Digital Mask Distribution

In our effort to help California's healthcare professionals and first responders on the frontline, Variant Labs has created a form-fitting 3D-knit mask made from fine gauge synthetic yarn. The machine-washable, non-medical mask consists of a single-piece design with ear straps and an integrated front pocket which holds a replaceable nylon non-woven filter for increased protection.  Together with our U.S. manufacturing partners, we are knitting more than 1,700 masks a day. For every mask sold at cost, we will donate one to a frontline worker. All proceeds will go towards purchasing more materials and to keep production running. Variant’s digital manufacturing framework allows us to provide free automatic manufacturing instructions to industrial knitting machines throughout the country. Our vision enables hyper-local manufacturing wherever knitwear manufacturers are located.  Knitwear Manufacturers: Please contact us for our free electronic tech pack to put your machines to work and help our healthcare professionals! We are currently seeking additional partnerships to help fund production. Product & Partnership Questions: Garrett Gerson, CEO (garrettg@variant.group) Technical Questions: Neil Gupta, CTO (neilg@variant.group)

Fashion 4.0, No. 17: Cos & The Renewal Workshop Spotlight Circular Fashion

Last week, Swedish retailer COS debuted its Restore Collection stateside at Westfield Century City. The COS Restore Collection comprises 800 men’s and women’s pieces that have been damaged in the supply chain or returns process, and repaired into like-new condition by The Renewal Workshop. The merchandise retails for 30 percent less than regular pieces. Taking part in the in-store panel discussion were The Renewal Workshop cofounder Nicole Bassett, COS Global Head of Sustainability Nopor Stuart, sustainable lifestyle influencer Jenny Ong, and moderator Kat Collings, editor-in-chief of Who What Wear. Bassett, who worked in the fashion industry for 15 years at brands such as Patagonia and Prana, finding more sustainable ways to make clothes, said she co-founded The Renewal Workshop to enable true circularity in fashion. “I realized that even if we make everything in the world sustainable, we are still just making more stuff, and thought there was a lot of opportunity to innovative in the circular economy. So the idea came out of how can we help brands move out of a linear model of making and selling to a circular one of using products over and over again. And, how to engage consumers to want to increase the longevity of their clothes,” she said.    Above: Shoppers at COS Century City check out the Restore Collection. Courtesy of COS. The Renewal Workshop builds “impact data” into its business model to show the difference made by saving damaged products, thereby cutting down on the energy and carbon spent to produce new ones. “Every time we renew a piece, this ‘lifecycle data’ helps inform customers of the impact it’s making,” explained Bassett. The company’s team of repairers can fix everything from a broken stitch to old or missing buttons or zippers. Often the results are so like-new that it’s hard to tell what’s actually been repaired. Ong said her clothes-buying strategy includes choosing pieces that she knows she can wear on multiple occasions, and when she tires of a piece, she will alter it or have it customized with embroidery to make it feel new again. Stuart pointed out that COS’ timeless designs lend themselves to longevity, such as the 10-year-old coat she was wearing. Both she and Bassett stressed the importance of proper garment care to extend the life of clothes. Above: Nicole Bassett and Jenny Ong. Courtesy of COS. Said Stuart, “Brands put care labels in clothes for a reason. A lot of people don’t know that the washing machine symbol with the line under it means ‘gentle wash cycle,’ especially for knits. My advice is don’t wash it–spot clean it, air dry it, or use refresher spray. Literally, to stop washing your knitwear is the best thing you can do." When it comes to spending, Bassett said, “Vote with your wallet, take micro action. It’s more than theory, it’s what’s changing the world right now. When I first started working in sustainability  there were just a handful of companies who cared and invested in it. Now we are starting to understand our impact and it’s because all of us as people have asked for something different and have decided to put our dollars towards it.” One of the most commonly asked questions is still, “What does ‘sustainably sourced’ mean?” when it comes to clothing. Stuart defined it as such: “Something that is recycled or organic, or a third party has verified it has had a lesser impact on the environment. That could be the Better Cotton Initiative or the Responsible Wool Standard. We as brands can choose to buy those fibers versus the conventional ones.” Above: Jenny Ong, Kat Collings, Nicole Bassett and Nopor Stuart. Courtesy of COS. The Swedish H&M Group, which owns COS, may produce a lot of clothing, but is also leading the change for more sustainable manufacturing. It has already met its 2020 goal to use 100 percent sustainably sourced cotton, including organic cotton for its entire denim range. Its 2030 goal is to use all sustainably sourced fibers. Its 2040 goal is more ambitious: to become “climate positive” which means to give back more than they consume in the value chain, including teaching customers how to care for and keep their garments longer and have lesser impact on the climate “It’s becoming the norm as people like Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, whom we’re very proud of, change conceptions of what a customer wants. It’s also a challenge because sustainable is a very subjective word and a lot of brands and people have their own version of it, so it can be confusing. It relies on the customer to do a little research, too.” We hope this bit of news inspires you to do more, buy less and buy smarter.  Please keep following us to learn more about what other fashion and technology innovators are doing to move forward into the new decade.  With Gratitude, The Variant Team Have a tip? Email us at info@variant.group. Interested in collaborating with Variant? Fill out an application here. 

Fashion 4.0, No. 16: The Lyst Index, Tech-Enabled Skincare & Bio-Nylon

The Lyst Index Q4 2019 was released today, revealing the Top 20 "Hottest Brands" as well as the Top 10 most searched for fashion items for men and women. To compile the results, the global fashion search platform analyzes the online shopping behavior of more than nine million shoppers a month searching, browsing and buying fashion across 12,000 designers and stores online. The formula behind The Lyst Index takes into account global Lyst and Google search data, conversion rates and sales, as well as brand and product social media mentions and engagement statistics worldwide over a three month period. In addition to Off-White and streetwear maintaining their popularity, insulated outwear, chunky footwear and knit accessories made the biggest upward moves. While Moncler's Maya jacket (pictured alongside Gucci's GG wool jacquard scarf) was #1 in the men's most-searched for category, a sustainable down coat, filled with recycled down and feathers, by H&M-owned brand Arket was ranked #10 for women.  DATA MEETS DERMATOLOGY In other news, a new DTC skincare brand called Atolla, founded at MIT, received a patent for the process it uses to analyze customer's skin and create customized serums. Atolla leverages machine learning to deliver personalized skincare products using an individual's actual skin data. Launched in August 2019, it's a monthly $45 subscription service that includes a personalized serum, skin analysis kit and tracking via its mobile app. The personalizes serum combats a user's specific skin issues and concerns and as their skin changes over time, the serum will also adapt. The 10-minute skin analysis is done with strips that measure a customer's pH, oil and moisture levels. Customer's enter the data into the app to receive an instant analysis of their skin each month, no mail-in's required. The personalized products are then made fresh each month, using fewer preservatives and no parabens, phalates or sulfates.  A  FUTURIST'S TAKE ON AI, AR & VR One of our favorite fashion-tech writer, Vogue Business Innovation Editor Maghan McDowell, last week interviewed our friend and mentor, XPrize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis, who just released a new book, "The Future is Faster Than You Think." Among the insights he shared with Maghan, Diamandis predicts that the future of shopping will be “always on," thanks to ubiquitous augmented reality (AR). He also thinks that artificial intelligence (AI) is in position to streamline and personalize the process, while virtual reality (VR) shopping can be successful if it creates a more social experience. Variant's recent partnership with Intel to incubate interactive retail experiences at Las Vegas AREA15 mall is one part of that. In addition, Diamandis told Maghan that brands should prepare for far more data collection by asking the right questions and using AI to correlate more details. At Variant, we're putting that into practice by formulating a comprehensive questionnaire for prospective brand partners so we can find mutually beneficial ways to work together. Over time, the data gathered and analyzed by AI will also help us optimize our strengths and recognize where we can also improve upon our customers' experience . BIO-NYLON MOVES CLOSER TO MARKET    Last but not least, exciting news in raw materials innovation: Genomatica, the San Diego-based clean manufacturing technology company, has produced the world's first renewably-sourced ton of the key ingredient for nylon-6. What does that mean exactly? Nylon is the world's first totally synthetic fiber to be made into consumer products such as apparel and carpet. It's a huge part of the manufacturing supply chain today (over 5 million tons of nylon-6 are produced each year), but its production is responsible for an estimated 60 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, due in part to the fact that it's made with crude oil. Genomatica has developed a bio-based version of the chemical intermediate for nylon-6 by fermenting the sugars found in plants, and has partnered with European nylon giant Aquafil (makers of regenerative ECONYL®) to convert the intermediate into nylon-6 polymer chips and yarn for the commercial market.  “As proven by the success of ECONYL®, consumers and manufacturers look forward to opportunities to play an active role in the circular economy,” said Giulio Bonazzi, Chairman and CEO of Aquafil. “Visionary companies like Aquafil are delighting customers and gaining market share through more sustainable products,” said Christophe Schilling, CEO of Genomatica. “This is another example of Genomatica applying the power of biology to rethink how widely-used chemicals can be made a better way." As always, thanks for reading and please keep following us to learn more about what innovators are doing to push fashion forward in the new decade.  With Gratitude, The Variant Team Have a tip? Email us at info@variant.group. Interested in collaborating with Variant? Fill out an application here.         

Fashion 4.0, No. 15: How Intel is Powering the Future of Retail

Pictured above: a rendering of the Intel© Experience Incubation Hub, a multiuse venue for innovation and collaboration located next to AREA15. Photo Credit: Design Distill  To thrive in the digital age, traditional retailers and malls face a reinvent-or-die reality. Last week, we shared that Intel is collaborating with AREA15, one of the first purpose-built experiential retail and entertainment complexes, opening in Las Vegas this April. AREA15 is tackling this issue by offering live events, immersive experiences and activations, and monumental art installations, employing ground-breaking technology and much more for the retail environment. Why It’s Important: Research shows that 81 percent of Generation Z prefer to shop in stores, and 73 percent like to discover new products in stores. This offers the opportunity to transform how a new generation of consumers chooses to interact with brands. Retailers and brands can’t afford to miss out on engaging this demographic, which is on track to become the largest generation of consumers by 2020 — responsible for $29 billion to $143 billion in direct spending. The rise of the “experience economy,” fueled by rapid shifts in technology-enabled design and culture, has resulted in the business-critical need to understand customers — not only Gen Z — and use that data to design a real-time personal experience. “Today, only top retailers can afford to explore and implement experiential design in their stores. We believe immersive, authentically engaging and inspiring experiences in retail are not only possible, but should be accessible for all. Ecosystem collaboration is in Intel’s DNA. AREA15 will help provide scalable, world-class experiential retail solutions for retailers and brands of all sizes.”–Joe Jensen, Intel V.P. & G.M of Retail, Banking, Hospitality and Education div. Intel’s Role: The alliance will initially focus on immersive experiential retail design with the launch of the Intel© Experience Incubation Hub, a multiuse venue for innovation and collaboration located next to AREA15. Pictured in the rendering above, the Experience Incubation Hub will allow retail ecosystem partners — from creatives to technologists — to test new design concepts and leading-edge technologies. The AREA15 property aims to be the gravitational center for the new experience economy, building a flexible platform where Intel innovation will play an integral role. AREA15’s technical and physical infrastructure will be modular, allowing for innovations coming out of the Experience Incubation Hub to be easily tested for proof of concept and scalability — within AREA15 and beyond — in a variety of forms, from pop-ups to short-term engagements to more permanent installations. “AREA15 is a radical reimagining of retail, where visitors can expect to be authentically engaged and inspired in an otherworldly setting,” said Winston Fisher, CEO of AREA15 and partner in Fisher Brothers. “Experience design cannot be separated from technology — it is essential that the two are intertwined and co-developed. That’s where our collaboration with Intel comes in. Together, we’re raising the standard of experience design, and developing best practices for combining technology, art and commerce in exciting, unexpected ways.” Variant is proud to be one of the early collaborators and experiences featured in the Experience Incubation Hub, along with Artist TRAV, Papinee, Pressure Point Creative and ThenWhat Inc. A handful of other technology companies were present at Intel's booth during the NRF Retail's Big Show earlier this month, and below we highlight a few of the innovations that caught our eye.  Using Intel’s cutting-edge computer vision and processors, motion detection, product sensing and recognition, and payment integration with retailer’s mobile application, UST Global, CloudPick and RBS have created a seamless shopping experience, where a customer can pick up items and walk out, paying via mobile device. Imagine a retail space-as-showroom, where consumers can spend more time experimenting and discovering, where a buying transaction isn't at the forefront. Should someone to choose to make a purchase, technology like this could integrate much more effortlessly and make it a much more organic experience. Utilizing Intel edge computing, The Looking Glass 8K immersive display demonstrates the world’s first large-format 8K holographic display, with no virtual reality or augmented reality headset required. It allows groups of customers to view and interact seamlessly with true 3D. With 8K poised to be the new wave in high-definition screens, and AR, VR and ER adding new layers onto what consumers can see, this looks beyond exciting. Imagine being able to create a custom garment in 3D, "trying on" an item and seeing yourself from all angles. Combined with the creativity of designers, a viewing experience like this one has the potential to change not only how people show, but how they participate in the creation of those items. We can't wait to see and share more about what the future will bring.  As always, thanks for reading and please keep following us to learn more about what we're doing to push fashion forward in the new decade.  With Gratitude, The Variant Team Have a tip? Email us at info@variant.group. Interested in collaborating with Variant? Fill out an application here. 

Fashion 4.0, No. 14: Variant Debuts With Intel at NRF Retail's Big Show

Variant Malibu is proud to share that we made our New York debut at the country’s biggest retail convention NRF Retail’s Big Show and the exciting news that we partnered with none other than Intel to help showcase the future of in-store experiences. On opening day of the convention Jan. 12, Intel announced a partnership with Area 15, one of the first purpose-built experiential retail and entertainment complexes in the U.S., set to open April 2020 in Las Vegas. To help foster the next wave in immersive experiential retail design, the tech giant will launch the Intel Experience Incubation Hub, a multiuse venue located next to Area 15 for innovation and collaboration in real time. Variant, along with Artist TRAV, Papinee, Pressure Point Creative and ThenWhat Inc., is thrilled to be one the early collaborators featured in hub and previewed at NRF within Intel’s megabooth at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center. Hundreds of retailers, tech executives and media visited over three days, touching our 3D knitwear products and trying out our Customizer. Here, we share our takeaways:   Engage Customers, Foster Collaboration Retailers were fascinated by the Variant Customizer’s potential to create customer interaction in-store.  As our founder and CEO Garrett Gerson (pictured below talking to a German journalist) said, “Our customization platform is not only a retail solution for consumer engagement that allows stores to facilitate collaboration between customers and brands, but it’s also a design tool that helps brands be reactive in real time to make and launch products that engage their customer base.” A design process that used to take days can now take minutes, and customers can demo every iteration of color and motif with the Customizer, without having to create samples. The many tech-forward reps that also attend the show were also attracted to the Customizer as a program that could be manipulated on the back-end to merge customization and production. They’re talking about customizing a customization program, and we’re here for it.   On-Demand’s Many Meanings With regards to frequency of production, retailers weren’t necessarily ready to jump into on-demand orders, but they were interested in using customization as a way to limit inventory by favoring smaller orders that can be produced more frequently. When a style gains popularity, the option for on-demand orders becomes an advantage.  It’s also scalable, as orders can be batched together and sent to multiple factory partners.  Also enabling reduced inventory, the on-demand model allows retailers to order exact quantities and sizes when they need them, rather than projecting or guessing what they’ll need at the beginning of a season. Sustainability Still Top of Mind As the basis of all our 3D-knit garments, sustainable fibers and yarns are an important differentiating factor for Variant. The items we showcased at the Intel booth were made with natural, biodegradable cotton and wool or recycled post-consumer nylon. The process of local 3D knitting itself is 95 percent “cleaner” than traditional factory cut-and-sew because knitting machines emit fewer greenhouse gasses and products don’t have to travel as far to get to the customer. As always, thanks for reading and please keep following us to learn more about what we're doing to push fashion forward in the new decade.  With Gratitude, The Variant Team Have a tip? Email us at info@variant.group. Interested in collaborating with Variant? Fill out an application here.     

Fashion 4.0, No. 13: 2020 Vision at CES Includes Robots, AR, 5G and More

The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, which wrapped last week in Las Vegas, unveiled a myriad of new tech gadgets to the public. This year, sustainability was also at the core of the message – and not just with electronic vehicles. Impossible Foods, the plant-based foods company, touted its roots in technology as a means of creating sustainable food sources (we're sure their samples tasted better than other convention center fare). Here are the top trends predicted to impact consumers in the next decade: AR GLASSES DO MORE Google Glass might not have taken off when it was introduced in 2014, and Snap Inc's Spectacles, now in their third iteration, are just beginning to ramp up with collaborations in the fashion sphere. So what's new in augmented reality, virtual reality and extended reality spectacles? CES gave Norm Glasses, made by Human Capable, its Innovation Award for its products that look and feel like regular eyewear with "smartwatch features for your face," said Consumer Technology Association's VP of Research Steve Koenig. Fashion-tech companies like Lectra are also adapting AR technology for use in fabric selection, design and pattern-making, as well as trouble-shooting issues with fabric-cutting machinery.  EARBUDS AMP UP We've come to expect more than just the absence of wires from our headphones, thanks to the ubiquitous Apple AirPods. In addition to longer battery life, better noise reduction and other smart features, innovators are also touting "hearables," or audio-enhanced "wearables," i.e. headphones that double as hearing aids.  STREAMING GOES BITE-SIZE Joining the Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ fray is Quibi, the new and heavily-funded streaming media platform led by former Yahoo CEO Meg Whitman and studio mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg. The platform specializes in "quick bites" of content, or videos of 10 minutes or less, whether it's longform storytelling parsed out into several chapters, or standalone reality programs, documentaries, food shows and daily news programs. Its focus is Millennials who digest content differently from their parents, primarily on mobile. Its partnership with T-Mobile could go a long way in making it a household name.  Photo Courtesy of LG TV UPS HD ANTE Forget 4K resolution screens; 8K is set to become new normal with even more pixels than you thought necessary. Of course, people will need to start shooting content in 8K, but we're sure that's coming. There are also juiced-up versions of today's LCD and OLED screen tech: Samsung's "MicroLED" and TCL's more affordable "Mini-LED."  And don't be surprised if your TV one day goes vertical to match the mobile viewing experience. ELECTRIC VEHICLES MULTIPLY Tesla isn't the most accessible car, but with batteries becoming lighter, cheaper and longer-lasting, we'll see more affordable eco-friendly EVs in the years to come. As for cool design, Sony unveiled its first concept car, the Vision-S, to demonstrate how its technology could be applied to the auto industry. And luxury giant Mercedes-Benz also rolled out a concept car called the AVTR, designed with Avatar creator James Cameron. Of the cars you can reserve now, Fisker's $29,999 Ocean compact electric SUV is a sustainable affordable luxury option with vegan “leather” and parts made of recycled tires and ocean plastics. Deliveries begin later this year with leases starting from $379.  Photo courtesy of Samsung ROBOTS & AI GO HOME Samsung's Ballie robot, which is essentially a mobile version of a smart home speaker that looks and rolls like a tennis ball, can follow its owner around the house like a Star Wars droid. At the same time, AI is being infused into just about every consumer product out there to make them more smarter and more efficient. We're already used to our thermostats knowing more, so why not our hairdryers, microwaves and other everyday essential electronics? As always, thanks for following along and we hope that your 2020 is off to an inspiring start.  With Gratitude, The Variant Team Have a tip? Email us at info@variant.group. Interested in collaborating with Variant? Fill out an application here.