“As fashion gets faster, so must innovation”

Fossil Group is using data and insight to fuel innovation, and reinvent itself as a leader in wearable tech. Happen spoke to Damian Fernandez Lamela, the group’s head of analytics, and Francesco Pagano, who looks after its licensed brands in EMEA.

 

Tell us about your backgrounds and roles at Fossil Group.

Damian: I’m the head of analytics at Fossil Group. The objective of my team is to help the business make smarter decisions. We incorporate innovation in the decision-making process and we incorporate consumer insight and feedback into decisions.

Frank: I’m a classically trained CPG marketer and business professional – I come from the world where there were big launches, big budgets, across the full network… those days are over. The way we bring innovation to the market has changed dramatically.

Innovation happens in different ways at different businesses. What does it mean to you?

Damian: For us, innovation comes from incorporating consumer insight into the company’s vision. For that we use different types of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, and we innovate in the way we listen to the consumer to find the type of insights we need.

How has innovation in the fashion industry evolved over the years?

Damian: There’s so much information online now where you can identify trends in the market. We have systems that can track fashion trends in an automated way, and we have crowds of consumers who we run ideas by.

Frank: Fashion has always been very innovative. It’s part of our DNA. But what’s happening today is, there’s an acceleration of that. The faster we can stress test the current core and bring in new stuff that resonates with the future consumer, the better.

Is it a challenge to get people in the fashion world to embrace consumer data and insight?

Frank: Fashion traditionally hasn’t paid much attention to data and consumer insight for a lot of reasons. Historically speaking it has been driven by strong creatives and designers, and the only place for the consumer to participate has been at the end of the process when they see something in the store, and they either decide to buy it or not. That’s changing now.

Damian: Fashion as an industry has historically had a bit of a problem because it’s such a creative industry and the process is so unstructured and ad hoc that it’s a little harder to convince people to go in the direction of data and consumer insight. People would make decisions based on their gut. Over time you build that trust and change the decision process.

"Fashion has always been very innovative. It’s part of our DNA. But what’s happening today is, there’s an acceleration of that. The faster we can stress test the current core and bring in new stuff that resonates with the future consumer, the better."

Francesco Pagano, Fossil

What impact is technology having on fashion?

Damian: Smart watches and connected devices will change the rules of fashion forever. A traditional fashion product in the market used to last longer, but now we’re launching high-tech products, the shelf life is shorter and the development process is very different, so we have to adjust to that reality. If we launch a product this year that has more functionality than the one from last year, the shift in demand is very quick.

How is Fossil Group adapting to this change?

Damian: Fossil Group has a culture that quickly jumps into new trends. It has historically been very keen on incorporating innovation and continuously innovating and disrupting. We shifted to wearables smartly and quickly and the consumer is responding positively.

Frank: There’s always an element of speed that’s ingrained in the DNA of all fashion houses. I think that helps, as we go into new technologies.

Where do you see the future of fashion going?

Frank: I see three big trends. The first is personalisation. The eighties, where we were all wearing the same t-shirt the same way, and your identity came from belonging to that group of kids, is over. The next is the fact that everything is public, everything is transparent, and I have to talk to my audience and understand and co-create with them. I have to accept the fact that what I bring forward is the product of a common effort. Technology and social media will bring more and more this sense of full transparency. The third is lean and fast operations. Fashion has very fast ways of working, but it’s nothing compared to how fast we need to be in the future.

Damian: The challenge going forward is how we find the right balance between technology and fashion, so people can identify themselves with a particular product and feel they’re communicating their personality, but at the same time provide the right functionality for them to better their life, connect with others and make their life easier.