The Retail Podcast by Vue.ai: Leaders in Retail | FASHINNOVATION31 min readReading Time: 21 minutes
Say hello to Jordana Guimarães , the Co-Founder of FASHINNOVATION, a platform that’s showcasing the coolest innovations in retail and fashion technology. Along with husband Marcelo Guimaraes, she launched the first edition of FASHINNOVATION successfully at New York Fashion Week in 2018. Believe it or not, their initial concept garnered the attention of companies like Diane Von Furstenberg and Louis Vuitton. The conferences have featured fashion heavyweights including Chromat, Ba&Sh, WGSN, Fern Mallis, Wearable X, Mara Hoffman, Boxed Water, Refinery29, Fast Company amongst many others.
Tune into The Retail Podcast by Vue.ai and listen to Jordana talk about:
- Why she started Fashinnovation and the community she is building.
- AI’s role in retail
- How technology can help with returns, wastage and sustainability
- Why every retailer needs to include a sustainability component in their experience
- How the fashion industry can create social impact through technology
- The inspiration behind her book titled “It Can Be You”, a book on empowerment through fashion
Here’s the transcript, to make your experience easier:
Akshara Subramanian: Hey guys, welcome to a new episode of The Retail Podcast by Vue.ai, our podcast series on leaders in retail. I’m Akshara and I head customer marketing here at Vue.ai. Today’s podcast guest is very, very interesting. She’s an entrepreneur, a publicist and a philanthropist. I’m very, very excited to introduce you to our podcast guest, Jordana Guimarães, with over 15 years of experience in the marketing and public relations industry. She’s our ideal guest. Jordana recently co-founded Fashinnovation, a platform that’s showcasing innovations in technology that are shaping the fashion industry. She’s extremely passionate about causes around sustainability and women empowerment. She recently authored her first book titled “It Can Be You” That Focuses on giving face to Homelessness via fashion initiatives. Welcome Jordana.
Jordana Guimarães: Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure.
Akshara Subramanian: Great, So we know you’ve been working on a lot of incredible things. But before we even get a fashion innovation, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into this space.
Jordana Guimarães: Yeah. So I actually I have a really unconventional theory with how I came into the business. I was never really very much into the school system because I’ve always been kind of like I’d like to learn things on my own piece and also learn things that I’m interested in. But just so you know, learn something, to learn something is not something that I really you know, it’s not really in my core. And when I was 18 and after high school, I decided not to go to college and instead I started working in a lot of different industries from the banking industry to the real estate industry to the hospital industry. So I worked in a lot of different facets of different industries until I was 22. So for four years. And one thing that I found a commonality, the one thing that I liked about every job that I had was the part, you know, when it came to people, communications, just trying to figure out how to create social impact surrounding jobs that I had in jobs that I do. And so that’s how I came about, finding out about marketing and public relations, which is really what started me in this realm of the fashion industry. And so when a team about marketing and PR, I decided that that’s what I wanted to pursue after doing a job that had really nothing to do with that. And I got my first position to be the public relations director for a lot of really huge brands. It was a company that held the licenses for all of these brands. And the way that I got a job, which is even more ironic because I really had no experience, was that I emailed the president of the company and I was it was a very honest email. I just pretty much said that I’ve never done fashion, I’ve never worked in public relations. But I knew that through my experiences with other jobs in other industries that I had. And through me, excelling at those positions that I knew that I could do this job. And the president of the company emails me back and said that even though he sounded very bizarre to receive an email of the sort. I was very intrigued that he was very intrigued. And then he wanted to meet me. And so I remember I went back to I went to Barnes and Noble and I bought the book PR for Dummies. And this is a true story. It’s very random, but it’s true.
Akshara Subramanian: I read an article about it. I think I’ve got an idea. Yeah, I guess I thought he was this person got their job at Fourche reading a book called PR for Dummies. And I was like, yeah. Interesting.
Jordana Guimarães: So that’s me. Yes. I read that book. And then I went to the meeting with this president of this huge organization. And I remember he told me something that always sticks with me to this day and I use it for everything. After we spoke for about an hour, he looked at me and you said, look, you can learn a lot through reading books, going to school, but he said passion is something that comes from within. He said, and when you speak about wanting to do this, I feel the passion and a see shine in your eye. And he’s like, I want to give you the job. But I’m not going to pay you. You’re going to work for free for three months. And if you can figure it out, we’ll talk. And so I took the job. And that’s really what started my whole journey when I was doing public relations for all of these amazing brands and meeting amazing individuals and always having to come up with an angle to pitch a story. It was very exciting for me. And so shortly after that, I started my own marketing agency and public relations agency, and I did that for about fifteen years. But I always like to give back. And social impact was a big thing for me. Like, I really, genuinely love people. It’s really what drives me to do everything that I do today. And so I started to give back a lot for different organizations like make a wish and help cancer.And a lot of actually associations with cancer awareness, and then about three years ago I got pregnant with my first baby and that’s when I decided to start my own philanthropy project, which is how the book, which is now being published, came about. Titled It can be used to give a face to homelessness, but because all I’ve known was fashion for fifteen years, I said, let me use what I know, which is the fashion industry and try to do something with that To give a face to homelessness. And so I decided to. Social media is such a huge thing, such a technology that really evolved and changed the industry in so many ways. I decided to use the voices of the strong fashion influencers that the millennials and the Gen X really pay attention to everything they do from what they eat, to what they wear, to where they go and use their voices to start talking about struggles in their lives. To then correlate those stories to stories of people that are homeless today so that people see the similarities. But also, What separates the two people. And I created a hashtag in this social media project titled They Can Be All and this is what the book is titled now. So with all of that being said, it’s a long line journey. I then with having the experience of this years in public relations and the book and the whole social impact behind everything that I do, My husband, he’s always been an entrepreneurship his entire life with innovation. It’s companies with innovations and he always helps them internationalize. And so when we met and we had our babies, we have two now a year ago when we were sitting down with the two babies at home trying to figure out, you know, because I was working a lot outside of the house. He was working a lot outside of the house. We said, what if we bring in the entrepreneurship, the innovation aspect, the fashion industry, and we create like a platform where we can talk about all of these things combined. But bringing in the technology component, which is something that we’re seeing that is really changing everything nowadays. And so we came up with fashinnovation only a year ago, which is crazy how fast it’s grown. And that’s really our whole purpose is not only to showcase innovations, deal with technology that are shaping the fashion industry, but also to be able to use the platform and use these huge moguls that we’re bringing on board to speak about these different semantics, to also create awareness for social impact causes. And so, yes, that’s where I am today.
Akshara Subramanian: Wow that’s a pretty long journey, Very very exciting and full of very relevant experience, especially for something like fashinnovation. You know, I would like you to talk to me a little bit more about what has really been your aim with fashinnovation. You know, because I know it was launched very successfully at New York Fashion Week last year. And I read somewhere and I believe that you just your initial emails around the concept garnered a lot of attention of sea level executives like d.b.’s, Louis Vuitton and Google. I mean, that’s incredible because in just a month’s time you seemed to have brought on over 30 speakers as confirmed participants at fashinnovation. So what was the narrative you were looking to build through these conversations with all of these retail experts?
Jordana Guimarães: So I think that, you know, when we put this together a year ago and like you said, the very interesting things that I saw is that with only like a week of having the API is just an hour ahead without having a website, without having anything to show, we just cold emailed all of these huge people that you just mentioned and the founder of Shopify and a partner at IBM and all of these other individuals and and a lot of awesome brands like Ministry of Supply, Universal Standard ASPLIN. And the interesting thing is that the responses were coming in within 24 hours and not only already coming in, but they were coming in with a yes. I want to participate. I want to speak. And so when that was happening and again, they didn’t know us. There was no website to look at. They had no idea about anything. All we did was write the concept of our idea in an email. The fact that their responses were coming in so quickly with all of these huge people wanting to speak at our event was kind of like there was a light bulb moment that it would.
Akshara Subramanian: I mean, that seems like a rather eye opener, you know.
Jordana Guimarães: Yeah. And it made us realize that it wasn’t just going to be an event, but rather what we had was our business in our hands. You know, because we thought about it and we said all these people obviously are hungry to talk about this. They have a need to want to know about new technologies that maybe they don’t know of yet that they can use to, you know, just make their presence and their brands stronger or whatever it is that they want to do, whether it’s AI customization. And when you look at all the trends now that are happening in the industry, I think that most of them, which we see, which is sustainability, new manufacturing processes, e-commerce, AI with virtual fitting rooms and so much more. I think that all of these things like brands, they know that they need to jump on the technology bandwagon if they’re going to stay alive, because it’s just it’s the way that the world is evolving. Right, with everything. And so I think that I think we kind of we came in at the right time when no one else really was fulfilling that need specifically. And so I think that that’s why we grew so fast from day one.
Akshara Subramanian: Right. And can you tell me some of the biggest moments that you really felt were very impactful, like things that you remember that happened at the last couple of fashinnovation conferences, things that really struck you in terms of what’s going on in retail today, what these leaders and experts are talking about. What are the concerns? Where’s Retail headed?
Jordana Guimarães: Yeah, so I would say that. So the first thing is that we had the directors of NASA at our place event, and it was really interesting to see just how much brands and retailers that are fashion retailers are using NASA inspired or NASA like product to be able to evolve their collection or to evolve whatever it is that they’re doing with technology. There’s a lot of things that NASA is doing in the fashion industry. And people like when you see when you see NASA-fashion, they’re like, what? But there’s a lot, that’s one thing that we learned, which is really cool. I think the second thing was the whole like virtual fitting room aspect, because retailers, you know, a lot of people, a lot of people end up ordering right online, whether it’s like Zara, H&M and all of that. And I think that the whole like, you know, getting the wrong size when you order something, one is bad for like stocks in stores, bought or not sold and even returns. Returns are horrible. And so when you use AI for something to get the exact measurement of that person when they are shopping. Not only does it take away a pain point in the retail fashion industry, but it also like gives us a lot more to look forward when it comes to sustainability. Right. Because you’re not shipping in and out different boxes aside from like clothing that gets return and sometimes gets away and all of that type of stuff. So I think that AI is something that really was an eye opener with how much it’s coming out and how many people are doing different acts like different categories of it. So that’s been really cool to see. And I also think we’ve seen a lot of customization, like even in retail shops, like a lot of brands, a lot of companies starting to look how to customize things, particularly to a certain client. I think people, though, when they just come in and just buy mass anymore, be a part of the masses, they want to be unique. And so I think that that’s something else that we’ve seen a lot. So there’s like a trend with those three things that we just see over and over and over again at our conferences feel with the technology.
Akshara Subramanian: Right. I think it’s really exciting that you said something about sustainability. I remember meeting you at Fashion Week and even then we were talking a lot about how sustainability is a big passion of yours. I feel like sustainability. Well, sometimes I’d argue it’s become a buzzword. There’s also some very real aspects to it. Right. It’s happening at a product level. It’s happening in a business impact level. And it’s also happening at a consumption level. We can’t really see that people on being sustainable just because they aren’t applying in every aspect of their life. But. It’s definitely something that people are very actively paying attention to these days. How does roping in tech titans like NASA and JACQUARD by Google help you put sustainability as a concept in the spotlight? How do you shed attention on something that’s so essential as a topic for people right now to be talking about?
Jordana Guimarães: Yeah. So I think I like sustainability, right? It could be encompass a lot of things. I think when you say I’m for sustainability, it doesn’t have to be that everything you have and everything you do is fully organic and fully sustainable. I think there are different ways to do it. I think there is a global fashion exchange. I’m most familiar with them. But what they do is they use a online portal where they create swap exchanges is what they call them all over the world. And these like major events, but they do it all online. So the way that you like, if you what they are doing an event in India and you want to bring in the global fashion exchange, everything you do is online So be it technology and then you are able to set up a swap exchange in your city. Where are you going? You get three pieces of clothing that you don’t use anymore. You get three tickets and you get somebody else’s three pieces that they brought that they don’t want any more. And those are your new and yours that you gave away somebody else takes. And it’s there, New. So it’s a way of like, you know, exchanging clothing so the clothing doesn’t have to be sustainable. But the fact that you’re passing at on and your garbage is becoming someone else’s treasure, that’s one. Then you have, you know. Yeah. Then you have a lot of people when it comes to customization and bespoke, when you customize something and it’s something that’s like long lasting and it’s something that’s good quality, you’re not going to customize or bespoke a million pieces of something. You’re gonna have one piece. But that one piece is going to last you 20, 30 years if you take care of it. And so, you know, it doesn’t have to be sustainable fabric, but just the fact that it’s one piece instead of 10. And it’s customized and it’s useful to you. It’s something that you’re going to keep for a much longer time. So it’s not going to generate as much pollution when you’re buying in the masses. So that’s the second way that we’re taking that third way is just be a technology. You know, if we talk about AI with the virtual fitting rooms, it’s not so much about the clothing that they return, but it’s the boxes and boxes that get return. I think it’s like 40 percent of purchases in the US get returned. That’s a lot. And then it becomes, with like all those boxes that are going in and out, in and out. I mean, just I think it’s like I don’t want to say the wrong numbers. I’m not going to quote it, but I just heard it recently. It’s in the billions when it comes to like just a lot. A lot, a lot, a lot. So, you know, I think there’s different ways that technology is solving a lot of the pain points when it comes to waste to be sustainable. And then there’s, of course, you know, just being fully sustainable with that type of fabric that’s being used or where it’s coming from and all of that. But I think it’s technology is doing wonders in that in that realm for sure.
Akshara Subramanian: I completely agree with you. I feel like sustainability is something that can also be a very judgmental things. And it doesn’t have to be because people can apply it at all levels. And like you very rightly pointed out, I don’t think that just doing something at a fabric level means that, you know, you’re being sustainable. It can also mean in how you invest in your clothing, how you buy things, how you shop for stuff. Even the rental and resale model right now is so pro sustainability because it allows you to increase the longevity of an item. It allows you to reduce wastage and it helps you be a lot more conscious as a shopper. So, yes, completely on the same page and I agree that we don’t always have to label just a fabric and just the ingredients and the process sustainable. It can also be just the way businesses are being built. Just how conscious were being shoppers and as companies and retailers? Yes.
Jordana Guimarães: Yeah,.
Akshara Subramanian: Absolutely. So, you know, you don’t have to kind of move on a little bit to talk about your book “It can be you” and you take on humanizing homelessness and raising awareness about the issue in your book. So can you tell us what kind of topics you were exploring in the book?
Jordana Guimarães: Yeah. So the book what I did is three years ago, I raised over $10000 on gofundme and we created a street team and move on out in Manhattan. And we gave out meals to thousands of homeless individuals and we got their stories of how they wound up on the streets as we gave them a meal. And then what we did is we got 50 of the top influencers in fashion on social media to come on board as ambassadors and shared their stories of struggle and how they overcame those struggles to be where they are today. And then on in the book, each page, you’ll have the story of the influencer’s struggle and how they overcame it and right underneath their story. You had the story of someone who was homeless today, and it shows you just how similar their struggles were. But at the end, what circumstance one had that the other didn’t, that separates the two. And that’s why it’s called they can be. You just kind of, um. It’s a way to be. You know, a lot of people have a stigma, which, you know, maybe I’d even be guilty of in the past once or twice. But you look at someone and you say, oh, they’re asking for money. They’re going to buy drugs, they’re going to buy alcohol, especially the older generation. I feel like they, you know, they think, oh, they can just get up and get a job. But it’s not that easy when you really listen to the stories. And I think the reason why I wrote the book is because in order for the problem to be solved first, people have to have compassion towards and understand it, until you understand the problem. There is no way we can fix it. And so that that was kind of like my purpose with the book. And I’m really excited to say that I got a publishing deal just recently which is super exciting to go into bookstores and all. Thank you so much. So I’m really excited to have that come out because I’m looking forward to seeing, you know, how people are to kind of like relate to it and if you are going to buy it and what’s going to be the feedback? So it’s really exciting for sure.
Akshara Subramanian: Wow, definitely sounds like there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on and I think there could be a lot that comes out of how people respond to this because I think it’s been interesting as to how and do you have. Can you talk to us a little bit more about, you know, the strong kind of fashion element that you’re looking at applying to these initiatives over time?
Jordana Guimarães: Yeah. So I think, like, you know, it started off with the fashion influencers in the book. I think that ideally what I would love to do is when I sell my first thousand books, I want to take all of those proceeds and I want to start helping homeless individuals. But I don’t want to just write a check to a shelter and just say, here is a donation because you don’t know where that goes. What I wanna do is I want to be able to help like take an actual individual that I meet on the streets. If they want to help, eventually get designers to like, you know, design like different maybe like a collection that we can give to this group of homeless individuals to get them like a job interview. There’s like differently, they think when it comes to donations of clothing and things like that, that we all need, you know, we all have to put our best foot forward and we’re going to a job interview. So those type of things, I think would be really cool to deal. Another thing I think also is maybe doing some type of like a documentary, maybe getting a really big designer that has the same passion for helping the homeless or giving a faces as I do, and then maybe doing some type of a documentary where we can have them help one person specifically and kind of document that journey here like a documentary. So there’s like a lot of plans. You know, a lot of things that I think I could do eventually with this. But first it’s like baby steps,I have to sell the first thousands and then get the proceeds to them. But I think the fashion industry gives us a lot of people, you know, when you see the fashion industry helping the homeless. I’ve had a lot of podcast interviews where they tell me really that the fashion industry really care about the runways. I see that, you know, and it’s kind of and it’s sad, you know, that people with things that the fashion industry is that like vague and that just kind of not caring about these types of situations because they think that they really do. But they don’t have an opportunity to help. But I think if something comes up where it makes sense for them, like when it makes sense that their brand for them to collaborate and help in some way, I find it hard to believe that, you know, just because during the fashion industry they wouldn’t want to. I think the opposite I think if they’re given the right opportunity, I think that they would do it. So because there’s so many people in fashion that are doing amazing things, not only for fashion, but also to change the world. And again, talking about inclusivity, sustainability, transparency, storytelling, these are all things that were within the fashion industry. It’s take a turn and change to raise the better for. So it’s something that I definitely think that, you know, people have a wrong stigma. We talked about the stigma with the homeless. They think the stigma with the fashion industry also has to be adapted a little bit, because I think people don’t have the best light of it when they think of the fashion industry.
Akshara Subramanian: Right. Absolutely. And I think what you’re doing is really amazing and creating awareness and social impact. And it’s definitely challenging, but it’s also very, very rewarding to see the kind of social impact that these types of fashion initiatives can create. I feel like you might have talked about this in New York, but a company called Mercado Global comes to mind because I know for a fact that they help Guatemalan women. They create international sales opportunities. They provide sustainable income earning opportunities for a lot of women. They’re typically rural artisans. So we do a lot of back training workshops, design workshops and really enable and empower these women. So I really feel like initiatives like this around the world can really shed some light on how fashion can create social impact. So completely agree with you there. And I think the work you’re doing is fabulous. So I really hope to see the kind of initiatives that you’re going to be doing and I will be follow you very closely.
Jordana Guimarães: But in India, in Delhi, working with a specific slum in Delhi and working with this group of amazing, very talented women to create these pieces that she eventually wants to get a designer to bring on to their collections so that she can build schools to help women learn how to sew so that they they’re given more opportunities and they can make a money to provide for their family and have a better living situation. So I think any time you can tie, you know, social impact to what you do, whether I mean, we’re talking about fashion specificily, but whatever industry or anything that everything is better. Everything is more fruitful. It’s more rewarding. And it just makes the person happy to work every day because you know that you’re being a little like you’re being that one. You’re helping that one percent of the world get better. No one is going to change the world by themselves. But if everybody is a little bit, I think we can go a lot further. And I think the fashion industry is one of the biggest industries. So why not use that industry to really create impact? Because everybody wears clothes, everybody like fashion, whether whatever their style is, you know? So, yeah, that’s why I think the more we can use fashion for the good, the better.
Akshara Subramanian: Absolutely. I think, you know, we’re heading towards a world that’s got to be a lot more responsible in how they build their businesses and how they build their Models, we can’t just think about just being a consumer society anymore. Think of the social impact fully and collectively, just as businesses and as an industry. So absolutely on the same page with you. You know, that’s fantastic Jordana. I feel like we covered a lot. I want to do a really quick rapid fire with you. You know, just think of the first thing that comes to your mind and tell us what you feel about it. OK. So I’m going to start off with what is the one thing that you think fashion businesses absolutely need to adopt right now? Something that’s just a no brainer.
Jordana Guimarães: Some kind of sustainability. I keep going back to that. I hope where I come, whatever you can. Doesn’t have to be fully sustainable because that’s really hard to change in the business model. But do something tourists that direction and definitely have some type of social impact. If you don’t already, which I think most companies do, and definitely make sure that you are on top of what the latest technologies are because that’s you need technology to evolve like that. We’re in that world right now and that’s necessary. So I would say those three things.
Akshara Subramanian: In your opinion, what’s the one brand in fashion retail that’s really nailing their customer experience? Just from every angle, really thinking of the customer, making them feel super good about themselves and you’re really feeling like. They’re standing out because of what they’re doing.
Jordana Guimarães: I have to say, Diane von Furstenberg and there may sound cliche because maybe a lot of people think of that. But I just think she’s so amazing because she never lost who she is in the process of building her brand today, and even who she hires has the same mindset that she does. And the whole hashtag in charge that she created about recently, I think it was. But it just when you put on her clothes, you feel in charge, you feel like empowered. You are what you kind of just makes you the woman that you are. And I just think that she’s an amazing example as a woman, as an entrepreneur. And her brand is incredible. And she’s always, always making sure that customers are number one and that it’s like the best satisfaction when you shop in her store. Do anything with her brand. So I would say Diane von Furstenberg nailed it from the beginning and she’s so malleable today.
Akshara Subramanian: And now I’m going to just throw out some words with you and then you can tell me what your very, very brief opinion is on each of those occasions. So tell me. What do you think about store closures? Around the world right now.
Jordana Guimarães: I think that it’s going to keep happening unless people start changing things quickly that make things more exciting and yeah, it’s going to keep happening. It’s a lot of things changing and that you can’t. This is a longer thing. But perhaps we were raised. I would say sorry. Like a bad dream. Start thinking differently to different business models. Otherwise you’re gonna be the next person to close because unfortunately, there’s a lot changing in that realm.
Akshara Subramanian: Right. People keep saying retail isn’t dead, boring retail is. So what are your thoughts on that?
Jordana Guimarães: I agree 100 percent that goes back to what I just said with make sure that you change something. But then what you’re doing preaches the regular retailers selling in the masses. You’re going to not be around for much longer. Try to make something exciting, something new to some kind of demo. People like hands on experiences. Just think outside the box and again, use technologies that are there to help you make that happen.
Akshara Subramanian: What role do you think AI plays in the future of fashion?
Jordana Guimarães: A huge role. I think that we’re going to start seeing more and more and more and like I said, it all goes back to everything that’s happening online with a different e-commerce strategy. The virtual fitting room, just a lot of different things that AI is able to do now. I think it’s going to play a huge role. It’s already playing a big role, but it’s going to evolve from here. For sure.
Akshara Subramanian: All right. Can you tell us maybe a couple of books or things that people should definitely read and kind of stay in tune with when it comes to things like sustainability and everything that’s happening in retail right now, what are books that are really kind of opened up your mind to those topics and that whole world of the future of retail?
Jordana Guimarães: So I’m going to tell you one book specifically just because they just read it and I’m really becoming a little bit obsessed with her. Her name is Tony Goodman. She was one of the directors at Vogue. And you just stepped down for her role. She has her book out now, which is called “Point of View”. And it’s just amazing because she’s been in industry for ever. And she’s actually really thinking heavily now in sustainability. I just recently read an article on her where she’s talking about possibly wanting to create the first mass market, mainstream sustainable collection with Ralph Lauren? That was kind of like a joking quote, as she was said recently. But I see that as something that will happen because she’s such a powerhouse. And her book is amazing. So that’s a most recent book that I’ve even had time to read. But I fell in love with it. So “point of view” by Tom Goodman I think it’s incredible.
Akshara Subramanian: Fantastic. I think that kind of brings us to the end of our podcast. I had a fantastic time talking to you Jordana. Thank you.
Jordana Guimarães: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you guys and I love what you guys are doing. And thank you so much for having me. I really feel honoured.
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