Paris has always been an unquestionable capital of haute couture and exceptional craftsmanship. It’s home to several centuries-old ‘maisons’, as the luxury brands like to call themselves.
But it seems like Paris has been losing, in particular against London, in terms of attracting and retaining new talent. Just take a look at the list of designers shortlisted for the last LVMH Prize (7 designers are based in London and only 2 in Paris).
A report written few years ago by Lynne Cohen Solal brought to light some of the weak points in the system of education, support and innovation in the French fashion industry. Industry that accounts for 700,000 employed (more than in the automotive sector) but somehow fails to attract public attention and support corresponding to its economic weight.
But it looks like Paris, la belle dormante, is finally waking up. It is realizing that the world is moving faster and faster and if it does not jump on the innovation wagon it may lose in the long term.
Already few years ago the city decided to put in place a network of structures and funds to support digital startups. The objective is to make Paris the capital of the French Tech. This boosted the technology scene, which has also some implications on fashion.
The digital revolution did not spare the fashion industry: it had and will have a profound impact on the way it produces, designs and sells products.
So has Paris decided to become the new fashion innovation hotspot?
Two recent initiatives seem to confirm that. Last week both ANDAM, Association Nationale pour le Développement des Arts de la Mode and LVMH, global luxury powerhorse launched their own Innovation Prizes.
Created in 1989, ANDAM has a longstanding tradition in identifying and supporting talented designers. Through the three existing prizes (the Fashion Award, the First Collections Prize and the Fashion Accessories Prize) ANDAM has supported amazing talents such as Anthony Vacarello, Julien David, Iris van Herpen or the late Richard Nichols. In 2016 the Grand Prix went to Wanda Nylon, a new, nonconformist label with underground aesthetics.
The new ANDAM Innovation Prize will support designers, entrepreneurs or start-ups, offering creative, innovative and technological solutions in the field of fashion design, production and distribution. In their projects they will have to consider the three key parts of a sustainable business: the economic, environmental and social issues. The competition is open to French and international candidates however they will have to develop their project in France.
The scope of competition is quite large and includes innovation in materials, in manufacturing and design processes (3D scanning, 3D printing, generative algorithms) as well as related to retail and marketing, also in the area of data collection and analytics as well as artificial intelligence.
The winner will take home EUR 30,000 and will receive one-year of mentoring to help her/him develop adequate structure and get access to other relevant support, including incubation and finance. Deadline for applying is 31 March.
Another announcement came from LVMH launching its own innovation award. Any startup whose business has a connection with LVMH Group sectors and the issues they address is eligible to apply. Contrary to ANDAM, the LVMH award winner will not receive a financial prize but will be invited to meet with LVMH Group management and teams in charge of private equity investments to discuss potential relationship with the Group and its brands. Clearly LVMH is looking for some interesting solutions that the Group could take up and develop within their business. This is nothing new, many big companies struggle to remain agile and despite having big internal innovation departments fail to deliver innovative solutions. Working with startups can address this problem and can be beneficial to the startups that often struggle to develop their interesting ideas on their own.
In June LVMH in collaboration with Viva Technology will also host the Luxury Lab, a 500-square-meter space dedicated entirely to the luxury industry. Last year during the Viva Technology show it welcomed some 50 innovative start-ups working on solutions that can be applied in the luxury sector. They included data analytics, digital ecommerce and marketing solutions, but also startups making bicycles, cork or leather products. The startups that will be shortlisted for the Innovation Award (32 in total) will be showcased in the LVMH Lab during the 2017 edition of Viva Technology in Paris.
These two new initiatives, seen also in the context of the approaching Brexit, mean that Paris is stepping up the game. Et ça, on aime.
Photos: ANDAM, LVMH