During her week in Stockholm for the Fashion Tech Talk event, Business Insider got an interview with Ph.D. Amanda Parkes, Chief Innovative Officer at Future Tech Lab (FTL).
Not only is Parkes a researcher at MIT, she also manages one of the world’s biggest fashion funds.
FTL is a hybrid of venture capital, accelerator, and experiment lab focusing on fashion and tech. With the fund, it wants to bring to market sustainable and innovative technologies to help transform the fashion industry.
FTL has hubs all around the U.S. and Europe and in five years their plan is to be global in scope. The fund is currently in the process of closing its second funding round.
Its aim is to push the fashion industry into the 21st century.
“Silicon Valley is dead to me,” Parkes says.
Being a researcher focused on tech, Parkes focuses entirely on briding the gap between tech and fashion. She believes that the fashion industry could evolve and become more sustainable.
The economy of the future is circular as well as sharing
Parkes believes that the Swedish market is open and ready for innovative material technology. Some of the innovations funded by FTL has funded are vegan and compostable textiles and sustainably and ethically laboratory-grown diamonds – and Parkes believes these could enter the Swedish market.
“Every company wants good textiles and Sweden has good talents and companies.”
Even though H&M has taken a beating recently, Parkes remains positive.
She believes that if the Swedish fashion giant manages to transform its business model into a circular one by 2030, it will survive and thrive. And it will then be able to justify its constant release of new products.
Seeing that H&M is a global leader she is convinced that when it succeeds, the rest will follow suit.
“H&M will survive and get into something new.”
The fast-fashion business model has also gotten competition from the sharing economy with companies such as Rent the Runway, an online service providing designer-clothing rentals. Here, the quick fashion fix provided by the old model can now be rented, more sustainably and with higher material quality.
Parkes believes that retail is not dead – it just needs to change.
“In NYC the Rent the Runway Store is always packed and the retail stores nearby are empty.”
Parker has a few pieces of advice to players in the fashion industry.
“Invest in science, be transparent, be true to your values, and stay authentic.”