What you missed at Gerber Technology’s annual conference
It was a meeting of the minds at Gerber Technology’s 2019 Ideation conference, held this year in the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, New York City.
“We’re truly gratified with the response that we have seen for our event,” said Mohit Uberoi, chief executive officer of Gerber Technology. “We have more than 350 attendees at this event in New York City, 125 companies represented here to share and learn.”
The annual conference kicked off with special news this year: the opening of the company’s Innovation Center in NYC.
Ketty Pillet, Gerber’s vice president of marketing and one of the primary forces behind the Innovation Center, said that she was excited to show the space to this year’s attendees.
“We wanted to be an experience, to have all the industry coming together — brands, retailers, manufacturers, schools, their students, the associations and our partners, too,” Pillet said. “We want to bring everybody into the place and to work — to ideate, you could say also — to work together on the future of the industry, the future of technology.”
Ideation 2019 guests had the opportunity to visit the Innovation Center and design their own garments, which could then be digitally printed, cut out and sewn together before their eyes.
“We created this app so that the visitors can select their body type, they can enter their measurements … they can say well usually I wear a medium, small or large, so they have an idea,” explain Pillet. “They can choose their fabric, they can choose their prints from a selection of prints, so they can customize their garment. For example: long sleeve, short sleeve, the dress to be more straight or flare or longer or shorter or so on. [They] completely customize the garment and then make it produced [sic] immediately.”
The full integration of the manufacturing process was stressed by speakers throughout the conference.
“The consumer today expects a connected experience,” said Karsten Newbury, chief strategy and digital officer for Gerber. “Today, a new trend could happen anytime, from anywhere, from one of the social media influencers that have huge followings, and determine what we wear.”
Fast-paced production and agility is what is required to stay on top of trends, Pillet agreed.
“The consumer is really taking the power somehow,” she said. “These people are really having the power, and brands, manufacturers, retailers, they just need to adapt and offer the product they want, when they want it and how they want it. So what that means for them is it is a complete change of process. The supply chain cannot be the same.”
Keynote speaker and co-founder of Rent the Runway Jenny Fleiss raised the topic of the importance of speed and convenience for consumers.
“Whereas 10 years ago, two-day shipping was like, wow, that was something, it’s table space now,” Fleiss said in her address to the crowd. “So I feel like there’s this kind of ante that’s up for brands to compete for even more intense — same day, same hour, 30-minute shipping.”
In reference to this race for speed and convenience, Pillet argued that smaller companies may have a greater ability to adjust accordingly.
“Having the technology, I would say, is somehow the easiest part, but you need to review your processes, the way you work,” she said. “It is easier when you are a smaller, flexible, more agile company. So I would say it is also about the mindset of the company and the willingness of the leadership team to push things.”
Another trend discussed by Fleiss was the growing demand for what she called “experiential commerce.” In addition to efficiency (“smarter” shopping) and personalization, she said, today’s consumers want to connect with brands in ways that feel meaningful.
“When consumers are spending time on something, its not enough for them to just get the product. They need to be able to get an actual experience out of it,” Fleiss said. “That’s something that they really want to talk about, a brand that they want to connect to, and that has more meaning for them.”
In keeping with recent industry trends, Newbury also added that sustainability is one of the challenges that emerging technology can help address.
“A pair of jeans, in the traditional process of manufacturing, takes 10,000 liters of water,” said Newbury, using a commonly-cited statistic. “If we as an industry use 93 billion cubic meters of water every year, that is not sustainable. Not just from an ecological standpoint but from a financial standpoint.”
When thinking about what industry leaders should take away from this year’s Ideation, Pillet became especially animated.
“Full customization, end-to-end small run is available now and [it’s] not that completely complex,” she said excitedly. “It’s technology and integration — because that’s the difficult part, is to integrate business — and this has been done and is accessible. It’s available today, and some customers are already using it.”