An Interview by Ira Tassouli and Louise Quesnel.
FABS – Fashion Buyer Society, is the first app entirely dedicated to fashion buyers.FABS App is an app created by the Milan-based showroom TWENTYFOURSEVEN and developed by H-Farm. This virtual assistant is the ultimate go-to tool for fashion buyers as it supports them throughout the entire process, from the initial request to the final feedback.
We went to the FABS App offices here in Milano, where we met Daniely Von Atzingen ,Project Director of FABS, and Giacomo Piazza, Co-Founder and discussed with them about the app itself, the fashion industry and the role of tech in the world of fashion.
INTRODUCE YOURSELVES AND TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND
D: My name is Daniele, I’m from Brazil, currently living in Italy. I studied Architecture and I’m the Project Director of FABS.
G: I’m Giacomo Piazza, co-founder of 24/7, I studied Medicine -so something very far from what I’m actually doing- but my expertise is in fashion.
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR THE APP COME FROM?
G: The idea for FABS came from a lack of resources needed to work in a specific way; we saw a gap in the fashion world and tried to fill it.
Fashion as an idea and as a façade is very modern & avant-garde but unfortunately, its background is very old-fashioned, and technology isn’t yet that present in fashion. It’s actually really far away from having significant impact on the fashion industry.
The biggest thing we noticed was a fragmentation of tools. Some brands have their own tools, some brands use the old pen and paper and so on. It’s therefore really hard to put together all this information and have a good idea of what you’re doing. That’s why we tried to make something that is easy and effective; our idea for FABS was to create a tool that combines all the necessary features and acts as a modern notebook with a very engaging visual interface and simplicity of use.
The fashion world is made of people that have no time and that tend to stick to their old “traditional ways” so for them using this tool would mean changing their work patterns, which is why we tried to make it as simple as possible.
THE CUSTOMER TARGET IS PROFESSIONALS, RIGHT?
G: It’s definitely a B2B app. There’s no social aspect to it, there’s no other type of use for it so far. It’s a professional tool for fashion buyers. Of course, in the future it can be transformed for Visual Merchandisers and other categories or even other types of buyers, not only fashion buyers but the fashion industry is what we know so that’s why we started there.
WHEN CREATING THE APP WHAT KINDS OF PROBLEMS DID YOU FACE?
G: We developed the app inside the H-farm platform and we did a specific app, not the classic but with a different pitch inside the already existing H-Farm structure. We used other startups within H-Farm to create the app and used the similar tools being developed by them at the time, and adapted their code and technology to our app.
I think our biggest challenge was -and still is- the gap of culture between tech companies and fashion. Communication was quite difficult at the beginning cause a lot of times information that people in fashion wanted to add and found necessary was not a priority for us because felt that certain information made the app too complicated. Our priority is usability, theirs is information. I think this is one of the main reasons that even though fashion is probably one of the hottest topics within social media, its technology that hasn’t taken over so far. Of course, there is a huge development within e-fashion on e-commerce but it’s still a far cry from the progress other industries have seen with the introduction of technology and I think the reason for that is this cultural gap.
HOW DOES THE APP WORK?
G: Let’s say fashion works this way; for every brand there two main channels: retail and wholesale, and most brands use a combination of both. Of course, buyers need to go the shows, see the new collections and place their orders. These orders are usually taken by digital systems. There’s a big fragmentation on the way orders are taken and that’s where our app comes to play. With the app all you have to do is snap the items and tap on icons, so you can create a catalogue of your inventory by brand, item, season which makes the process a lot simpler. Everything is organised in your phone and goes in your cloud so you can always check what you’ve bought so far -so it’s about fine tuning-, you can send your selection to your office so they can put it in an excel file and so on. Buyers of big department stores or even medium-sized wholesale retailers or online shops take care of a very big number of orders daily. During a stressful sales campaign they have to sit and put together the budget, make decisions and so on, so having this ease of being able to extract all the information from your phone to the desktop version and organise the data is key; the app is a tool that eases the concentration and analysis of data. There’s a multiuser version for a team of buyers so that there can be coordination and the head of the group can check their work making teamwork in those instances a lot easier as well.
YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY A PLATFORM YOURSELF BUT DO YOU USE ANY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS TO PROMOTE THE APP?
G: For now, we chose not to expose it on social media platforms since we’re still in the early stages of this and also since it’s a very B2B oriented app. We don’t have a social media strategy because in this moment it would have been weird to put it on socials. Of course, once we achieve a certain number of users and we feel confident on the tool, we’re going to start to use our clients as testimonials on the app and its usability. At the moment our communication is very consumer friendly, the people using it are in contact with each other and our target is quite specific, so it’s quite easy to spread the word. Especially with fashion weeks we’re given the opportunity to see our “target consumers” and interact with them. In the future we will probably use social media channels to promote it further, but for now we’re focused more on one-to-one marketing.
TALKING ABOUT THE FUTURE, HOW DO YOU SEE THE APP EVOLVING AND GROWING?
D: You always start from an original idea and with time it grows and evolves the more you work on it. For us, this is leading into many other options and so is the evolution of technology. We have a very specific timeline of what we want to achieve in the next 15 months but I’m sure that after 6 months we will create a new plan because you can’t think ahead too much since things are constantly changing. Our ultimate goal would be to create a super-app for the fashion professional. There are many features that we’re developing that can be added to the app but for now it’s really important for us to reach a specific target point. Once we get there we want to be in communication with our users so that we can add new functionality and integrate all these other options that we’re already thinking of and get their feedback. We really want to follow the needs of our customers and we can probably predict them for the next year, but we don’t try to predict further ahead than that. At the moment I’d say our main focus is on improving the customer experience.
G:Yeah, we were invited to the web summit and it was quite clear to us that the main focus point for everyone is the customer experience and being a tool directed to professionals only, we need to create an experience that positions us at a certain level. We want to improve the experience of the user; make it more refined. That’s why to get there we’re have to listen to them, discuss with them and understand what they feel we should do better. Of course, at the same time we have other things happening like the integration with other companies, which is a very important step since the more open the app is the better it will work and the better will be the user experience. Therefore, first main goal is to improve the consumer experience and to prepare ourselves for the next steps of the app and the other one is trying to put together all the parts that are now working on this side of the business in order to create an integrated platform.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE PERCENTAGES OF TECH, CREATIVITY AND BUSINESS THAT COME TOGETHER TO FORM THE APP? BECAUSE CONSUMER EXPERIENCE HAS TO DO A LOT WITH THE TECH SIDE, BUT IT’S CERTAINLY NOT LIMITED TO THAT.
G: It really depends on your target; sometimes apps are really complicated and have too many functions and need less tech and more of the rest or vice versa. For us, being in this industry is very useful because we bring to our tech partners a completely different perspective that to us makes sense. We know our target very well, so we know exactly what they need and what tools are missing from other apps.
You definitely need a good mix of things; Tech wise, we’re not a super high-tech app so we don’t need incredible technology to satisfy our needs. It’s more about the usability; how it’s simple and fast and practical. And of course, the graphic side is key since our target is very fashion/design oriented, so the appearance of the app interface is detrimental.
WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY I ALSO MENTIONED CREATIVITY AND HOW IT’S USED TO ADAPT THE APP TO YOUR TARGET INDUSTRY.
G: Yeah, that is the fun part. We really try to bring the artistic side to this technical tool so things like our logo and artworks are always given to amazing artists or illustrators to create; we want an app that is cool, and that the buyers will want to use.
And this really brings me back to the point that fashion as a façade is really cool and forward-thinking but internally it’s very far from that. Everyone prioritises the things that you’d expect them to, so despite being a technical tool, the app needs to be cool. We have to build that hype around it, it’s just how it is.
TO FINISH OFF, WHAT IS YOUR OPINION/VIEW ON THE FUTURE OF FASHION AND TECH AND HOW THEY WILL INTEGRATE WITH TIME
G: I think a big change will be AI and augmented reality. That will be the when tech will take over fashion. But for now, the system is very traditional and not very digitalised which makes sense when it comes to manufacturing, since it cannot change that much but the interaction with consumers will be completely changed by AI. I already saw some things that are shocking. Things like amazon and siri will become your personal shopper and we’re going to go very close to “Her” the Spike Jonze movie. fashion is such a lifestyle thing that will be totally embraced by this.
And then the online/offline experience will be without boundaries. I think that physical stores will not die for sure and actually become an even more an experimental space.
We see it through our own retail operations how the more our offline and online activity is aligned, the more the sales performances are effective. So I definitely think there will be no boundaries between physical and digital space and these will be integrated through artificial intelligence.
All these elements together will bring a new era in fashion.
For more information on the app check out https://www.fabsapp.com/