Ready your stilettos and swiping finger – Australia’s first FashHack hits Sydney this month. The weekend-long business building competition and start-up bootcamp will see participants from fashion, design, tech and business communities turn their ideas into bona fide businesses.
And who better to lead the charge than mentors including Jodie Fox (Shoes of Prey), Lana Hopkins (Mon Purse) and Jessica Wilson, the 23-year-old founder of Stashd – a Tinder-esque app (swipe right to stash a garment in your virtual wardrobe, left to trash it) offering 100,000 fashionable finds?
“Stashd aims to translate the process of ‘browsing’ in a bricks and mortar store onto the mobile space, ultimately creating a global mall for fashion discovery,” says Jess.
Here’s how she successfully mashed fashion and tech…
Back when your fashion career was just a dream, a college counsellor said you “didn’t have it in you”. How did you react?
I learned a very valuable lesson looking back. Just because someone says you can’t do something doesn’t necessary mean that their perception of you is the truth… people will quite quickly either stereotype you or put you in a box that fits in with their belief system – if you don’t fit in with their stereotype you are pretty instantly labelled as rebellious or crazy. Reaction-wise, I cried, then was angry, then dropped out of the university to make my own dreams a reality, despite what anyone else thought.
How does someone who’s not a techie go about developing an app?
There are two generic ways you could go. The way I went is to find yourself a tech co-founder. This co-founder needs to have the skills you don’t have to be able to develop the app and liaise with other developers (either front or back end) to bring a vision to life. Ideally you want a hustler (visionary), hacker (developer) and designer (user experience) in a tech start-up team. Even if you can’t get all three of these, have all three covered in your advisory board… Second is to outsource the development overseas – websites such as Odesk act as tools to find this talent.
Online retail giant ASOS is now a partner, how did you wrangle that?
Brand leverage and showcasing a vision. Starting off with luxury labels was strategic for us, we knew we would not make as many sales as our competitors – but what we were doing was creating a perception that we only stock luxury labels which meant, when it came time to change gears (and we had leveraged the luxury brand labels to secure the press we needed), brands such as ASOS follow suit.
What’s currently keeping you awake at night?
There is a lot happening! We are locking in Stashd stores, shooting a reality TV series pilot based on my life running Stashd… and not to mention working on an initiative with Richard Branson [and] my lovely co-founder I met on Necker Island, Caitlin Iles.
What advice would you give someone wanting to forge their own path?
Something people don’t expect when entering into this journey, put bluntly, is the ‘founder’s bipolar’. You will have extreme high and extreme lows, it’s important to look after yourself as a founder. Surround yourself where you can with like-minded people; the journey can get very lonely, especially when you are starting out and trying to figure out how to get over the huge wall of challenges that seem to be in front of you… Be brave and don’t be afraid to fail, what you will end up learning in the process is invaluable.
And… get on down to FashHack?
FashHack is something I would have given my right arm to be a part of two years ago! The fashion and tech industries are so different that having the opportunity to spend a weekend with both fashion-minded and tech-skilled people with the support of mentors is an invaluable experience for anyone wanting to execute an idea or become a part of the fashion tech space.
FashHack runs from June 19-21. Check out their website for further details.