Our Latest Webinar: Technology at the Heart of Tomorrow's Fashion
Fashionomics Africa offers regular webinars covering topics such as "African Fashionpreneurs: Thriving in a (post-) Covid-19 World", "Building Back Better After Covid-19" and, most recently, "Technology at the Heart of Tomorrow's Fashion". This webinar, which livestreamed on November 13, highlighted the promising alliance between fashion and technology and discussed the technological progresses that are disrupting the fashion industry. Panellists, which included Brendan McCarthy from Parsons School of Design, fashion designer Tokyo James, founder and CEO of Kisua, Samuel Mensa, and Google Africa's Head of Brand and Reputation, Mojolaluwa Aderemi-Makinde, identified innovations that were sparked by the onset of the pandemic, and shared insights on emerging solutions, including artificial intelligence, to develop a sustainable and viable fashion industry on the continent. In case you missed this exciting webinar, we recapped the most important points that were discussed throughout this panel.
Brendan McCarthy, who moderated this webinar, opened by saying: "At Parsons, we have some of the most incredible students but technology remains - no matter what - to be quite an intimidating topic. Today, I am so honoured and excited to be a part of this panel and to moderate, because we have some incredible people joining us here, who, based on their unbelievable success in negotiating new methods to engage technology, will be able to provide a lot of insight, not only into their experience but different entry points for different types of entrepreneurs, designers and strategists across the continent."
Kicking off the discussion with Tokyo James, Brendan introduced the British/Nigerian designer as an entrepreneur evolving in a new sphere at the intersection of fashion and technology. Having originally studied mathematics in London, Tokyo James went on to work for various international publications, as well as directing digital campaigns for brands such as Issey Miyake and the Puma Black Label. Having launched his digital publication Rough UK - which quickly expanded to Rough Italia and Rough New York - Tokyo James continues to operate and evolve in a sphere where technology and fashion become one. Here is his take on why technology is essential in today's fashion industry and how it has helped him develop a renowned and successful brand:
"It has actually been quite integral to helping my business. We create beautiful stuff, but we don't necessarily have the budget to get it out there, compared to the big competitors so, leveraging on technology has been the amplifier to get our voices out there. Whether it’s through Google AdSense, Instagram, Snapchat or various other platforms - our brand wouldn't exist were it not for the technology that has actually helped businesses like ours amplify our voice. We have merged the world of fashion and technology together in the sense of creating crazy stuff and using technology as the driving force to push it out to a wider audience. It's not an option anymore, it's the status quo now - as a fashion brand, if you're not in the world of technology, you are going to be left behind. So it has democratized a lot of things and it is helping the unvoiced have a voice."
Mojolaluwa added on to Tokyo James’ viewpoint by sharing her thoughts on tech, Africa and business. "Africa has always been cool - our fashion, our culture, we've always been colourful and with flair. One of the things that was actually holding us back is access. You know, how do you get that cool to the world? If we think about all the other challenges we have across Africa - problems with technology and infrastructure - we begin to understand some of the things that are really holding us back. With technology, launching a brand and starting it on social media and selling 80% of these products from digital channels, it is clear that technology becomes the gateway for us to really show the world our worth. But a lot of people don't have that access, so not everyone is going to be the big brand. We have the likes of Tokoy James, but we also have the smaller fashion entrepreneurs that are trying to branch out. And what we're really trying to do with technology is to democratize that access, so we can really come out as the colourful, vibrant creatives that we are, but also the business people that we are."
"I completely agree with the comments," Samuel Mensah continues. "I think the other dimension I see technology having a very important impact on going forward, is the industrial revolution and how that is going to impact fashion not just in Africa, but also around the world. I see a not-so-far-away future where there probably won't be seamstresses in factories, actually sewing your clothes. These clothes are likely going to be made by robots that work all day and all night, and never need to be turned off. And this potentially presents all kinds of challenges for Africa as a continent. We are looking to become the next China where wages are rising. Africa is looking to take on some of those jobs that no longer make sense for China as it becomes a middle to high income country, and moves some of those jobs to us. But some of these jobs might be at risk due to the fact that it might actually be cheaper to use robots to make some of these things, rather than people.
So what do we do, how do we prepare our young to be able to participate effectively in this new world of artificial intelligence? Of machine learning, of robotics, of using machines for things that typically were done by people? For our educators, like Brendan, this is a challenge - you need to help us prepare the workforce of the future, so that hopefully, some day, when these companies are hiring lots of Parsons students to solve some of these challenges, they will come with the skills needed to grow technologically advanced businesses here on the continent and we're not just an importer of technology, but we're also using technology, making our own innovations, and also exporting some of our technology to the rest of the world."
To find out what Brendan’s response was to this glimpse of a not-so-distant future, and how he plans to prepare the next generation of designers and fashion entrepreneurs, be sure to register or log in to the Fashionomics Africa platform, to watch the full webinar. Educational, inspiring and fun, this is a discussion you’re not going to want to miss out on.