An unusual sight greeted us when we walked into General Assembly on Saturday: a large chalk mural of Coco Chanel. “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable,” read a quote from the designer who’d probably have more right to call herself a “disruptor” than most of the yahoos out in Silicon Valley.
“For me, the most exciting [development] is 3D printing, in terms of–if you can imagine getting custom measurements and printing your own garment, or your own shoe, or designer licensing a shape then you can download and print it,” speculated designer Rebecca Minkoff before she breezed out the door to keep her busy Fashion Week schedule.
Glamour and the Council of Fashion Designers of America had taken over the coworking space for Dressed to Code, a hackathon pegged to Fashion Week, and Ms. Minkoff had stopped by to judge the entries. “A lot of the people that presented have a lot of great ideas, and if they can pull it off, they’re all things that someone’s going to want to use.”
“That’s exciting as a designer, to know that somebody’s thinking about the future 20 years from now,” she added.
Unlike so many hackathons, the room was packed with women. Leather jackets and chic blazers outnumbered the hoodies, though we did spot t-shirts repping for both Microsoft and Gilt Tech. One attendee was practically tip-toeing in her platforms, trying to minimize the echoing clip-clop of hard-soled heels on wooden floors that were clearly installed with Converses in mind.
When the clock struck 6 and it was time for demos, attendees debuted ideas like Weather to Wear, which delivered a Poncho-like custom weather report complete with clothing recommendations. The rest of the judges seemed a tough crowd, though. “I’m really skeptical,” said Deena Varshavskaya whose shopping startup Wanelo just surpassed 10 million members. “I think our space is incredibly noisy.”
“We’re working on some things that are very similar to the ideas we’ve heard here today, so that was very fun,” she said, but “I know how difficult it is.”
“The fashion industry is the second most wasteful industry after oil,” observed Vine cofounder Rus Yusupov. “Let’s just be real–the environment is hurting because of fashion. Technology can solve that.”
That sentiment likely explains the choice of first-place winner: Thrifter, an app allowing users to buy and sell used clothing. For their troubles they got cash and meetings with the mag and Conde Nast’s head of strategy and corporate development, plus CFDA mentoring.
In second was Stylr, a local shopping discovery app for Google Glass (naturally!), while third place went to Glamour 360 Love, a futuristic 3D body-measuring app. “If you can actually make it work, I think there will be an opportunity,” said Ms. Varshavskaya.
“There is this misconception that the tech world is filled with really macho guys and it’s male-dominated industry, and women really don’t have a place,” said Mr. Yusupov. “And I think this is event, what happened here today, has just proved everyone wrong.”
“I’m looking forward to seeing the next big tech innovation startup come from a team of girls,” he added.
As the event broke up, we watched a man in a smart denim jacket holding a trophy, fingers to his temple fiddling with his Glass.