Fast Company

You may have heard the term “fashion lab” thrown around in the tech blogosphere lately. Perhaps it conjures images of shoes being grown in test tubes, or scientists in super stylish lab coats. What, exactly, is a fashion lab, and why should you care? Here’s an explainer on how more and more engineers and retailers are using tech to change the way we dress and shop.

What are fashion labs?

The way we shop and dress ourselves increasingly relies on the digital: think e-commerce platforms like Stylect (the Tinder for shoes), ASAP54’s app that hunts down cool boots you saw on the subway, or ThirdLove’s bra-sizing app. Major retailers and designers are seeking to capitalize on this intersection between fashion and tech, and they’re collaborating with engineers in incubator or accelerator programs, labeled “fashion labs.” These programs, often made up of clusters of startups, aim to grow a new generation of brands from online roots, in hopes that a geeky environment will spawn the next cutting-edge digital platform in the fashion space. The definition of labs, accelerators, and incubators varies depending on whom you ask, but as Enrico Beltramini, a former Gucci corporate executive and founder of the Fashion Technology Accelerator, told Women’s Wear Daily, “It’s all part of the same trend. . . . We all want the same thing: to innovate fashion through technology.”

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