This summer, The Interline and the team behind SOURCING at MAGIC partnered to showcase fashion technology in action, combining the specialised expertise of the leading technology magazine for fashion professionals, with the international audience and deep process knowledge behind the milestone fashion sourcing event that’s been drawing a massive, multinational audience to Las Vegas for decades.
From the 7th to the 10th August, both teams worked together to bring an entirely new fashion technology area to life at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Across a special section of the exhibitor floor, a dedicated presentation stage, and a lounge and networking area set aside for focused discussions and spill-over seating for our live sessions, the four days of the show featured a broad spectrum of fashion technology – from 3D and digital materials, to supply chain transparency, seamless mobile commerce, and live selling.
For many attendees, this new area – dubbed the SOURCE Lounge – was their first exposure to the vast potential presented by modern fashion technology. In the rare moments I had on-site to sit back, watch the crowds come through, and listen to the conversations taking place at the booths, on the sofas, and around the tables, the prevailing theme was possibility:
“You’re saying I can digitise my materials library and communicate with my suppliers through one platform?”
“Wait… technology can help build transparency, agility, sustainability, and accountability into my supply chain?”
“I can design my garments in 3D, and then use those same assets as stepping stones to where I want to go in eCommerce and, eventually, the Metaverse?”
“So, we can break down some of the barriers that are preventing us from achieving seamless multinational operations, through software?”
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but sentiments like these were everywhere. And for someone who spends a great deal of their time debating finite points of detail, these were refreshing discussions to hear – because they underlined the fact that, not only does fashion technology work, it can work for almost anyone, provided they’re given the opportunity to see it in action.
There were, to be clear, no shortage of larger brands and big enterprises coming through the doors of SOURCING at MAGIC, and I know similarly in-depth conversations to the ones that The Interline specialises in were happening every day. But as a new initiative, the SOURCE Lounge was a resounding success in the area that mattered the most to me: opening up completely new horizons for fashion technology. And based on the talks I had with technology vendors at, and around, the show, that feeling was shared.
For anyone who hasn’t attended a previous instance of the show, SOURCING at MAGIC is, as the name suggests, the sourcing-focused portion of the gigantic MAGIC trade show and community, operated by Informa Markets Fashion. Under that umbrella, SOURCING is joined by MAGIC itself (a show focused on bringing together brands and buyers across trend, young contemporary, modern sportswear, footwear, and accessories categories), and PROJECT, which also unites retail buyers with unique brands within men’s and women’s contemporary apparel, footwear, and accessories.
Those co-located events are both high-profile cultural touchstones and high-energy gatherings. This year saw pop star Katy Perry take to the main stage at PROJECT to talk about her journey in fashion, and the work that went into her latest women’s footwear collection – which was later unveiled at her own-brand booth on the show floor. And on the opening night of all three shows, T-Pain took to a specially-designed stage in the gigantic foyer area to get a huge, diverse, and eager crowd bouncing, drinks in-hand.
No less diverse, SOURCING at MAGIC still differs from its counterparts in some key ways. While the co-located shows cater to buyers and merchandisers building a future-season portfolio of finished products, SOURCING concentrates on the nuts and bolts of building apparel, footwear, and accessories – connecting brand sourcing teams with potential manufacturing partners and material suppliers.
From 26 countries, more than 650 exhibitors came to Vegas to present at SOURCING at MAGIC in person. And that number was added to by the exhibitors who, either through choice or due to COVID restrictions in place in China, presented their fabrics and services using a hybrid model: physical assets on shelves, complemented by live digital connections between delegates and overseas offices.
The technology area was, by comparison, relatively small. Close to 20 technology exhibitors came, from across the USA and from further afield, to showcase their solutions – and many of these also joined in live stage sessions and discussions, which were hosted by yours truly.
But that footprint belied the level of activity that took place, and the degree of interest that the thousands of pre-registered delegates who walked through the doors of SOURCING at MAGIC had in all things digital. From queues at some of the most popular technology booths, to a backlog of audience questions at the busiest live sessions, it quickly became clear that the appetite for understanding and accessing the benefits of technology was high.
“There is no part of fashion that’s untouched by technology today, so we were not at all surprised to see that the new SOURCE Lounge drew such a crowd, and remained so consistently buzzy during the show,” says Andreu David, VP of SOURCING at MAGIC. “From the bleeding edge of the Metaverse, to the bare metal of quantifying what’s happening on the shopfloor, technology holds a tremendous amount of transformative power for brands, retailers, makers, and mills. So I’m proud that, through our partnership with The Interline, we were able to open up the possibilities offered by technology to everyone who attended SOURCING at MAGIC. And I’m confident the best is yet to come.”
As Andreu hints at, access to the SOURCE Lounge was not gated; any registered attendee who had a digital badge to get into any of the three co-located shows was able to walk through the doors of SOURCING at MAGIC, and the fashion technology area was carefully positioned so that attendees would organically discover the exhibitors, explore the integrations between their solutions and workflows, and observe the regular live sessions that were taking place on the education stage that had been set up for technology activities.
In practice, this meant that fashion technology served as a draw for visitors who might perhaps not have migrated over from MAGIC or PROJECT to SOURCING – something that was especially relevant given that different combinations of the technologies we had on show had a lot to offer buyers, merchandising teams, and the design, development, and sourcing colleagues they work alongside.
And everyone who made that journey earlier this month would have felt right at home, since the same combination of exhibitors, education, creativity and networking that have become the hallmarks of MAGIC and PROJECT were carried over into the fashion technology-focused SOURCE Lounge.
The creative and collaborative portions of that picture are difficult to quantify, but seeing new partnerships forged, new opportunities explored, and interactive demonstrations of cutting-edge real-time visualisation and new mobile commerce applications being built live in the SOURCE Lounge, it’s safe to say that a lot of new ground was being broken.
On the exhibitor front, the SOURCE Lounge covered a good portion of the fashion technology spectrum, with a particular emphasis on digital product creation.
Aims360 were on-hand to showcase new ways to create seamless commerce. Black Magic Design attracted crowds with demonstrations of live-selling and live-streaming hardware and software. Browzwear turned heads by spotlighting how 3D design and simulation can transform the way brands think about creating products, and CLO tackled the same topic from their unique perspective, allowing attendees to go hands-on with the creation and use of digital assets. And the lifecycle of those assets – not to mention the route to making their creation more scalable – was being shown by Embodee, who were walking attendees through the benefits of their Orchids platform.
At the opposite end of the market, Fashinza’s eponymous, AI-driven supply chain transparency and connectivity solution cut straight to the heart of issues around both sustainability and risk in fashion sourcing. Back in the digital product creation space, Heartdub’s live demonstrations of material capture, simulation, and 3D visualisation attracted a lot of attention, while Increff’s fresh approach to inventory accuracy and merchandise promised to unlock “incredible efficiency” for organisations that have traditionally been shut out of larger enterprise solutions that. And PingPong made a strong case for technology’s potential to break down borders in multinational commerce.
Last, but by no means least, in this alphabetical listing were Swatchbook, whose digital materials platform became the key to unlocking a lot of strategic conversations around the full value chain potential of digital working, and Vajro, whose turnkey, inclusive approach to transition from eCommerce to mobile commerce illustrated the desire that brands have to own as large a share as possible of the direct to consumer channel – and to grow their engagement and expand their loyalty with shoppers.
Most of these exhibitors (with the addition of Aatco, who articulated the importance of making ERP and supply chain software accessible to small businesses) also took to the dedicated SOURCE Lounge stage – either to present on their own, with structured and open audience questions afterwards, or to take part in a more free-flowing, collaborative discussion with me. Each of these sessions was designed to contextualise the demonstrations that delegates had already seen in the exhibitor booths, and each also represented the opportunity for both seasoned technology users and neophytes to raise their questions and concerns to the people who had the answers.
Those dedicated SOURCE Lounge sessions were also complemented by a session I delivered on the education stage situated at the opposite end of the SOURCING halls. I was invited to take to that forum alongside Dr. Eric S Ackerman, VP of Commercial Technology for Perry Ellis International. As a double-act, he and he spent an hour dissecting the implications of the Metaverse for fashion, and Eric provided an insider’s perspective on not just the technology that’s going to underpin the real-time, immersive future, but the lessons Perry Ellis has learned from its first-mover status.
It was fascinating to see how audience members who attended that session later made a point of investigating the SOURCE Lounge. Having seen the future (or one potential future, at least) of fashion, these people were committed to building out their understanding of the steps it’s likely to take for brands, retailers and manufacturers to get there.
And that, really, was this entire event in microcosm. Fashion professionals of all stripes, from all around the world, looking to the future of their roles (and the strategic direction of their businesses), discovering new possibilities, and then having immediate access to the tools they might need to achieve their visions – whether they pertain to streamlining the creation of more sustainable physical products, or seizing entirely new, all-digital business models.
From that perspective, I also take no small measure of personal pride in The Interline’s role in bringing fashion technology to life for a new and rapidly-growing audience. The SOURCE Lounge may have been a first-time initiative, but it represented immediate evidence of the value of making technology as accessible as possible – not just in its pricing and deployment, but by making sure that everyone who wants to can see first-hand what it means to get a foot on the ladder.
If you’re a technology vendor interested in exhibiting at a future SOURCE Lounge, get in touch with the SOURCING at MAGIC team or reach out to The Interline to learn more about what we have in store for the next Las Vegas event (taking place from 12th to 15th February 2023).
If you’d like to attend the next show, stay tuned to the SOURCING at MAGIC channels and to The Interline to be notified when registrations open for the next chance to see fashion technology in action.