and VF Corp.