FASHION TECH INSIGHTS: MODELAB
Founded and edited by Fabrice Jonas, Paris-based publication Modelab documents the news and developments about the all-the-more rising fashion-tech industry through the namesake online- and quarterly-printed magazine and Youtube channel. Emerging startups and entrepreneurs, recycling, wearables, new methods of garment production, new distribution channels and media are at the core of the publication’s focus and the team’s interest, who through full-length interviews and features document the metamorphosis of the fashion world. We caught up with Jonas to discuss the developments in fashion tech, particularly in France, his interest in startups and future goals for ModeLab.
What is your background and what led you to establish Modelab?
Initially, I studied psychology, but couldn’t find a job after my master. So, I decided to become a civil servant. I worked for my city hall for ten years, but it was boring. I quit, and moved to Barcelona where I discovered an incredible city who changed my life forever. There, I decided to dedicate myself to my real passion: fashion. I came back to France a year later to create Modelab, the first publication about fashion tech – it was about three years ago.
Reading your “About” section, I understand that you consider fashion tech sustainable; in what ways do you believe it contributes to society and the environment?
I’m a huge fan of Li Edelkoort; her manifesto, “Anti_Fashion,” could summarize my way of thinking. Today, society is all about consumption – it has gone crazy, especially in fashion. Fast fashion may offer very low prices, but fashion has lost its true value: how is it even possible that people buy clothes every week? People seem to forget the environmental disaster this implies: according to Greenpeace, the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry. Maybe it’s time to slow down, change our mindsets and lifestyles towards a more responsible consumption.
I always thought that it was young people who fashion tech particularly appealed to, but I read the interviews of Annick Jehanne and Jacques Leroux who are actively involved in the field. I would really like to hear your point of view on what fashion veterans can offer and the ways they can work with the new generation.
I love your question; fashion veterans have generally an accurate vision about fashion. Young people are very well-connected and live with intensity every moment. Veterans are more like philosophers; they take stance to analyze fashion tech with a neutral point of view. I believe they could have a big role in the structuring of the emerging fashion-tech system.
How would you describe the fashion tech industry in France? I read a related event, Les FashionTechDays de Roubaix, was recently introduced. Do you see it going global any time soon?
In France, the fashion-tech industry could be described as a hive. It may not be well-organized (even if it’s changing slowly), but we collaborate with people all around the world on different projects, and most importantly we’re passionate.
FashionTechDays was pioneering in France, in the sense that it brought together designers, coders, startups with the fashion industry. Year after year, it’s growing fast. And, for the next session, the organization wants to expand it even more.
What kind of content do you reserve for the print edition of Modelab? How much have you – and the industry – grown since your first issue?
At the beginning, our team was quite small – only three people. Today, twenty people collaborate regularly on Modelab. We’re a kind of a fashion-tech factory (as seen by Andy Warhol) with people of different competences working together on a collective project.
Two years ago, the fashion-tech industry was only focused on B2B. And now, especially in the Silicon Valley, money gets massively invested in fashion-tech projects. Historical brands team up with digital brands resulting in collaborations, as the Project Jacquard of Google.
You recently started a collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum in New York. What, in your opinion, made you stand out in order to attract such an affiliation? Are you strategically working to build your stockists network or you let it happen spontaneously?
I strongly believe in paper and materiality. Nowadays, everybody is talking about digital. It’s great, I think, but materiality is important as well. People like to have a printed magazine, an object that they can touch and keep. Now, we want to develop collaborations with museums because we try to make a connection between fashion and the arts.
An entire section on your website serves as a startup directory. Could you elaborate on this decision?
When we launched our website, we were astonished to discover that no one had already enlisted the French fashion-tech startups. We believe that to understand an ecosystem, you have to draw a map. The best way to showcase this ecosystem was to create a startup directory.
How is your webzine developing?
Now, we only focus on editorial aspects. But we also started introducing video coverage of fashion events, like the Wear It Festival in Berlin. You can watch our videos on our Youtube Channel.
What are your plans for your publication for 2017?
Our next print magazine will be launched on July 7; this issue will be dedicated to Netherlands. In September, we’ll have a stand during the Who’s Next festival. And, on September 19, we’ll organize a party in Paris to celebrate the launch of our new issue.