How I curated my first ‘fashion-tech’ event?

How I curated my first ‘fashion-tech’ event? Part 1

I love to dabble with the new and unknown. A constant learner, I always try to stay ahead of the curve in terms of technology and innovation that is shaping our world. As I learn along the way, I like to teach and share my learning with others, who may be behind me in this journey we call life.  I am sharing with you how I managed to curate and put together a full fledged #fashiontech industry conference from scratch without any prior experience in event management.  This was a mammoth effort, a labor of love as I like to call it, which spanned over a period of 8-10 months. So I will cover it part by part. Today I penned down the part 1. Keep following me and watch out for the next in series. I think I should be able to document my journey and learning in 4 such posts.  Enjoy the Read. Don’t forget to leave your comments and feedback.

The Brief

4th April 2017, I got an email in my newly created inbox for my client Mostafiz Uddin.  The email had a brief concept note attached for a one-day conference event focused on digitalization, innovation and technology for fashion industry. I quote from the concept note here –

The BANGLADESH FASHION TECHNOLOGY & INNOVATION (BFTI) SUMMIT aims to bridge between the present and the future of the textile and apparel industry in the country through technology and knowledge. The four break-out knowledge sessions will open a knowledge gateway and a networking platform to connect the industry to global technology & knowledge domain. Our speakers will bring in fresh perspectives on contemporary and forward- looking issues, based on the needs of business and shall provide hands-on training, practical knowledge and professional skills through specialized lecture tracks. A plenary session at the outset will set the stage of the day-long discussions.

As an industry professional and a constant learner, I loved the idea and the motivation behind the event.  Even though I had no background of doing events in the past, I jumped at the opportunity because it was aligned with my own thinking. When there is alignment between your passion and the task, the task becomes a joy.

It was decided that the announcement for this event will be made at Bangladesh Denim Expo or Sustainable Apparel Forum, the signature events of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange. I had been doing digital and social media content for them for some time. The date for event announcement was set as 18th May at Sustainable Apparel Forum, and the date for the event itself was set as 8th Nov 2017.

The Identity

In order to make a public announcement, we needed to create the identity for the Event. The logo, the branding and a one -page declaration about the why, what, when and how regarding the event. A logo is a powerful visual communication tool that depicts your event’s purpose, philosophy, theme and just about everything that you event branding stands for. This is a very important step.

In the absence of any specifics on budgets, I reached out to a couple of my graphic design friends asking for free favors. I researched on Pinterest. I tried my own hand at designing some logos. You know it can be fun, if you are creatively inclined. I must warn you, it can be a very creatively satisfying and time-consuming process.  We came up with a lot of logo concepts.

 

Some of the concepts we collected from various designer sources including yours truly are shown below-

None of the above ideas made it to the final cut. The event name was changed as well. The final selection of the logo and event identity was created by a designer from France. The summit was rechristened as Bangladesh Fashionology Summit. Here it goes. This was finally chosen by end of April 2017 and declared in M’s speech during Bangladesh Denim Expo on 17th May 2017.

Bangladesh Fashionology Summit

Bangladesh Fashionology Summit Final Logo

This was a huge burden off my head. I must have wasted a lot of time and effort on just getting the logo right. Lesson learnt from this experience is that one must not compromise on cost or quality when it comes to designing the logo. Go for the BEST graphic designer and do not cut costs. Leave this task to the experts. A great looking logo goes a long way in establishing the brand image and identity and it will be used in every piece of your branding and communication effort ranging from your website, social media, marketing brochures, event stage, branding on items like water bottle, tissue box etc. The logo is omni-present. Make sure this job is done by the BEST available talent.

At this point in time, M sponsored my trip to Germany to visit Texprocess at Messe Frankfurt. This was an eye opener and a huge source of inspiration for me to learn what it takes to make an industry event successful. I made some great contacts at the fair. Met up with loads of interesting people. Learnt a lot about the latest cutting-edge technology and innovation shaping the future of fashion and textile industry. Came back inspired and loaded with ammunition of ideas for starting on the next important job. That of Defining the event content themes.

The Topics and Themes

As soon as I got back from my travel to Frankfurt and Dhaka on 20th May, I immersed myself in the task of deciding upon the event concept and content. What should key conversation themes be for an industry-wide conference focused on technology and innovation?  What are the pressing and compelling topics that the Industry is grappling with?  This involved doing extensive research in terms of what is being talked about already in the industry in terms of disruptions, technology innovations etc. Are there any established events covering this niche? Who are the Best to Benchmark with?

Early on, I was clear about one thing. The tone of this event would be apirational and inspirational.  A visionary peek into the future of things to come in the fashion industry. Not merely what is existing, but what is yet to come.  My research took me to the websites of established events in the space like PI Apparel, SXSW, ShopTalk, Fashiontech Berlin etc.  I researched on what topics are ‘top of the mind’ for fashion industry professionals worldwide.  This is where my own deep domain expertise of having spent more than 18 years in the industry came in handy.  To set the agenda that would be relevant for Bangladesh.  I am a paper and pen person. To collect the data, synthesize it, make sense of it and come up with just 3-4 key themes, I turned to the good old notebook and pen.  This is what my rough draft looked like.  As you can see I came up with 4 key themes. Factory of the Future, On Demand Manufacturing, Eco and Sustainable Innovation, Fashion Tech and Smart Wearables.

research on fashion tech trends

Research notes on merging trends / topics in fashion industry

A further processing and research later, I was able to draw up a list of suggested topics and speakers. I sent them to M for review by 23rd May.  If you are wondering what took so long, to do this research, I must inform you, all this while, the regular work related to Bangladesh Denim Expo, or Sustainable Apparel Forum and the social media content did not stop.  It was multi-tasking being done at its best.

This rough draft of suggested speakers and topics was revised several times.  I estimated a high rejection ratio to begin with. I thought, that out of 10 people we approach, 9 might say no and 1 may agree! With that in mind, I went all out to prepare an extensive list of prospective companies and speakers who would form the right fit for the event and the target audience of apparel industry stakeholders.  Here is a glance at my excel sheet.  Mind you, this is only a portion of the entire list, which ran into more than 70 organizations to reach out to.

Validation of research on Topics / Themes

A research on the internet is not sufficient. We must seek validation from the target audience whether or not the topics/themes we had chosen were truly what the industry needed to hear and learn about. With that objective in mind, we launched a survey to collect data from Industry stakeholders directly.

I created a survey using Typeform.  This is a beautiful tool to create surveys that are attractive and make it easy for people to respond.  We created a 10 questions questionnaire with a multiple choice and rating scale so that it would take less than 2 minutes of a person’s time.  M’s social media clout helped at this point. The link was posted on his social media as well as sent as an email blast to the massive database of industry stakeholders that Bangladesh Apparel Exchange holds. We managed to get 100 responses. Sufficient to gain insights into whether or not we are on the right track. Here are a few snapshots of the data we gathered from the survey.

What we learnt from this survey is that Bangladesh Apparel Professionals were ready for a futuristic fashion-tech event. Many next-generation millennials have high entrepreneurial ambitions and inclinations. From the open-ended qualitative responses we collected, we learnt that a large number of people were keen on learning about online business in apparel, Zara fast fashion model and how Bangladesh can equip to improve turnaround times. Here are few quotable quotes.

  • High-tech is good. But a majority of factories need to streamline basic engineering of manufacturing. Only 10% of industral engineering are being practiced in bangladesh. The base of rmg in general aren’t strong yet. Soon avg. Lead time of an order would be less than 45 days even for value items. Not many can cope up that. Request to focus on the challenges of adopting basics.
  • 1. Discussion on upcoming trends for Woven & Knit (fabrics, colors, moods, patterns etc.)
  • 2. Inspirational directions of the fashion leaders from Bangladesh & abroad.
  • 3. Motivational lecture on fashion entrepreneurship.
  • Application of Internet of Things (IoT) in Apparel Industry and cover people issues such as “Leadership” , Innovation & Creativity before Capital concepts.
  • How reduce the production time, sample development, reduce the shipping time, take over on fastest Zara plan, Synchronization with backward linkage, develop an unique delivery system to global doors to catch the fast fashion and lastly how to adopt with the high tech -technology.
  • Level of preparedness of Managers and of the Organisations in Bangladesh to address fast growth, product innovation, production sophistication, compliance and people’s development.
  • How to Creating Online Market of apparel

Armed with data and validation of our secondary research on topics and themes via a primary research from end users, next was the mammoth task at hand of reaching out to all these organizations and seeking their participation in the fashion-tech event in Bangladesh.  This part deserves another post in itself. So watch out for the part 2 in this series.  See you soon.

 

About the Author:

I am an apparel / fashion industry professional with 16+ years experience of working with industry leaders like J C Penney, Tommy Hilfiger and Li and Fung. In 2008 I quit full time work to raise my girls and became a self-styled corporate trainer for apparel export / manufacturing sector. In 2014 I moved to Singapore and became a qualified Adult Eductor through ACTA certification from WDA Singapore. I worked as consultant / trainer for TAF.tc for a year. I worked as a senior consultant with Mercer Singapore on a project basis on mapping future skills and competencies for Sinapore retail sector. I have invested heavily in developing my digital and social media skills and expertise over the last few years and currenlty provide my hybrid set of skills from apparel/fashion domain expertise and digital and social media prowess to add value to organizations and individuals.

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