Inaugural Runway 2.0 event sees a blend of fashion shows, tech startups
Panellists say online fashion still small market, lots of room for growth
[This article has been amended to clarify details on support and sponsorship]
IT would have been inconceivable just a few years ago, but there is now a mashup of the disparate worlds of fashion and technology, and nowhere was it more apparent than in the inaugural Runway 2.0 show held in Petaling Jaya recently.
Organised by digital agency VLT Kuala Lumpur (VLT KL), the show was inspired by Decoded Fashion, according to VLT KL spokesman Jonathan Wong.
Decoded Fashion is a series of global events that connects decision-makers in the fashion, beauty and retail industries with technology companies. Its events include live demonstrations, hackathons, mentorship sessions and fashion startup competitions in New York, London and Milan.
Wong said he felt that Malaysia was ready for such an intersection between the fashion and technology worlds. He was also encouraged by words of support from Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), he told the audience at Runway 2.0.
MDeC is the national ICT custodian in charge of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) project that aims to further develop the ICT industry in Malaysia, and is the lead agency for the Digital Malaysia programme which aspires to transform the nation into a digital economy. MaGIC, launched in April this year, is a one-stop centre for entrepreneurship, with a distinctly technology slant.
Ultimately, the inaugural event was sponsored by MyCreative Ventures, the government investment arm set up in April 2012 to spur Malaysia’s creative industry.
Runway 2.0 featured a fashion show, startups specialising in areas that support the ecosystem including wearables, fashion and e-commerce players, and more.
A panel session featuring (left to right above) MyCreative Ventures chief executive officer Johan Ishak, Reebonz Malaysia general manager Tang Siew Wai and Zalora Malaysia managing director Giulio Xiloyannis, moderated by Wong, also explored how technology and e-commerce were creating an impact in the fashion world.
The fact is, online shopping in this part of the world has yet to reach the proportions it has in the Western world where 10% of all shopping is done online, argued Zalora’s Xiloyannis.
“In Indonesia, it’s 0.1%, in Malaysia it’s 0.2% and in Singapore, the most advanced market, it is about 1%.
“Still, this is a lot of money and there’s lots of room for growth – people haven’t really started online shopping here,” he added.
Tang of Reebonz Malaysia, the by-invitation-only flash sales website for designer luxury goods, also felt that online fashion shopping was a positive and growing trend. “Malaysians are very smart shoppers – they do a lot of price comparisons, read online reviews and even check out warranties online.”
MyCreative Ventures’ Johan concurred, saying that there was “room to grow.”
“Fashion is an RM16-billion market projected to grow 7% to reach RM20 billion by 2020,” he said. “The online portion is quite small, only about RM250 million. A lot of this has to do with infrastructure.”
Xiloyannis meanwhile urged fashion retailers to look beyond just traditional e-commerce, and into areas such as mobile shopping and new delivery channels such as smart TVs.
“Mobile represents about 30% of our sales right now, and 30% of our traffic. In the developed world, it is about 40-50%.
“Mobile is a sales channel, but is currently used more for browsing,” he said, adding that actual transactions still tend to take place on PCs, although that would probably change.
Zalora, a Rocket Internet company, is also quite keen on smart TVs and augmented reality. “These are two areas that the fashion industry needs to look into – in the future, it [e-commerce] is not going to be much on laptops,” he added.
Zalora itself is investing in developing a smart TV app, Xiloyannis said.
“We are the first fashion site in the world to do so,” he said. “Although we don’t expect it to make a big impact on sales immediately, once we’ve developed it, the smart TV app will be rolled to other Rocket Internet e-commerce sites – and there are about a hundred of those.”
The panel discussion was followed by presentations by four startups, although only one of them was from Malaysia:
UK-based Metail: A virtual fitting room service for fashion retailers that allows their customers to create 3D models of themselves that can try on the retailers’ clothes.
TravelShopa: An online community dedicated to local shopping, started by Australian Renée Lodens after she moved to Singapore.
Ninja Van: A Singapore-based startup that specialises in logistics for e-commerce companies; it uses sophisticated algorithms to compute capacity checks and optimise vehicle routes, allowing it to promise deliveries that are faster and cheaper.
WaryBee: A Malaysian startup that has developed a safety app and hardware that can be embedded into fashion accessories such as necklaces or bracelets. A tiny triggering device acts as a ‘panic button’ which the wearer presses to send a signal to the phones of people the wearer has chosen.
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