Zalando’s Director of Engineering on AI and the future of fashion

Image result for Zalando’s Director of Engineering on AI and the future of fashionLast week’s TNW Conference featured an amazing lineup of speakers, all sharing their unique knowledge and insights into the future of tech. A prominent theme this year was machine learning and artificial intelligence — namely, how industries can harness its power.

Stacia Carr, Director of Engineering at Zalando, gave an inspiring keynote about how she integrates this tech into her work.

As the fashion industry moves more and more online, customers want to know if the clothes they’re ordering will fit. Together with her team, Carr uses machine learning to make intelligent predictions on variations in size across the industry. We asked her more about her background, how she got to where she is today, and what the future holds:

You graduated from Berklee College of Music and went on to work in the music industry for a while. How did the transition towards engineering happen and what inspired the change?

For me the intellectual part of the transition was really natural — music is math — from math to computer science – and really overall, thinking in abstract concepts for system design is very similar to composition. Studying computer science felt really familiar and exciting to me. 

The inspiration for the shift was also very natural. I was at Berklee in the early ’90s just as affordable digital recording technologies were hitting the market. It was so obvious to me that with a dial-up modem and the possibility of making high quality recordings at home, suddenly we’re living in a world where one didn’t need to impress a record label in New York or LA to invest in a musician’s work.

The musician could take their future into their own hands. I wanted to make this happen so I started working in online music distribution startups where I could combine newly acquired programming skills with my music background. 

The TNW2020 presale is live

Get 50% off tickets if you buy now. Do iiiit.

GET DEAL

You left San Francisco, the epicenter of tech entrepreneurship and innovation, for Berlin. What was the potential you saw in Europe and in Zalando in particular?

I loved working and living in San Francisco, particularly during the late ’90s and early 2000s. This was an incredible time of change, possibility, and people with very diverse backgrounds coming together to explore the potential of the internet with a lot of genuine curiosity and heartfelt desire to shape the future.   

What I experienced over the subsequent 15 years was an increased focus on creating wealth and development of products that seemed to benefit smaller numbers of people. I saw moving to Europe as a way to disrupt my personal and professional life trajectory.

I wanted to live in Europe since I was a teenager, but I had no idea what it would be like to work here. So the move was a way to push myself way out of my comfort zone and at the same time realize an important dream. 

Working at Zalando represented an opportunity to take my experience, share it with others, and support the development of the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

Zalando’s ambition felt very familiar to me and from my perspective the fashion industry is about where the music industry was when I first started working in the mid ’90s — ripe for disruption, innovation, and democratization through the possibility of digital automation. 

In interviews, you’re vocal about the need for more diversity in tech. Is there anything you wish you had known at the start of your journey as a woman in engineering?

My time at Berklee left me well prepared for working in a male dominated industry; while I was there, the male to female ratio was 9 to 1. If I could have spoken to my younger self both in music and in tech I would love to say, “don’t be fooled, they sound like they know what they’re talking about, but they have just as many questions as you do.”

Is leadership something that came naturally to you? What are the biggest challenges of being a leader of an engineering team?

Yes, I was the kid roping the neighborhood kids into building a lemonade stand or writing a local newspaper together. I love bringing people together to work as a team — the human connection and the possibility of creating something big together is exciting and personally fulfilling.    

When you lead engineers, technical folks, or just really smart people, you have an inherent responsibility to create a container for them to thrive that is also deeply connected to value creation for customers and business. It’s really easy for individuals to get caught up in their own growth ambition and lose sight of the customer or business objective. It’s your job to gently and thoughtfully reset that focus. 

Stacia Carr on stage at TNW Conference 2019 in Amsterdam

People don’t usually think about fashion as a tech-driven industry. What are the most exciting innovations we should be looking out for?

A lot of 3D is coming our way in the fashion world. As more and more fashion purchases move online, we as an industry need to turn to 3D technologies to be able to provide the customer with the right fit, ensuring a more sustainable experience for everyone.

Customers should be looking out for 3D fitting rooms, even more personalized recommendations, and inspiration in the form of outfits and collections to suit all occasions. Online shopping experiences are becoming increasingly personalized, making use of vast amounts of data and technologies such as machine learning to show that they know the customer better than anyone else.

At your role in Zalando, you’re innovating sizing with machine learning. What other areas of the fashion industry could benefit from this technology? Where do you see AI in fashion heading to in the future?

AI in fashion is, on the one hand, about creating a personalized experience for customers. Machine learning helps us to analyze the very personal nature of fashion and teach an algorithm what makes a good outfit, for example, allowing us to scale inspiration for the benefit of all our customers.

On the other hand, AI also offers sustainability. Using machine learning, we’ll be able to produce on demand, design in 3D, and reduce the type of wastage which has become commonplace with mass-produced clothing. It’s a very exciting time to be working in fashion!

[“source=thenextweb”]

The founders of Aje talk opening MBFWA, connecting through fashion and the future of their label

Everything you need to know ahead of MBFWA.

Edwina Forest and Adrian Norris, the co-founders of Australian fashion label Aje, have undeniably cemented their brand as one to watch. Worn by the likes of Alessandra Ambrosio, Shay Mitchell and Isabel Lucas, Aje has become a go-to for universally flattering and feminine silhouettes that transcend seasonal fads and fleeting trends.

As such, it comes as no surprise that Aje has been selected to open Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia 2019 with the presentation of its resort 2020 collection. Following in the footsteps of fellow ‘Mercedes Benz Presents’ designers Camilla & Marc (2018), Dion Lee (2017) and Toni Maticevski (2016), the label will kick off the week-long festivities on May 12 at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

Proud to be embarking on the label’s second decade by headlining Australian fashion week, Norris said that the honour is “a statement of recognition for our brand, but also for our loyal clients, many of whom have been with us for 11 years, and who continue to grow along this journey with us.”

“We always seek to offer them something truly unique,” he added. “And we look forward to making this a milestone moment with them in mind.”

Speaking with Vogue, Forest teased the highly-anticipated resort collection, explaining that the label will continue to “further acknowledge and celebrate the duality inside us all and to salute the diversity and contrast within this extraordinary land we call home.”

“With this opportunity we want to really connect with hearts and tell our story in the most powerful way yet,” said Norris, who went on to reveal that the collection was in part inspired by the rawness of the Australian coastline.

When quizzed on where the future of the label lies, the co-founders and creatives shared that they intend for 2019 to be somewhat of a turning point for Aje, with the brand looking to make a concerted effort to “reach out and touch the hearts of like-minded women, at home and around the world.”

Crediting their success to their considered and strategic approach, together with their ability to never look back, it’s easy to see how Aje has managed to reach the milestone that is opening MBFWA in just 11 short years.

 

[“source=vogue”]

 

Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future

Futuristic city on water

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

“A digital twin is a virtual representation of physical buildings and assets but connected to all the data and information around those assets, so that machine learning and AI algorithms can be applied to them to help them operate more efficiently,” explains Michael Jansen, chief executive of Cityzenith, the firm behind the Smart World Pro simulation platform.

Take Singapore as an example.

View of Singapore across the bayImage copyrightNRF SINGAPORE
Image captionThe real Singapore has been faithfully recreated in virtual form
Virtual view across the bayImage copyrightNRF SINGAPORE
Image captionPlanners now have a data-rich simulation of the city to interact with

This island state, sitting at the foot of the Malaysian peninsula with a population of six million people, has developed a virtual digital twin of the entire city using software developed by French firm Dassault Systemes.

“Virtual Singapore is a 3D digital twin of Singapore built on topographical as well as real-time, dynamic data,” explains George Loh, progammes director for the city’s National Research Foundation (NRF), a department within the prime minister’s office.

“It will be the country’s authoritative platform that can be used by urban planners to simulate the testing of innovative solutions in a virtual environment.”

In addition to the usual map and terrain data, the platform incorporates real-time traffic, demographic and climate information, says Mr Loh, giving planners the ability to engage in “virtual experimentation”.

“For example, we can plan barrier-free routes for disabled and elderly people,” he says.

Bernard Charles, Dassault Systemes’ chief executive, says the addition of real-time data from multiple sources facilitates joined-up, holistic thinking.

Virtual map of driverless cars around SingaporeImage copyrightNRF SINGAPORE
Image captionThe city envisages Virtual Singapore being used by citizens to locate driverless cars for hire

“The problem is that when we decide about the evolution of a city we are in some way blind. You have the urban view of it – a map – you decide to put a building here, but another agency has to think about transport, another agency has to think about commercial use and flats for people.

“The creation of one thing changes so many other things – the flow and life of citizens.”

The firm’s 3DExperience platform gives planners and designers “a global overview” they’ve never had before, explains Mr Charles.

Dassault’s software, which incorporates calculations that simulate the flow of a fluid, is used to design most F1 cars and aeroplanes, says Mr Charles, and this capability is useful for understanding wind flow around buildings, through streets and green spaces.

Laptop showing wind flow through SingaporeImage copyrightNRF
Image captionThe software can model wind flow through built up areas

“If some parts of a city are too windy and cold, no-one will like to go there,” he says.

Tracking people’s movements through a city using anonymised mobile phone and transport GPS data can help authorities spot bottlenecks and heat maps as the day progresses, hopefully leading to smarter, more integrated transport and traffic management systems.

“You can look at all ‘what if’ scenarios, so if we ask the right question we can change the city, the world,” concludes Mr Charles.

  • Is India failing to build its newest state capital?

In the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, a brand new $6.5bn “smart city” called Amaravati has been planned since 2015, but has been mired in controversy amid disagreements over the designs and criticism of its environmental impact.

But last year Foster + Partners, the global architecture and engineering firm, and Surbana Jurong, the Asian urban and infrastructure consultancy, were chosen to take on the huge task.

And Chicago-based Cityzenith is providing the single “command and control” digital platform for the entire project.

Map showing aerial view of city designImage copyrightCITYZENITH
Image captionCityzenith’s Smart World Pro platform gives a real-time simulation of the entire Amaravati city project

IoT sensors will monitor construction progress in real time, says Mr Jansen, and the software will integrate all the designs from the 30 or so design consultants already involved in the first phase of the project.

“The portal will simulate the impact of these proposed buildings before anyone even breaks ground,” he says, “and these simulations will adjust to real-time changes.”

The platform can incorporate more than a thousand datasets, says Mr Jansen, and integrate all the various design and planning tools the designers and contractors use.

The city, which will eventually be home to 3.5 million people, will be hot and humid, experiencing temperatures approaching 50C at times, so simulating how buildings will cope with the climate will be crucial, says Mr Jansen.

Presentational grey line

More Technology of Business

  • The once homeless man bringing web access to the Bronx
  • The drone pilot whose maps are saving lives in Zanzibar
  • Can a Leona Lewis story really help you sleep at night?
  • Tech trends 2019: ‘The end of truth as we know it?’
  • ‘Intimacy plus’: Is that what makes podcasts so popular?
Presentational grey line

One large Norwegian engineering consultancy, Norconsult, is even combining simulation software with gaming to help improve its designs.

When working on a large rail tunnel project in Norway, the firm developed a virtual reality game to involve train drivers in the design of the signalling system. The drivers operated a virtual train and “drove” it through the tunnel, flagging up any issues with the proposed position of the signals.

Screengrab from VR train cockpitImage copyrightNORCONSULT
Image captionTrain drivers “drove” a virtual train through the tunnel to test the positions of the signals

“They could change weather conditions, the speed and so on,” says Thomas Angeltveit, who worked on the project. “It feels real, so it is much easier for them to interact.”

“We had a lot of comments, so we were able to change the design and make a lot of adjustments.”

Changing the design before construction begins obviously saves money in the long-term.

Digital twin simulation software is a fast-growing business, with firms such as Siemens, Microsoft and GE joining Dassault Systemes and Cityzenith as lead practitioners.

Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2021 half of large industrial companies will use digital twins and estimates that those that do could save up to 25% in operational running costs as a result.

[“source=bbc”]

The Moscow Seven: Meet Russia’s Future Fashion Stars

In times of strife and struggle, Russia has always placed its biggest trust in human resources. “We’re rich in minerals and minds,” goes an old saying. While the population of the world’s largest (by territory) nation has steadily declined since independence in 1991, recent years have marked a potential reversal of fortunes with ‎0.05% growth recorded in 2017. The government aims to prevent the dreaded brain drain, but it’s the creative industries that often are the most flexible to adapt to new challenges.

One of Russia’s leading fashion designers Igor Gulyaev closed MBFW Russia with a blockbuster show inclusive of his Insta-famous cat!Courtesy of MBFW Russia

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Russia just took place in Moscow in October 13-17. Its Fashion Futurum program is an example of successful strategic support for emergent talent within a specific economic sector. Last year, the organizing committee co-launched FashionNet as part of the National Technology Initiative to boost domestic apparel market coverage up to 70% by 2035. While all eyes were on the fashion capital’s brightest stars Yasya Minochkina, Pirosmani, Artem Shumov, Alena Akhmadullina and Igor Gulyaev, we decided to spend time with the participants of the Fashion Futurum Accelerator, a program that helps promising designers set up a business from scratch. These future stars spend the past couple months in an intense mentorship program in Moscow working alongside established brand managers, buyers, investors and consultants to perfect their vision and set up sustainable production and retail channels. In between the shows, I asked them what participation in the Accelerator meant for them as they prepared to develop and present their full debut collections next season as part of the platform.

[“source=forbes]

How Technology Could Revolutionize Online Shopping In The Near Future

GettyGetty

How often are you satisfied with the size and fit of your online purchases? In the past few years, return rates for clothing purchased online have reached close to 40%. In a poll reported on by BBC, 56% of respondents who purchased clothing online six months prior to May 2016 said they had returned at least one item. Apparel Magazine reports that 70% of all online clothing returns are caused by problems with fit.

In the U.S., online apparel sales accounted for more than 25% of overall apparel sales in 2017. But why do people shop online even though they have to return clothing that does not fit? How many more people would shop online if they could be certain about fit and size?

As retailers play with free delivery and free returns even if it hurts their business, the cost of returns continues to grow along with the rate of returns. Currently, each order sent back costs retailers from $3 to $12.

The number of returned goods also has a negative impact on the environment. The destruction of unsold and returned garments, especially in the luxury sector, has caused people to ask questions. The fashion industry is known as one of the largest polluters in the world.

Based on my research into the struggles of today’s retailers and what I’ve learned founding a company that develops 3D body modeling technology, I believe that solving fit problems could result in growth in the number of online shoppers, reduced returns and less waste. Thankfully, I’ve been observing innovations coming out of the technology sector that could help make significant progress in solving this industrywide issue.

[“source=forbes]