Pioneer Mode Weekly 2/1/2016

 Ask no questions.(Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Ask no questions.(Reuters/Toru Hanai)

Why are shoppers being asked to buy ethically or not in the first place?

for Quartz by Marc Bain

“A series of studies suggests that, while a product’s ethics may influence purchasing decisions, many shoppers choose simply not to know whether something was ethically made. That includes shoppers who care about social responsibility. And shoppers who ignore ethical matters can even develop a negative opinion about people who do express ethical concerns—which makes them even less likely to pay attention to ethical issues in the future.” 

“The studies do suggest something interesting about the average shopper’s priorities: They’re most likely to choose the ethical route when it costs them as little as possible, whether in terms of money, time, or emotional stress.”

“Implementing these solutions is a whole other matter, of course, and it’s unlikely they would come cheaply—one way or another, consumers will have to open their wallets. But if the majority of shoppers say that they would spend more for more moral goods and services, the best way to put their principles into practice may be simply to make “sustainable” and “ethical” the only option.”


 Yasmin Le Bon, Eva Herzigova, Nadja Auermann and Stella Tennant in Giorgio Armani's New Normal collection SS16 campaign CREDIT: PETER LINDBERGH

Yasmin Le Bon, Eva Herzigova, Nadja Auermann and Stella Tennant in Giorgio Armani's New Normal collection SS16 campaign CREDIT: PETER LINDBERGH

Why 40 somethings are now calling the shots in fashion

for The Telegraph by Victoria Moss

“A collection of grown-up garments shown on grown-up women should be a no-brainer. But, as we all know, that hasn’t always been the case. Until very recently, the average age of a model in super-expensive clothes was around 18. Then, last year, it was 80-plus, with Saint Laurent and Céline featuring Joni Mitchell and Joan Didion respectively in their campaigns. This was an interesting idea that undoubtedly helped expand the concept of what is cool and who looks great, as well as aligning the labels with zeitgeist heroes, but it was also yet another example of fashion’s obsession with extremes.

“When you’re dressing women across all ages, there’s a responsibility to design for their needs, their body and their life, so that you’re actually fit for purpose. I think that’s often overlooked.” — Jane Lewis, founder of Goat

“This is about inclusion, not exclusion. It’s recognising that there is a place in fashion for everyone. The industry will always be about aspiration and dreams, but we need to reconsider what we aspire to.” — Lupe Puerta, Net-A-Porter

Also On Our Radar

Dana Scully and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit
for The Atlantic by Megan Garber

Leadership Is a Conversation
for Harvard Business Review by Boris Groysberg & Michael Slind

The Consumer isn’t a Moron
for The Next Web by Ali Mese

Under Armour Targeting Youth with Wearable Tech
for Athletic Business by Elaine Low

Couture: In Perspective
for The New York Times by Vanessa Friedman

How a Gay Hookup App and Apple TV Helped Open New Markets for Menswear
for Bloomberg by Nic Screws

Net-a-Porter founder may be heading to Vogue
for New York Post by Keith J. Kelly

Berlin Fashion Week debuts Michael Michalsky's 3D printed lifelike mini mannequins
for 3ders by Tess

A designer is making interactive robotic clothing that's straight out of the future
for Tech Insider by Danielle Muoio

Why monetizing tech will be key for firms in 2016
for Cambridge News

The Secrets of Re-selling Luxury Clothes
for The Wall Street Journal by Nora Zelevansky

This week on Instagram


Pioneer Mode Weekly 1/25/2016

News Roundup

  Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review

Companies Are Now Making Innovation Everyone’s Job

for The Harvard Business Review by Michael Schrage

“Enterprise innovation conversations seem to be shifting more from the “how” to the “who.” Process and methodology debates have turned into the operational challenge of how best to boost people’s capabilities. For many firms, the innovation agenda is now as much about human capital investment as delivering new products and services.” 

“This new function relies less on bold, big-buck (or -euro) initiatives than on pervasively influencing how their firms value, and evaluate, innovation behavior. These folks effectively rebrand how people perceive innovation inside the enterprise. Being diligent, dedicated, and super-competent used to be enough to get the job or win the promotion. These companies now want prospective hires and promotion candidates to show they’re ready, willing, and able to collaboratively create new value. Innovation attitudes, not just aptitudes, matter. The ethos is as much about culture as competence.”

“I can’t help noting that entrepreneurs-turned-trainers are improvising just-in-time curricular mash-ups of TED talks, Big Think videos, and articles in their efforts to transform innovation conversations firm-wide.”


  Designers Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo (both seated) at their Mayfair boutiqu

Designers Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo (both seated) at their Mayfair boutiqu

Our fantasy frocks make business sense

for Financial Times by Mark C O’Flaherty

“We want to incubate new brands. We want to create something similar to the LVMH vehicle for talent. We are creating an infrastructure that we can control, and taking new talent to the next level. I could bring in a new designer tomorrow and give them PR, marketing, finance, HR and help with sourcing fabrics. So many times I see something well designed, but it’s not well made. We can make that happen.” – Michael Russo

“Right now, the Ralph & Russo atelier is full of work-in-progress, fantastical gowns for the red carpet (including pieces for Monica Bellucci, Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor and the Chinese media sensation Fan Bingbing), 1950s shapes and elegant convex silhouettes reminiscent of Balenciaga. But it’s also an arresting snapshot of contemporary global wealth, with a predictably large client list from the Middle East and a developing order book from South America. There are relatively few Disney-princess shapes amid the mannequins. Instead, many of the studio dummies veer more towards Leigh Bowery than Barbie. These are gowns for real, rich, often large women — something that flies in the face of the way luxury fashion continues to be marketed, and ready-to-wear is sized and made.

In this age of fast fashion, when many designers — including Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf — have dumped their ready-to-wear lines to focus on haute couture, it’s also something that still has real power. By waving a magic wand of business logic as well as fashion fantasy, and by heading for the highest ground, Ralph & Russo may also be creating a new model for the British fashion industry.

Creative Tensions: A new approach for understanding

  Pioneer Mode   attendees waiting to begin Creative Tensions: I ❤ Fashion

Pioneer Mode attendees waiting to begin Creative Tensions: I ❤ Fashion

For those of you who weren't at Pioneer Mode for the Friday conference, or who arrived later in the day:

IDEO and the Sundance Institute have developed a very compelling way to generate discussion and curiosity. It is called Creative Tensions. And the premise is to physically take a stance along the line between opposing forces within a broader theme.

In their words:

Creative Tensions is a physically activated collective conversation in which participants share where they stand on a topic by virtue of where they stand in the room. Inspired and provoked by a pair of speakers who approach the topic from wildly different contexts, Creative Tensions prompts reflection, explores nuance, and celebrates the rare moment when one change one’s mind.

More than just an exercise, Creative Tensions is an experiment in communication. When so many of the problems we face on personal and global stages are due to a lack of understanding, and many of the challenges we face are calling for paradigm shifts, we need to turn old methods on their heads in order to reveal new paths to problem solving.

The dilemma of the panel discussion is one of Creative Tensions’ reasons for being. Thinkers and problem solvers, already a self-selecting group, leaving too many events thinking “great topic, but did we really get into it? Great panelists, but did we really get the most of having them in the room?”

And just as we demand the most of the experience, we, the attendees, so easily sit back passively in our seats, on our phones, never challenged to take a stance of our own. This creates habits of absence in the audience. Absence of mind. We’re physically present but not mentally engaged at all.

So how can we expect to answer the big questions, tackle the challenges, collaborate and empathize and band together…if we can’t even be present together in a room, sitting shoulder to shoulder?

  Fred Dust, Shelby Clark and Negin Farsad at Creative Tensions: American Dream via   Emsok

Fred Dust, Shelby Clark and Negin Farsad at Creative Tensions: American Dream via Emsok


By nature of these dilemmas, some issues are so big that we don’t dare address them, because where would we even begin? And when we do, there is pressure to take a stance, and make progress — to arrive at a productive conclusion.

And how do we address the fact that every point of view will generate a different discussion? That people in the audience will fully agree or disagree, that a Q&A session isn’t a forum for discussion. It may be why so many questions are posed as statements. When the rules of discussion are so often broken, maybe it’s time for the rules to change.

There is always the risk of losing control of the discussion when it gets away from the designed boundary of invited speakers and guests. The public is a variable out of your control. They could say anything. Why do we fear that? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to embrace the unexpected and unplanned in this context where I would argue the risk is trumped by the possible reward?

Is it a “discussion” without a dynamic of peer-to-peer between speaker and audience? How do you establish that common ground when the designed premise of the speakers’ invitation is that the audience has something to learn from them? But does that negate the possibility that they might learn something from the audience as well?

The big questions also tend to stir up controversy, and passions. This can be beneficial to a discussion, but it can also hold it back if one side out-shouts the other. We need to create a space where people feel comfortable listening. Listening. A lost art.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Empathy. Curiosity.

  From Creative Tensions: Sex at 501 Union via   Union and Bond

From Creative Tensions: Sex at 501 Union via Union and Bond


It is so easy to make the choice not to challenge oneself. And oftentimes we end up missing out because we shy away from the thing we feel compelled to do but are afraid of. The act of physically moving takes the emphasis away from the spoken word, and reminds us that we have so many more modes of communication we take for granted.

You don’t have to speak in order to be heard. (It makes me wonder what other contexts Creative Tensions might be applied to with great effectiveness. Creative Tensions as a tool for orientations? For business mergers? For therapy? For diplomacy?)

In addition to breaking the format of the discourse, Creative Tensions changes our patterns of behavior. You see people making eye contact, smiling, turning towards each other, testing the water of making contact. No more rows and lines and fixed positions. Suddenly we are aware of our bodies. And we are aware of the other bodies around us. And that those bodies represent a point of view, past experience, and future ideas.

And as we are challenged to consider the tension and re-position ourselves in the room, we are aware of our own point of view. We are aware of the process of thought that leads us to that decision. We are aware that some people arrive at the same stance as we do, while others are far to the other end of the spectrum, all to varying degrees. And sometimes the reasoning is parallel, but the conclusion in opposing. It’s totally fascinating to visualize and experience how disagreements might be formed if you accept anything at face value. By listening, we learn that our goals might be aligned although our methods are different. Think of all the amazing collaboration that could come from that awareness.

Active reflection brings us back into the moment, and generates more profound reasoning. The suggestion that, if you feel yourself swayed by the argument of another participant or protagonist, you can physically adjust your location in the room is freeing. You become comfortable with the idea of altering your triggered response, and challenging that instinct.

Those walls of formal structure evaporate by making us aware of the other people around us. Having to consider our position relative to them in the physical space makes us more empathetic, which I like to believe makes us more willing to hear out the person on the other side of the debate.


Within the room, within society, within ourselves.

But the very fluid nature of Creative Tensions actually relieves a great deal of that pressure. The “tension” is so elastic and malleable that I might actually describe it as a 3-dimensional space within which we can be bold and address the big questions. And the walls are soft, so no one gets hurt.

Because one of the most compelling results of Creative Tensions is that, while people are disagreeing and sharing their point of view, the overriding element is not the disagreement, but the shared experience. That shared experience creates a common ground where discussion can be had and solutions generated.

It’s an active and continual micro-vote that could be compounded into a point of view. But the very fact that no two people follow identical paths through the room represents our individuality in a way that I think we ourselves forget because we are so busy being classified and classifying ourselves and classifying others. People are similar to us or dissimilar. We can accept difference and diversity into our lives to expand our views and beliefs and make a more broad open world for the next generation, or we can continue to talk in silos and reinforce our pre-existing ideals.

Creative Tensions shatters this habit and allows us to see the world in a new light. And to see each other again. To be curious about the people around you. To wonder why each person is where they are in the room.

Empathy and curiosity. These are two words that I’ve become attached to recently. Maybe this is why I have developed such fascination towards the exercise of Creative Tensions. The two things that overwhelm me during the experience are curiosity and empathy. In a room of people speaking thoughtfully about their stance, and wanting to know more from everyone. Wanting to understand.

In an uncertain world, the best tool we have is communication. It enables us to collaborate, to plan, and to evolve. We spend our lives communicating, and yet the mechanics of it remain a mystery.

I find it ironic now that Creative Tensions, designed through polarization, is the place where I have experienced the most powerful sense of camaraderie and fluid discussions on the most overwhelming topics. I see that the polarization establishes depth and expands boundaries. The further polarized, the more space for discourse. The more open the discourse, the stronger the thread, connecting each person where they stand, that is the beginning of understanding.

HIGHLIGHTS: Pioneer Mode 2015

One week ago today, we opened the doors to the first Pioneer Mode conference. We invited designers, innovators, business leaders, change makers, leaders, and aspirational leaders. A strong foundation has been laid for the Pioneer Mode community, thanks to their curiosity and generosity with each other and their engagement in the immersive actives throughout the day.


 Sabine Seymour of Moondial &

Sabine Seymour of Moondial &

 Jasmine Aarons of VOZ

Jasmine Aarons of VOZ


 Dana Thomas and Dr Lucy Collins

Dana Thomas and Dr Lucy Collins




 Neil Harbisson

Neil Harbisson


YOUR EXPERIENCE: A snapshot of Pioneer Mode 2015

As stakeholders in the fashion industry, we recognize the need to transform fashion’s current systems into a stronger, healthier form of community and enterprise. By bringing together representatives from design, technology and business we aim to collect perspectives, identify key issues, and uncover potential solutions to get the results we want and need. But we can’t and don’t want to do it alone.

We want YOU to get into Pioneer Mode by exploring the future of fashion alongside innovators and thought-leaders across industries. We invite you to put your ideas into action, find your people, and make a change.

The frontier is just ahead.


The Pioneer Mode Conference Day is about diving deep, navigating real issues, and forming solutions. No panel discussions, just real talk from highly accomplished thought-leaders and changemakers. 

8:00am - Breakfast & Registration

8:30am - Morning Session

CREATIVE TENSIONS WORKSHOP | I ♥ FASHION: Participants will reflect on their creativity and take a literal stance on core issues facing the fashion industry. Conceived by IDEO & The Sundance Institute

Jasmine Aarons - Founder, CEO, and Design Director at VOZ
Sabine Seymour - CEO at Moonlab

FASHION ETHICS | THE MORAL IMPLICATIONS OF FASHION & MEDIA: Dr. Lucy Collins, Fashion Theorist and Assistant Professor at FIT.  More about Lucy.

FASHION ECONOMY | HOW BUSINESS HAS CHANGED THE DEFINITION OF FASHION:  Dana Thomas, Author of Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano and Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

Joint Q&A: Lucy Collins and Dana Thomas 

Book Signing with Dana Thomas and Morning Coffee Break, sponsored by graze & Kopali Chocolate


SUPPLY CHAIN TRANSPARENCY: Leo Bonanni, founder of Sourcemap, the world's first supply chain mapping tool. More about Leo


Joint Q&A: Rhett Godfrey, Leo Bonanni, and Erika Whillas

12:30pm - Lunch Break

1:15pm - Afternoon Session

SCALING INTEGRITY | Building a brand based on Authenticity: John V. Campbell, Creative Director at Matuse Inc., the world's warmest sustainable wetsuit. More about John.

ACTING ON YOUR VALUES | Replace Overwhelmed with Empowered Today: Cortney McDermott, Award-winning writer and business-life strategist at CortInc. More about Cortney.

DESIGN THINKING WORKSHOP | Focus on the User... and all else will Follow! Tap into how Google accelerates innovation and solves problems creatively through user-centered, prototype driven design. Find inspiration in human needs and motivations to invent and design meaningful products and solutions. Nida Zada, Glen Jackson Taylor and Ross Popoff-Walker, New Search Products at Google. 

Afternoon Coffee Break, sponsored by Levity Brew & Smith Teamaker

BEYOND WEARABLES | Life in the Age of New Senses: Pioneering the Cyborg movement, Moon Ribas and Neil Harbisson create in a world beyond ordinary human perception. More about Moon and Neil

5:15pm: Join us for Drinks & Community Networking sponsored by Six Point Brewery 


Business Innovation Day is your opportunity to flex those problem solving muscles and explore your activism. Looking at real industry pain points, your team will brainstorm, ask tough questions, and create a viable solution with the guidance of industry thought-leaders. 

8:30am - Breakfast & Registration

9:00 am - Morning Session

KEYNOTE | NEW YORK IS THE ORIGINAL STARTUP CITY: Erik Martin, VP of Member Engagement at WeWork

COLLABORATION WORKSHOP: Activate your design-thinking skills with a fun team exercise 

Morning Coffee Break, sponsored by graze & Kopali Chocolate

DESIGN CHALLENGE KICK-OFF: Choose an issue and brainstorm as a team

MENTOR FEEDBACK: Industry experts validate your ideas and guide your direction

12:30pm: Working Lunch

1:15pm: Afternoon Session

INSPIRATION  | TELLING YOUR STORY: Julio Terra, Outreach Lead at Kickstarter

DESIGN YOUR SOLUTION: Detail your team's solution and value proposition

MENTOR FEEDBACK: Industry experts offer insight and reality checks 

Afternoon Coffee Break, sponsored by Levity Brew Smith Teamaker

INSPIRATION | WHY 7 WORDS IS ALL YOU NEED TO TELL YOUR STORY: Debera Johnson, Executive Director, Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator

REFINE & PRACTICE: Put your pitch-efficiency to the test! 

PRESENTATIONS TO THE JURY: Present your ideas and receive a critique from industry experts

Join us for Drinks & Community Networking, sponsored by Sixpoint Brewery 



SUBWAY: Take the M to Lorimer Street or G to Flushing Avenue

Enter through the back of the building via the parking lot off Tompkins Ave.


by: Amanda Pickens for Pioneer Mode






Speaker Profile: Cyborg Foundation's Neil Harbisson

At the foundation of every groundbreaking moment there's a Pioneer.  At the Pioneer Mode Conference, we are bringing you the individuals who are on a mission to transform industry pain points into exciting opportunities to grow, design, and revolutionize.  Our Speaker Profiles are a snapshot of the people behind the ideas of the future. 

 "I don't feel that I'm using technology. I don't feel like I'm wearing technology. I feel like I am technology." 

"I don't feel that I'm using technology. I don't feel like I'm wearing technology. I feel like I am technology." 

Achromatopsia is a rare disease that affects about 1 in 33,000 people. It is described as a non-progressive and hereditary visual disorder characterized by decreased vision, light sensitivity, and total color blindness. Neil Harbisson, a Catalan-raised artist diagnosed with the disease, has never been able to see color. "Not seeing color didn't make me feel disabled, it made me feel socially excluded,” says Harbisson in an interview with Deezen Magazine. “This alienation made me hate color’s existence, but I came to realize that I couldn't ignore color forever - even if I couldn’t see it.” 


In 2003 Harbisson started a project with computer scientist Adam Montandon that would pave the way towards a new understanding of the possibilities of perception. After several modifications and an anonymous surgery in Barcelona, Harbisson is now the world’s first governmentally recognized cyborg. He currently wears an antenna implanted into the back of his head that allows him to perceive color through sound frequencies transmitted via bone conduction. 

Not only has this extended sense changed Harbisson’s experience, it also calls into question the boundaries of human perception and the future of technology. In fact, the “Eyeborg” is so advanced it allows Harbisson to perceive infrareds and ultra violets unseen to the naked human eye. His senses allow him to create color interpretations of songs, speeches, and he has been known to hold color concerts based on the sound he hears when looking at people’s faces. He is able to hear his food and he even enjoys listening to the works of certain architects.

 Color Scores: Transposition of Justin Bieber singing "Baby" (2009)

Color Scores: Transposition of Justin Bieber singing "Baby" (2009)

Though he “comes from a greyscale world,” his life as a cyborg has given him access to a relationship with color more intimate and connected than what most of us will experience. Like his partner-in-cybernetics, Moon Ribas, the extension of his senses is a gateway to an untapped world. During Harbisson’s 2012 TED Talk, he stated: "At the start, I had to memorize the names you give for each color, so I had to memorize the notes, but after some time this information became a perception. I didn't have to think about the notes, and after some time this perception became a feeling."

While cybernetics is currently a niche market, according to Harbisson, it’s only a matter of time before technology becomes increasingly integrated into our bodies "to extend our abilities, our knowledge and our perceptions of reality.” 

Interested in becoming a cyborg? Harbisson, along with childhood friend Moon Ribas, is the co-founder of the Cyborg Foundation, an international organization that encourages people to extend their senses through cybernetics, defends the rights of cyborgs, and aims to promote cyborgism as an art movement. To learn more about the movement click here.

by: Amanda Pickens for Pioneer Mode







Speaker Profile: Acclaimed Life-Business Strategist Cortney McDermott

Cortney McDermott is a highly acclaimed life-business strategist. As a highly successful entrepreneur, she now advises executives of Fortune 500 companies on communication strategies, work-life balance, and sustainability. Like a true Pioneer, Cortney has taken a somewhat unorthodox approach towards sustainability. Rather than focusing on relieving its symptoms; instead, she encourages people to connect to the larger question of why we have created these problems in the first place.

Counting green house gas emissions or emphasizing recycling initiatives, though helpful, are the kind of measures furthest from Cortney’s perspective on sustainability.  “The primary challenge humanity faces” she says, “is not planetary. It’s personal. And the primary challenge facing us personally is how we think.” By that logic, if the problems we face in regards to sustainability are personal then so are our solutions.  Sustainability is not just a concern for the fashion industry. It is a hurdle in every business, home, and life that currently exists on the planet. And until we recognize that we all hold an individual stake in creating a sustainable future we will be stuck trying to fix the symptoms of our recklessness.  

So how do we do that?

Industry Insights with Wabi Sabi Ecofashion Concept CEO Michele Cohen

At Pioneer Mode, we dig into the core of the fashion industry by collecting perspectives, identifying the key issues, and uncovering potential solutions. In our Industry Insights series, we interview key stakeholders to consider their day-to-day challenges, and reveal their contributions towards a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.


Wabi Sabi CEO Michele Cohen in her Atelier

Michele Cohen has a word for how she runs her business, Wabi Sabi Ecofashion Concept: "Octopus" (more on that later). Michele, who started out in finance and business strategy, has found herself leading a team for a burgeoning fashion brand—somewhere she never expected to end up. Talking to Michele, you can tell she lives the lifestyle her brand promotes: eco-friendly, sustainable education focused, versatile, completely centered on personal values. Wabi Sabi is gearing up to launch its second collection, but we caught some time with Michele to talk industry pain points, meeting your consumer on every available platform, and her lack of fashion business role models (it's not as negative as it sounds—we promise).


Michele: "There are many pain points around being an entrepreneur, specifically with a small company. There are pain points focused around fashion in many aspects—both the idea that it’s difficult to present to the consumer, and that brands are very competitive. Another part that is challenging is the supply chain. The whole manufacturing / production / supply side is very traditional in our industry. Yet we’re in a very consumer-focused, innovative, fast-paced industry. It’s just two different worlds, manufacturing and marketing. They often collide more than they combine. That’s my personal day-to-day pain point: looking at that divide between what’s behind the company and what we do moving forward in terms of commercial strategy.

“I always say I’m not sure if I’m an entrepreneur in the fashion industry or if I’m an educator and communicator.”

There’s also a lot of misconception and bias in the consumer’s mind that eco-fashion is going to be something that’s more “hippie style." There’s been a lot of development in terms of education and there’s definitely a segment of the market that’s well-informed now. Things have grown dramatically since I started in 2011, but a large part of the mass market consumer base still has this bias. They’re just not as informed as I would like. I always say I’m not sure if I’m an entrepreneur in the fashion industry or if I’m an educator and communicator because before I am able to do a lot of the other parts of my job,  I still need to give out a lot of information about what we do, why we do it, and break down misconceptions, before people are willing to accept it and look at it.

We are not a hippie style fashion brand; we are not urban style. We are for professional women—dresses that are office-appropriate. A lot of times, it’s a concept that people don’t think is alive with eco-fashion. It is. That’s one of the main challenges I face.


Sourcing is a challenge, even though each season I find that there are more fabric options. When you have such a concrete focus, there are only so many types of fabrics you can use. We do use a little bit of Lycra—just a small percent. If we don’t, the dresses won’t adapt as well, which is not acceptable. It’s difficult to find what we are looking for as a brand. If you can use 100 percent cotton without using Lycra, there are a lot of fabrics out there. If you are looking for fabrics and you’re able or willing to adapt your designs to the fabrics that are available, it’s a lot easier. I have to look long and hard. What we try to do is establish good relationships with the few suppliers out there creating the type of fabric we are looking for.

The idea is to develop along with them. We are being innovative and they are jumping ahead of the game sometimes in their business models because they’re looking to cover a new and developing need. In that sense, it’s actually quite easy to work with them. They’re completing this new segment that they think is going to become important in the next few years. They can actually understand where we’re at and what we’re doing because we’re doing the same thing at the same time."


Michele: "One of the challenges of starting a new brand is that people need to know who you are, what you do, and what you’re about. Expressing that is everything. It’s part of marketing, it’s part of social media, it’s the designs, the clothes, photography—anything we do as a company, whether it’s business-based or consumer-based. It has to express 100 percent who we are, and it’s a lot. We can’t separate eco-fashion ethics, material qualities, or styling. They all work together.


I feel good about what I’m doing because I feel that I’m giving them that possibility without having to make a conscious decision.”

A majority of people seek us out because they like the personality of the product—comfortable day-to-evening dresses. That’s a big selling point. When people actually try the product out, when they feel the fabric and understand the quality of material we’re offering—then they’re more interested in being better informed. Customers have said, 'I almost didn’t buy this. I really wasn’t sure—but it turns out it's the thing I wear the most. I wash it, wear it, wash it, and wear it. I keep coming back for more.' There’s still a large percentage of my customer base who works that way.

We’re only on our second collection, so at this point I tend to have customers who are replacing clothes in their closet for more of our styles. I feel like they are changing their buying patterns along with us to say, 'I don’t need to have three outfits in one day. I can have one dress that I wear a couple of times every week.' I feel good about what I’m doing because I feel that I’m giving them that possibility without having to make a conscious decision. I think we’re growing with them and they’re changing their mindset about what fashion needs to be as they are becoming a consumer of our brand. They realize they’re able to change their lifestyle around what we’re able to offer them."


Michele: "I have a phrase I’ve coined. I call it an 'octopus strategy.' As a new entrepreneur, especially in the world we live in today, you have to be in everything because your consumer is in everything. One may buy on the Internet, one may buy in a boutique, one may go to the mall. Our society doesn't have any patience - they want what they want immediately.  In order to exist, we need to be available. As I try to grow as a brand, I know that I need to be accessible to my customer how, when, and where she wants it. As a small brand, it’s hard to do so much, but we’ve found it’s the most rewarding. It’s what gives us a sense at the end of the day of reaching our customer."


Michele: "Crowdfunding is really great because it’s a new way to be able to launch a brand. It is fundraising—we’re not going to take that out of the equation. My personal standpoint is you can’t rely on that fundraising to launch a company. You need to have a solid company with a solid business plan—and then use crowdfunding to support part of that funding. It’s also a fun way to communicate what you do and market your brand to a different channel. It's really different in that it does two things: raising money and 'being there.' We actually held two events in New York City at the same time we were doing our crowdfunding campaign so we were able to say, 'We’re crowdfunding, here’s what we do and what we are,” and then have a physical place where we could present the collection and people could come try it on. It’s just a different way to get yourself out there.



Michele: "I’ve always thought the way the food industry presents products on their channels to customers is interesting. I think there’s a lot we can learn from that. The automotive industry is also fascinating, as far as their supply chain. One of the main challenges and something we don't learn in the fashion industry is how to work together—especially when it comes to having everyone on the same page. It’s a really fragmented industry where brands work one way, suppliers work another way, and manufacturing works another way.

Collaboration is necessary amongst us before even looking to other industries to see how they do it.”

There are a lot of hidden gems out there, which is why I think the Pioneer Mode conference is so great, especially for getting people together. We all live in our own little bubble of people and things we know. Yet there are so many great ideas out there. Collaboration is necessary amongst us before even looking to other industries to see how they do it. A lot of examples are already being done and other people in our industry are working that way, it’s just hard to reach that information sometimes. The value is in the connection between people who are willing to share their information and understand that they aren’t giving away a secret to their brand, what they're doing is helping people to become more efficient.


I have a very collaborative attitude. Anytime I see anybody doing something that I think is great, I will like and repost it. I talked before about how sometimes I think of myself more as an educator than an entrepreneur and I think it’s important. As far as whether or not I have any role models, I have to say no. I think it’s so important to have your own personal identity. I don’t want to start looking at other people and think, 'Oh this is my role model…' I am who I am. My brand has a very specific, very clear identity. That doesn’t take away from the fact that I admire other people. It’s an admiration—not somebody I would consider to be a role model. Anybody who is doing anything in sustainable fashion and the result is fabulous, I think that’s just wonderful. It’s really good for everybody to know about it and see it and hear it. Because I have a really concrete brand, we’re not competing. We’re doing completely different things."

Speaker Profile: FIT's Lucy Collins

How often do you come across thoughtful fashion criticism you can’t stop thinking about? If you find yourself fondly remembering a handful of captivating essays you’ve read, drop us a line. We’d love to hear about them. And if you’re still wracking your brain searching for more than the occasional knock out, fear not. You are far from alone. In fact, your lack of aloneness on this issue is the problem. According to Dr. Lucy Collins “there are no good critics in fashion.” She argues that thoughtful pieces of criticism are so few and far between, the industry has warped itself into a vacuum that is free from consequence. 

Lucy Collins is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and a full time Fashion Theorist. Collins’ interests lie in the intersections of consumerism and sustainability, clothing and identity, and, fashion writing and theory. She says that fashion theory is critical for changes to come about in the fashion industry because “without theory it [fashion writing] is just trend reporting and bullshit.” From wanna-be bloggers flooded by freebies and access, to the catfights that make it hard to write anything negative without the fear of being shunned into silence, Collins asks where do the loyalties of fashion critics lie? In self-preservation, of course. 

Speaker Profile: Cyborg Foundation's Moon Ribas

At the foundation of every groundbreaking moment there's a Pioneer.  At the Pioneer Mode Conference, we are bringing you the individuals who are on a mission to transform industry pain points into exciting opportunities to grow, design, and revolutionize.  Our Speaker Profiles are a snapshot of the people behind the ideas of the future. 


Meet Moon Ribas. She’s a choreographer, dancer and a cyborg. Yes, you read that correctly. But don’t worry she’s not secretly building an army that will overtake the human race. At least… not in the way you’d expect.  

Ribas, along with her partner and childhood friend Niel Harbisson, is one of the co-founders of the Cyborg Foundation. The Cyborg Foundation is an international organization that encourages people to extend their senses through cybernetics. In addition to providing extrasensory modifications, the foundation also defends the rights of cyborgs and aims to promote cyborgism as an art movement. Ribas challenges the idea that humans are limited to a predetermined set of abilities with which they can create and perceive. It's safe to say if Ribas did want to build an army, it would be a collective of artists. 


Ribas’ first foray into cybernetics was a pair of self-created kaleidoscope glasses that allowed her to perceive color without shape. Not feeling as invested into extending her sense of color she began to experiment with movement. She went on to create a pair of earrings that could detect movement either in front of or behind her in the form of vibrations. However the device proved too stimulating, which led her to create her final extension; a seismic sensor that vibrates whenever there is an earthquake. Ribas has been living with the device permanently implanted in her elbow since 2013 and regularly uses it as inspiration in her choreography.  

Not only does Ribas’ sensor allow her to interpret dance in a unique way, it also allows her to communicate in a language that is deep and largely unexplored. Past inventions have even allowed her to express movement based on the average speed of activity in each city. But what exactly does this all mean for art? It seems like the future of creation and perception is filled with uncertainties that are hard for us to imagine despite our tech-centered society.  What is certain is Moon Ribas is an innovator, artist, and activist at the forefront of uncharted territory. Ribas is an incredible Pioneer pushing us towards shedding our preconceived notions of existence. And we can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon.  

by: Amanda Pickens for Pioneer Mode

Industry Insights with Factory45's Shannon Whitehead

Shannon Whitehead started out in 2010 co-founding a sustainable clothing company called {r}evolution apparel. They launched their signature piece, the Versalette, with a Kickstarter campaign that became the highest-funded fashion project in Kickstarter history at the time.

Five years later, she now runs an online accelerator program that helps aspiring entrepreneurs start clothing companies that are sustainably and ethically made in the USA. Factory45 that takes sustainable apparel companies from idea to launch. Entrepreneurs are given the tools to source fabric, find a manufacturer & raise money to fund production in four months.

If you’re a designer or entrepreneur who wants to launch a sustainably and ethically made clothing company this year, applications to join Factory45 are now open until 9/30!

Speaker Profile: Sourcemap's Leonardo Bonanni

At the foundation of every groundbreaking moment there's a Pioneer.  At the Pioneer Mode Conference, we are bringing you the individuals who are on a mission to transform industry pain points into exciting opportunities to grow, design, and revolutionize.  Our Speaker Profiles are a snapshot of the people behind the ideas of the future. 

Leo Bonanni

Our desire to connect and communicate instantly is at an all time high. We are always tuned in to the outside world whether through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, or another one of the many social media platforms. These platforms are so ubiquitous abstaining from them is almost unheard of among social circles. In fact, developers are constantly working on new applications and platforms to more seamlessly integrate instant communication into our lives. So how is it that the most critical and largest social network in the world has been obscured and largely forgotten? That is, until now.


Leonardo Bonanni, Founder and CEO of Sourcemap—the first platform for supply chain transparency—is on a mission to change that.  “Knowing where things come from,” he says, “is essential, it’s radical, and…very very cool.” Sourcemap started out as his Ph.D. thesis project and is now a company dedicated to providing instant answers to the questions we often fail to ask. Where does this come from? What is it made out of? How does it affect the people who made it? And, is it sustainable? Supply chain mapping requires information sharing between buyers and sellers, from a product’s raw materials to its consumer-ready form; therefore, making it much easier to trust the quality, sustainability, and the ethics behind its production.  

Moreover, Sourcemap is an invaluable tool for any business, whether sustainability is a major concern or not.  In fact, the company’s first successes were in resolving short-term crises. Clients, who once spent weeks determining the effects of natural or human-made disasters on their suppliers, were able to bring that time down to just minutes with Sourcemap. In an interview by Fronetics, Bonanni says, “Personally, I won’t rest until supply chain mapping becomes part of doing business as usual.” “Close enough” is no longer good enough.  Clients now have the ability to choose which suppliers reflect their company values as well as make fast and smart decisions in regards to risk and cost efficacy.  Not only is transparency invaluable to the health of our planet, it is as equally invaluable to the success of our businesses.

 Stonyfield shows off their dedication to transparency and the many possibilities of Sourcemap. To interact with the map, click  here .

Stonyfield shows off their dedication to transparency and the many possibilities of Sourcemap. To interact with the map, click here.

According to Bonanni, one of the most exciting things currently happening at Sourcemap is the change in business attitudes. In 2007, many companies were questioning the necessity of supply chain data mapping, but now they’re asking how fast they can get involved. Whether it’s cost, risk, or sustainability, transparency is quickly becoming the new standard that will lead to better business, informed consumers, and a happier planet. So don’t get left behind.

by: Amanda Pickens for Pioneer Mode

Speaker Profile: Matuse's John V. Campbell

At the foundation of every groundbreaking moment there's a Pioneer.  At the Pioneer Mode Conference, we are bringing you the individuals who are on a mission to transform industry pain points into exciting opportunities to grow, design, and revolutionize.  Our Speaker Profiles are a snapshot of the people behind the ideas of the future. 


John V. Campbell is the type of guy you want to be friends with. He’s played football at Dartmouth; written articles for major magazines King and ESPN; and is now the CEO of Matuse. What started out as series of chance connections and big ideas led to Matuse, a once-young startup that is now the most elite brand of wetsuits in the market. Matuse Wetsuits are built on groundbreaking technology, memorable branding, and the unshakeable authenticity every designer should aim for. 

Matuse prides themselves on being “Ichiban,” a Japanese word that means “number one,” or “the best of the best.” At the core design of Matuse’s “Ichiban Game,” their unique branding which represents the product, the experience, and a lifestyle, is Geoprene. Unlike most wetsuits, which are made from petroleum-based Neoprene, Matuse Wetsuits are made from Geoprene, a limestone-based rubber manufactured in Osaka. Geoprene is clean, sustainable, and the lightest warmest rubber in the world. 

But, the groundbreaking technology behind the wetsuit design is only one of the factors that make them “ichiban.” The other half of “ichiban” is smart, authentic, and memorable branding. Instead of relying on tired surf clichés, Matuse creates a narrative that allows their suits to live outside of the ocean in thrilling locations that embody the quality and values behind the brand. 


For us, what really sets Matuse aside is the authenticity they bring to the table. Though the locations of Matuse’s visual campaigns evoke exclusivity, the wearers are often friends and family members. This particular choice reminds the clientele that they are not simply purchasing a product; rather, they are becoming a part of a community.


In Stab Style’s article on Campbell he says, “Today over half of our audience is international, yet there’s a common thread that connects everyone that loves Matuse and wears the product. The phrase “like-minded” gets overused these days but there’s unquestionably something about Matuse that attracts a certain kind of human.” Not only have Campbell and his team designed an incredibly high-tech sustainable wetsuit, they have redefined what it means to be a luxury brand through their commitment to art and function. Like a true Pioneer. 

Read more about how Campbell turned his passion into a business here

by: Amanda Pickens for Pioneer Mode


New York Fashion Week: What does it mean? Who is it for?

Starting with the Sneak Peak offered up by Christina Binkley for the Wall Street Journal, Fashion Week seems pretty predictable. But below the surface, it's hard to put a handle on New York Fashion Week, what is means, and who it's for. What used to be a trade week for buyers, designers, critics and editors has become a source of entertainment for millions of onlookers who see through the eyes of insiders, although experiencing it all from behind a screen. 

Fashion Week not only involves more and more people, but it also produces more and more content. Over the course of a few days, or 15 minutes, in the instance of a designer's runway show, a brand can generate a year's worth of content to engage with their audience. Because their audience is creating content for them.

Much of that content creation is all about the clothes: images, videos, who-wore-whats, reviews, conversations, and trend analysis. The pros who used to experience this week as a private trade show now share the dialogue with the millions of amateurs, some of whom, namely bloggers, have made their way from clicking through the pages of (now wrapped into to the front rows. That democratization leapt forward at Givenchy in New York, where 1,200 tickets were offered first-come-first-serve to the public.

Why Fashion of the Future will Never be Fashion of the Future

Every sci-fi costume designer has the challenge of imagining a world that has yet to become. Designers like Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne made careers of a futuristic vision well enough in line with the Mod era to be part of the zeitgeist. But, even now (many years into the future from 1960) those designs are classified more as relics of the past than visionary ideas of fashion yet to come. Over a decade past Space Odyssey: 2001 we are still dressing like the earthlings we are.

 Anne Francis,  Forbidden Planet  costume fitting

Anne Francis, Forbidden Planet costume fitting

     Marc de Groot   for   Vogue Netherlands

 Marc de Groot for Vogue Netherlands

In fashion, just like in society, we tend to get ahead of ourselves while also remaining far behind. We work out the logistics of an intergalactic future while still working out the logistics of bringing roads, electricity, and running water to underdeveloped countries here on Earth.

As far as when things will change, we enter into the future every day. And we’ll get there one day at a time. Just as fashion has evolved through subtle changes year to year, so will evolve the fashions of the future. New technologies appear and aspire to be game changers. The introduction of the zipper was not the death of the button. As designers we appropriate available resources to our taste, and the demands of the time. We are always building on what we know to take a step forward. You cannot predict a creative evolution without the phases in between. Only in looking back can you witness the change. That bodes well for the future of fashion: that we will never actually have to wear what those Sci-Fi movies predict for us. For it to work in fashion, technology can’t look like technology.

 Steven Klein  for Vogue

Steven Klein for Vogue

Take the example of Google Glass, straight from the futuristic spread of Vogue’s September Issue. It is the epitome of why a futuristic design will never actually represent the designs of the future. Too mechanical, too metallic, too industrial: until technology is at a point where it can be adapted to aesthetic demands, it will never break into the commercial sphere.

The term wearable technology is still understood as gadgetry. Chips and digits and wires. How do you market this to a customer of Ralph Lauren or Lanvin? It will be necessary for engineers to create their technologies in an unpackaged way. Leave it up to the designers to make it wearable. Let the technology be adaptable. Not like an iPhone can be dressed with a case, but where the form of the iPhone could be undefined. This is when fashion can meet the future. When fashion doesn’t have to bend to the constraints of the technology, but when the technology is flexible enough to bend to the aesthetic whim.

For designers, and engineers, that is the next and wonderfully exciting frontier.

This article was originally published on Medium.

Industry Insights with Bag the Habit's Liz Long

We’re continuing the fashion industry conversation with Liz Long—Bag the Habit founder and consultant to Maker’s Row. Last time around, we caught up with Kaight’s Kate McGregor to chat what it’s like as a retailer to work with small brands (spoiler: so much more flexible) and the lack of environmental impact-focused discussion within the design industry. Given that Pioneer Mode is aimed at bringing industry pain points to light, we asked Liz to add a few to the list.

Liz is constantly in contact with fellow entrepreneurs of all levels as they make their way through Maker’s Row—a website dedicated to matching designers with factories. Her own business, Bag the Habit, is focused on creating reusable totes made of 100 percent eco-textiles. Through her own business experience with Bag the Habit, Maker’s Row, and teaching virtual courses through sites like Skillshare, Liz has constantly found ways to grow and share insight through global sharing (something she wishes there were more of—more on that later). Read on to hear Liz’s thoughts on the state of the sharing economy, growing the education-tech space, and whether or not “American made” is here to stay.

What I’ve seen from teaching on these [educational] sites is not just me teaching the students—it’s them connecting with each other. I’m watching this organic connection happen and it’s just awesome.”

The Packaging of Fashion

Fashion, broadly speaking, encompasses everything from runway shows to the marketing around those products, and their translation into trends on the street. But the definition of fashion is changing, as the way it's being marketed to us evolves. Has fashion been reduced from the product to the packaging it's delivered in?

Dana Thomas addressed this question in her book Deluxe: How luxury lost it's luster, published in 2007. At the time we were witnessing the first signs of exclusivity becoming commoditization. Michiko Kakutani observes for the New York Times, "a business that once catered to the wealthy elite has gone mass-market and the effects that democratization has had on the way ordinary people shop today, as conspicuous consumption and wretched excess have spread around the world. Labels, once discreetly stitched into couture clothes, have become logos adorning everything from baseball hats to supersized gold chains."

In such a system, value is determined more from the context in which an item is framed than the quality of the product. If quality is no longer a pre-requisite for luxury, than what is left? Only how it makes us feel to buy, wear, and promote that product. Even if you are selling a product of exceptional quality, you have to cut through the noise of the competition. And so we tell stories, and those stories create value.

Industry Insights with Kaight’s Kate McGregor

To kick off our Industry Insights series, we chatted with Kate McGregor—the owner and founder of Kaight, a specialty boutique in Brooklyn focusing on sustainable fashion and educating shoppers on the importance of knowing about their clothes' backstory, by putting the idea of discovery at the front of the shopping experience. Kate—who launched her brick and mortar store in August 2006 and the online shop within the following year—has always put the idea of “slow fashion” above all when it comes to the merchandise she carries. The store, which has become a neighborhood favorite, has garnered a multitude of press on its message. In Kate’s words: “We’re all about helping customers style themselves and get the most wear out of their purchases. I’ve had people comment that this philosophy and type of selling is counterintuitive for a retail store: We’re not trying to push products on people. We want customers to really think about what they’re buying and be thoughtful consumers.”

“We’re all about helping customers style themselves and get the most wear out of their purchases. We’re not trying to push products on people.”

Saddle Up

  Pilot Joe Walker and the X-1A   NASA Commons Image   #    E-1758

Pilot Joe Walker and the X-1A NASA Commons Image # E-1758

We are Pioneer Mode—encouraging a stronger, healthier community of fashion enterprise.

As stakeholders and professionals working in the fashion industry, we recognize the urgent need to solve problems and improve the current systems that are undermining the agility and longevity of fashion businesses.

We promise at Pioneer Mode, in our events and on this platform, to:

collect perspectives, identify the key issues, and uncover potential solutions. 

Our approach is cross-disciplinary and results driven. We are for collective action, using creativity, technology, and innovation. This is where our commentary lives, addressing the impact and inner workings of the fashion industry.

Follow us for a series of discussions, investigations and expert opinions. 

The frontier is just ahead.

See you back here soon,

Lee and Nicole