The once separate worlds of fashion and technology, are colliding faster than the IPhone 6’s A8. As we continue to see wearables in Fashion Week, Fashion Tech Demo Days, and the presence of fashion startups in the global market, it’s safe to say the fashion industry has been disrupted.
As a student at Stanford who is intrigued by the world of fashion, but also involved in areas of study such as Computer Science, and Psychology, I had a few questions of my own, pertaining to the opportunities, or potential lack thereof in fashion startups.
Irene Yuan, a member of the Harvard Class of ’09, and a graduate of the Stanford GSB, dressed in the chicest of manners, spoke at the SWIB Fashion & Technology Panel last Winter, and as far as I was concerned, she was tapped in. Yuan shared with the audience of twenty odd women her stance on fashion and technology, her thoughts on the future of fashion startups, and of course, Cuyana- the luxurious fashion startup she works for as the VP of Marketing. Post-panel, I decided to make her acquaintance, and glean a bit more information.
Yuan was impressive. Between college and business school, she worked in advertising, and was always passionate about fashion. She entered the GSB, as an entrepreneur, and knew what she wanted. With a clear vision to move into fashion, and specifically to work in marketing for a brand, she joined Cuyana after graduating in 2013. Although Yuan was introduced to Cuyana by a classmate, she explains that there are plenty of other ways to become involved in the world of fashion.
"Options for pursuing fashion are more readily available than ever for Stanford students because of the proliferation of Fashion & Tech companies in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley." Yuan recommends pursuing an internship at one of these companies, in whatever capacity to absorb and learn as much as you can. “Once you have some experience and relevant names on your resume, you can slowly filter and decide exactly what you want to do.”
Each route, whether it be via traditional fashion, or a startup you’ll face challenges along the way. Yuan explains that “traditional fashion is tough because of the low salary and because it's often limited to certain cities. However, the uprising of fashion/tech and e-commerce, especially in the Bay Area, offers better options and more flexibility in terms of lifestyle.”
Yuan’s outlook is current, and insightful. She sees the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship and technology becoming far more apparent and relevant as the online experience is no longer separate from the fashion experience. This physically manifests itself in every way, from brands advertising to researching what you want to buy to actually buying to giving reviews to re-selling items… She explains that “offline will never completely go away but it's all about omni-channel now, and leveraging technology in the best possible, most innovative way to create a seamless shopping experience.”
Stanford provides ample opportunity to mix and match, peruse and cruise. Yuan believes that fashion/retail is as much a viable professional path after graduation as consulting, investment banking, etc. The backing of the school is always helpful, though it should be up to individuals/organizations to lead and apply for resources and garner support.
Stanford was the birthplace of Cuyana, Tieks, Chubbies and many more companies that have made names for themselves. As Stanford continues to support the arts, and fashion, there are numerous ways to become involved, and get your foot in the door.
As it turns out, although we don’t attend a pre-professional institution, entering the fashion industry, becoming successful and making an impact is possible. The shift in the fashion industry has given Stanford students an edge, an entryway perhaps, to make a mark in the world of fashion, startups and technology.
At the end of our conversation Yuan shares some of the most valuable advice she has received… “be confident and persistent - just because you don't have the traditional fashion background doesn't make you any less qualified to work in the industry. As long as you're smart, driven, and passionate”
Be sure to check out CUYANA, and their Winter 2014 Collection: http://www.cuyana.com.
By: Ameeqa Ali