Prize-winning fashion designer Natalia Allen, named as one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative, has become known for pioneering wearable technology, but not in ways the retail or technology industries may think. The Manhattan-based designer and her clothing company gained notoriety for its smart textiles manufacturing process, a growing category of wearable technology when it comes to fashion.
Allen, who has worked with global brands like Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Dupont, has done everything from designing proprietary dye processes to creating technical outerwear that utilizes smart textiles and stitchless sewing techniques.
Her goal of making retail manufacturing smarter, more sustainable and wearable is disrupting the fashion industry. Now she’s now taking on a new challenge: shedding light on and addressing the style challenges of modern women—a wealthy, affluent multiethnic consumer group that are quickly becoming lost in brands’ marketing mix.
PSFK: Why do you feel fashion designers treat females consumers (women over 30 but under 55) as a forgotten market even though they have enormous spending power?
Natalia Allen: I am no anthropologist but the fashion industry is peculiar. The culture breeds insecurity and lacks a vision for modern women.
What are some of the key lifestyle that designers should take into consideration when designing apparel for these women?
Balance. Modern women have multi-faceted lives, modern clothes must address a lifestyle that includes work, family, sport and travel. When designing I explore that delicate interplay of beauty, utility and versatility.
What are three things that you’ve learned through the success of your line that surprised you about this consumer group?
Many large retailers said that women would not understand our innovation story or value the simplicity of design. However, when introduced nationwide, the collection was a hit and difficult to keep in stock.
How did this affect the way you marketed to them? Did you change your e-commerce process, your in-person sales process?
My team and I disregarded the doubters because we had evidence and a strong conviction that women would choose a product that they are attracted to which also addresses their lifestyle and does so in a manner that reflects their values.
Working with your clients, you pay a lot of attention to developing relationships with them as part of your customer service process, why is this important?
White-glove service is key. When it comes to fashion, the clothes we wear are personal. To our clientele, technology is a means, not an end. The Natalia Allen brand utilizes technology comprehensively but also understand that it exists to serve people. And people should be treated respectfully and addressed kindly.
What are the biggest misconceptions of “wearable technology”?
Generally speaking, wearable technology is in its infancy. With the exception of a few products focused on health most of the wearable applications are a gimmick. Great design, like great technology, should simply and make more beautiful the object and experience.
How can retailers learn to connect innovations and “tech” to the wearer’s lifestyle instead of focusing on tech alone?
Assume the client is smart. Buzz lasts for a moment but meaningful innovation will endure. It will build trust, respect and loyalty with the global class of well-educated modern women.