There’s no denying that technology plays a significant part in everyday life. Last year, The Business of Fashion predicted a number of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and Contactless Shopping among others were going to revolutionise how consumers purchase fashion products.
A year on and we already see development in this sector. This innovation is not only improving retail experiences, but it’s also helping change production methods throughout the industry to encourage sustainability across the sector.
To give you a little insight, we recently chatted to Tim Williams, co-founder of fashion tech company YR on his journey into the industry and why it’s an exciting time for aspiring creatives and entrepreneurs.
The YR concept
YR is the world’s leading customisation company, which provides live, personalised printing experiences to global fashion retailers such as DKNY, Levi, Reebok and L’Oreal to name a few. In a nutshell, users can create their own designs and print on anything from trainers, t-shirts and accessories. School friends Tim Williams and Tom Logan launched the business in 2013 and now have offices in Tokyo, New York, London and LA.
Tim, please give us an insight into your creative background
I have always been slightly creative, if not in an artistic way. But really my background is tech with a soft spot for streetwear.
How did you get into fashion tech?
My business partner and I, Tom, set up a business some years ago to make exciting, artistic, interactive pieces for events and retail. Tom is a digital artist and created incredible project-based works in Bristol. We decided to try and commercialise that a little and some of our main clients were fashion and sportswear brands, so we got into fashion tech purely by accident.
Tell us the main influences for starting YR?
We saw a trend for large, bold prints on t-shirts, socks and sweatshirts and loved how the patterns could be created. Combined with some clever programming, we created YR STORE the world’s first all-over print store. Customers could come in and create weird and wonderful designs in minutes and then see them printed live. The influence really was that it was exciting, it hadn’t been done before, and we knew we could do something incredible.
What has been the most challenging aspect when bringing YR into the industry?
Making money! Actually launching the business was straight forward on a tight budget – we even got the store just off Carnaby Street for no cost for seven weeks. We had a super engaged team and great motivation, so I am still super proud of our first store. But, making money was much harder. We could make a small amount from the stores, but it was super hard work for little return and not highly scalable. It took many pivots and shapeshifting to get to where we are today.
Do you think there are enough opportunities for emerging brands to enter this industry?
I actually think it’s a great time to start a genuinely different brand. Fashion tech seems to be well funded, and the world has moved on from being obsessed with apps to focussing on technology and the underlying tech that powers apps and websites. I think there are still some opportunities for brands, and the rate of change and growth potential in fashion has never been higher in my opinion.
What are the key trends in fashion and wearable tech that’ll we’ll see in the next five years?
Manufacturing on demand, printing or embellishing on demand, anything on demand – fashion will morph at a very high speed into a sleeker, environmentally aware and leaner business. This means the end customer might see fabulous new production techniques or the ability to change their existing clothes. It’s an exciting time for sure.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers and creatives looking to enter the fashion tech sector?
Personally, I would be looking to find solutions to sustainability, it seems such an obvious area that the time is finally right for growth. Consumers want to be less wasteful, so my advice is to ensure that you have considered the sustainability of your idea or product. For us, we had help from the British Library Business and IP Centre, a wonderful resource to help you start your business and all for no fee.
What is your hope for the future of the YR and the fashion tech sector?
YR want to lead the world in on-demand production of apparel and accessories, and we intend to be as bold as needed to make that come true. My hope for the sector is to reduce waste, increase reusage and make shopping more fun. It is exciting to instigate change, and I hope YR will be at the forefront of change across consumer experience and supply chain. We plan to grow our team in 2019 across our five global offices, we are also launching some major new projects in the next few months that should help shape our business. The future of fashion tech is so exciting I don’t think we have even scratched the surface!
British Style Society would like to thank Tim for chatting with us and giving us an insight into fashion tech. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for this innovative sector.