In conversation with Maghan McDowell, Innovation Editor for Vogue Business, in San Francisco

Maghan McDowell, Innovation Editor, Vogue Business – Credit : Anna-Alexia Basile

 

 

It’s a pretty surreal moment. On the stage, for the last Keynote Panel of the eTailWest conference, at the end of February in Palm Springs, the leaders of the retail vertical of the American tech giants – Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Pinterest – people who generally compete for the biggest budgets of advertisers, each on their armchair exchanging and delivering many details of their strategies, as colleagues would do in an internal meeting. Who is behind this feat? Maghan McDowell, innovation editor for Vogue Business, who is covering the future of the global fashion industry. A fan of her coverage about technology (Start up, Venture Capital, Mixed reality, …)  in Vogue Business I had the chance to speak with Maghan after her keynote. Read it… and run to subscribe to her Technology Newsletter !

 

 

 

:: First, can you share with us your secret sauce? How have you been able to gather in your Keynote Panel Discussion “Leaders In Retail Tech And What’s Next” at eTailWest, key leaders in the Retail industry from Amazon, Pinterest, Facebook, Google and Conversant Media/Epsilon ? 

Maghan McDowell: I agree, I thought it was actually a very impressive panel. eTail helps me to put together these specific people for eTail. But whenever I put together a panel, it is really a lot of ongoing relationships I have with them. I have covered these companies for maybe 8 years. And I think it is very important for these companies to speak to fashion and to retail because they are very important advertisers and very important industries for commerce. So they want to communicate to these groups.

Why they come to me is because I have the comfort to talk to these both worlds, the fashion world and the technology world. 

There are amazing technology journalists and there are amazing fashion journalists. I think I fit in between. It is a very small group of people who are comfortable talking to both of these worlds.They trust me, maybe. 

KEYNOTE PANEL DISCUSSION: Leaders In Retail Tech And What’s Next, EtailEast, February 2020, Palm Springs- Nik hat Afza, Head Of Personalization For Alexa, Devices & Services, Amazon; Jodi Goldberg, Head Of Industry, Retail, Google; Robert Petrausch, Industry Manager, Retail, Facebook; Lisa Henderson, Chief Client Officer, Technology Practice, Conversant Media/Epsilon, Amy Vener, Head of Retail Strategy, Pinterest- Interviewer: Maghan Mcdowell, Innovation Editor, Vogue Business– Credit : Vogue Business

 

:: What Vogue Business is designed for?

Vogue Business is an online fashion industry publication launched in January 2019 aimed at anyone in the fashion industry, to make a better business decision. While sharing the Vogue name, Vogue Business is operated as a wholly separate entity with an autonomous editorial team. We have global coverage, and some very strong information about sustainability and technology. We have a global newsletter that goes out three times a week to the whole audience, and we have released two special newsletters in addition – the Sustainability Edit and my newsletter on tech, the Technology Edit – which are two very important segments. We launched Vogue Business in China in December, and in May, we introduced our first podcast: The Tech Edit, which is an extension of my newsletter.

 

“I am the voice of the Vogue Business Technology Edit podcast”. 

 

:: And what is your role as Innovation Editor?

I’m responsible for the Vogue Business Technology Edit newsletter, and I am the voice of the Tech Edit podcast. I’m focusing on the future: any news or technologies or tools that might be relevant to the fashion business. My job is to find these, to understand these and to communicate in a way most useful for the fashion industry.

 

Credit : Vogue Business

 

 

 

:: How has your work changed in the past few months?

The biggest change for me has been launching a weekly podcast instead of traveling to conferences and speaking events. It is something that readers had been asking for, and because now all travel is stopped, it allowed me the time to instead develop a podcast. Each week, we invite a few guests who are experts in their field to discuss a specific technology. Interviews are one of my favourite parts of my job, so this allows me to share some of those conversations with our audience. We recently had the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger global join with a digital fashion designer to talk about 3D design, and we just had a conversation between execs at Pinterest and Facebook to talk about how computer vision is changing shopping.

Subscribe to The Tech Edit podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

 

:: I noticed that your Newsletter has exclusive content, which is unusual for a BtoB newsletter that generally redirects to content published on the site. Is it correct?

Absolutely. You can sign up to our standard newsletter here, to our Sustainability Edit here, or to my to the Technology Edit here.  For these two topic-specific newsletters, most of our content is on our website, but there is also information only in these newsletters. There is much more content you can find in my newsletter than you can find on the website. For example my column, news items on my radar and other cool stuff relevant to the future of fashion and retail.

 

One technology that I find personally the most exciting is retail rental model”.

 

:: As a person deeply connected to retail, what technologies or business models are you interested in, for their promise to have a big impact in retail and consumption?

There are so many technologies, but the one that I find personally the most exciting is retail rental model. I think the luxury industry has been very curious about this model. As a customer, I love renting my clothes, I think this is really fun. 

Very slowly the luxury fashion is starting to understand that they can participate and add value for the business. 

I also think digital clothing is very fun. It is a very different concept but I think it will just add more creativity and individually. The same for social media and Instagram. It has been around for a long time but I think it is still very relevant for fashion. 

Also data and artificial intelligence are still very important for allowing to personalize the way it works with the consumer and for allowing to automatically reduce waste. So it is better for business and for the environment. 

And I am really curious to see digital fashion shows this summer and fall, and keeping my eye on augmented reality.

 

:: Even for fashion?

That is a very big challenge. I’m talking to a lot of people who are really working on it. We are already able to put a couch into a room. We can also already try cosmetics, but I think clothing is going to be an interesting challenge but a very difficult one. 

 

:: And what brands or retailers do you thing are doing great things right now? 

One company that I am always looking to, and that is always very interesting, is Farfetch: their investments in startups, in blockchain. 

I mention the rental model, I think Rent The Runway is very interesting and smart with what they are doing. I think Gucci is doing very good things with augmented reality.  Louis Vuitton have done some interesting things, they made a video game with clothings,  that I think is very cool.

Credit : Vogue Business and The Yes

And there is one company that just launched, The Yes. I report on them, they got funding. This company was started by Julie Borntein who came from Stitch Fix. What she is doing is very exciting.

 

:: Talking about rental, do you think it is important for retailers to offer a circular economy’s service like this? 

I think it is very important. I have reported recently on one company that is a platform for selling luxury handbags.They are working on a way to let people exchange a bag for a new bag. This is not rental, this is not retail but this is a little bit of both. The customer is less likely to buy a new bag from a luxury company. These luxury companies are so slow to participate, they are going to miss out on this opportunity, instead of being smart in offering their own service of rental, or some partnership. Because if they can make it work to keep the customer, it is a better choice than losing the customer in the long term.

 

:: I think you moved from England to San Francisco. Do you feel doing business here in California is different than in London? 

Yes, I recently moved to San Francisco, and Vogue Business’s headquarter is in London. San Francisco is the best city for technology, for this idea of early adoption and experimentations. But here in San Francisco, we need to remember that other cities are perhaps a little bit slower to understand or try, but are also important.. I think London is actually a very important city for fashion and technology; the same for Paris, investing in startups with Station F and obviously important in fashion,  with Kering,  Louis Vuitton, etc. San Francisco is not as strong, historically, in fashion. But of course the VCs and the capital are in San Francisco, so for example Julie Borntein with The Yes is in San Francisco. Her company is a tech company but it is changing fashion. So this is both.

 

“My biggest challenge is not having the time to cover all I want”  

 

:: What is your typical business day when you are in San Francisco? 

My biggest challenge is having the time to cover everything! I have so many ideas and I just don’t have time. I work from home which is great because I can really concentrate. In the morning, most of my work is through phone calls and video calls.

I work with my London office, I have european conversations, I work also closely with my New York editor.  I do all my calls during the day, and I record the podcast early in the morning once a week. Then, late afternoons and evenings are usually when I write my articles. 

 

:: How do you keep up with these streams of innovations coming from everywhere and still manage to be the first one to write about it?

First, it is helpful for being doing this for a long time because people know my work and they come to me if they have ideas. Or people I know ask me questions, or tell me something they think is interesting. 

I do read all the tech news, and I ask myself: is there any impact on fashion or shopping, and what can it be? I have to put myself in the position if I was working in a fashion company, what would I find interesting? One thing it help me is trying not to be embarassed if I ask a question that seems stupid. Because if I don’t understand something, then the reader will not understand something, and if I found it confusing, everyone will probably find it confusing. But if I find something is interesting, the reader will probably find it interesting. 

So I have to really trust my instinct. Because by the time something is a trend, it is too late to be the first one to write an article about it. So you really have to have a little of guess, a little of your past knowledge to think “what is going to be really important?”. Sometimes you are right, sometimes you are wrong but you have to trust yourself. And I am often not the first to write about a new technology, but I do like to have an eye on anything on the horizon that might soon be relevant for fashion.

When Facebook or Apple have something new, you have to ask yourself : “Why is this company doing this? What is their strategy ?  How will it help them make money ? Because they always say “Oh, this is just an experience” but tech companies are very good at predicting a few years from now how it will help them. If you put yourself in this mindset, it will help you understand their strategy. Where this is going in the future. 

 And I’m always looking for ideas, I’m always very open and I encourage people to reach out if they think there is something that is interesting in fashion and tech. Don’t hesitate!

 

Webinar: Experiential shopping in the digital world (July 10, 2020)

In a recent webinar, Maghan was in conversation with Sebastian Siemiatkowski (@klarnaseb ) CEO of payments service Klarna ( @Klarna and Aaron Levant, CEO of video commerce platform NTWRK (  @NTWRKLIVE  ) to discuss how brands can engage audiences through new, experiential channels, and how the next generation of consumers is engaging with technology in new ways. 

To listen to this webinar : https://tinyurl.com/yb8n8a5f   – This webinar was sponsored by Klarna. – Credit: © Vogue Business, NTWRK, Klarna

 

To reach Maghan McDowell

 

 

repère les innovations en Digital, Mobile et Retail aux Etats-Unis, et aide les entreprises françaises à transposer avec succès ces stratégies ayant fait leur preuve aux U.S. Notre méthode, nos prestations sur-mesure. Parlons ensemble sur Linkedin, par mail ou au 06 12 83 39 28.

 

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