Startup Spotlight: Dubai's Fashion Foresight Aims To Bring The Latest Tech Innovations To The Fashion Industry
"Our goal is to make brands become more intuitive, gather the right insights, create experiences that convert to sales, and increase sales revenues in a new age hybrid retail."
This article was built in partnership with in5, an enabling platform for tech, media and design startups.
When you think of major technological advancements and artificial intelligence (AI), the fashion industry is perhaps not an industry that you’d consider such trends to be active in. But look a little deeper, and you’ll be surprised to know just how far technology has permeated into this industry. Take for example the latest buzzword in the world of fashion: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, blockchain-powered fashion assets that now being labelled as “crypto fashion” that can be sold digitally. Terms like “digital clothing” and “hyper-personalization” are also becoming quite commonplace within the fashion and retail industry. And with a complete shift to e-commerce over the course of the global COVID-19 crisis, there has also been the added burden of keeping up with changing consumer habits.
These are the factors that led Badrriya Henry to launch Fashion Foresight in Dubai in September 2019, with a mission to bring the latest technology innovations to brands in the fashion and retail industry. “Fashion Foresight is a fashion consulting and retail technology agency that is driven on connecting fashion and retail brands to the future through technology, innovation, and consultation,” says Henry, who is also the Managing Director of her startup. “The problem we are trying to solve is that of creating concepts, ideas, and solutions that make brands better, and that resonate with new age consumers better. Technology is enhancing and touching each industry, and fashion and retail seem to be disconnected, and, in some cases, lagging behind.”
Indeed, it is Henry’s concern that the Middle East is somehow not up to speed with the rest of the global fashion industry that appears to be one of Fashion Foresight’s driving forces. “There is a lot of interest in fashion and retail technology!” she says. “I am just hoping the Middle East region catches up quickly to this digital movement, and that Fashion Foresight is there in this journey by connecting them to the right resources and tools. Our goal is to make brands become more intuitive, gather the right insights, create experiences that convert to sales, and increase sales revenues in a new age hybrid retail.”
By offering services such as seasonal reports, consumer insights, as well as marketing and trend forecasts, the startup leverages AI-powered technologies to assist fashion and retail brands. Fashion Foresight also delves into the world of immersive experiences by offering solutions such as virtual fashion runways, digital showrooms and exhibitions, as well as 3D modeling. “We also help brands by providing consultations for unique concepts and defining brand identities to make the entire process better,” elaborates Henry. “I guess we are different, because we are focused on an industry that we understand. We care, and we are constantly exploring what is possible, and how the industry that we love can be enhanced by tech solutions.”
Badrriya Henry, founder of Fashion Foresight. Source: Fashion Foresight
It is here that the significance of the startup’s name becomes clear- Henry seems to know where exactly her enterprise can (and will) take the lead. “Tech can seem somewhat cold, which is why our focus is on how we can place the human element into tech,” she elaborates. “We try to solve that by creating amazing experiences or consulting for brands for concepts that just make sense for the consumer.” Henry reveals here that last year, she received a grant from American video game and software developer Epic Games for her other fashion tech endeavor, Semblance World. As as a fashion luxury platform that enables fashion brands to showcase their designs in a virtual metaverse, it aims to “connect with new age consumers through engaging stories, displays, quests, and enhanced experiences.”
As an entrepreneur who started up a business in Dubai, Henry believes there are pros and cons to setting up base as a fashion tech firm in the Emirate. “Although Dubai is a city moving fast with great vision, on the ground, I think one of the challenges is getting the right communication across to the right investors for them to say yes, take risks, and see opportunities in the long term,” she says. “But in a world that moves rapidly, with so many options globally and opportunities, we need to be able to explore, and I feel Dubai understands that sentiment now. I love that we are always willing to try, implement, and evolve quickly to match these global shifts.” But Henry adds that being a part of in5’s community of startups in Dubai has helped her a lot in her entrepreneurial journey. “If we didn’t get incubated [at in5], Fashion Foresight would still be an idea,” she says. “in5's access to tools and educational resources, along with its pool of consultants is helpful. I also like the community of fashion startups we have.”
While the startup has big goals for its future, Henry says she prefers to have a small, tight knit team. “Currently, the team has just two full-time subcontracted partners and consultants, but I don’t see the need right now for it to go beyond five team members, especially in uncertain times with a global pandemic and so many clients being uncertain about most of their decisions,” she says. “We kept very lean and survived 2020 because of that, and I managed to take 2020 as a year to explore tech further for us.” During the peak of the pandemic, there were quite a few hurdles that the startup had to overcome (which included clients cancelling contracts), but she believes they still managed to hold their own amid all the chaos. “We saw humble revenue in mid-2020,” Henry explains. “Towards the end of 2020, going into 2021, it got better, even though some clients were cancelling and being uncertain. We now expect an increase in requests going into 2022, as the buzz in Dubai sparks up again, and some interesting opportunities seem possible within the region.”
TREP TALK: Fashion Foresight founder Badrriya Henry’s tips for entrepreneurs
1. Passion matters “As cheesy at it may sound, it is true because that passion is the only thing that gets you through when you are down– 2020 being a good example. If you are still pushing for your startup through a global pandemic, it is safe to say you have passion!”
2. Build a community “Learn to think on your feet, how to read people, and how to share with people. You only learn this skill by interacting and not being an isolated entrepreneur.”
3. Stay in your lane “Don’t get distracted by people wanting to work with you on something totally different to your core focus or idea. Learn how to filter out people.”
4. Take time to think “Learn to quieten your mind in ways that you like. The best solutions come when your mind is able to be creative.”
5. Keep lean “There is no reason to have team members or roles that are not necessary.”