2020 Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon Moves Virtual, Sept. 25-27

September 10, 2020
By A.Victoria Mae

The largest retail and apparel innovation challenge in the Midwest goes global.

The 2020 Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon (DF+TH) is scheduled virtually for Sept. 25-27 and is co-hosted by Whim and Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC), an initiative of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The hackathon will kick-off with a virtual matchmaking session. Participants include coders, designers, artists, retailers, entrepreneurs, product and data specialists, and creatives. Registration is now open. Register at Eventbrite.

At a glance, the 36-hour Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon brings together creativity and technology to develop solutions to the problems facing the fashion and retail industries. The event also provides networking opportunities with industry experts. When looking deeper, the DF+TH is a part of an ethical fashion revolution ignited by the COVID-19 crisis. This event is an official part of the Detroit Month of Design. 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the festival which takes place September 1-30. Programmed by Design Core, Detroit Month of Design is a citywide celebration of creativity that gathers designers and the greater community to celebrate Detroit’s role as a UNESCO City of Design.

“While industries are still uncovering the full impact of COVID-19, the crisis is providing an opportunity for unique innovation and more sustainable practices in fashion,” said Lori McColl, Founder of DF+TH and Whim. “Not everything will be successful; however, this is a good time to test things out and develop a blueprint for moving forward, one of the guiding principles of the DF+TH.”

The last few months have seen a historic shift in how the world views technology in the fashion industry.  Fashion is culture; it’s only right for fashion to seize the moment to review sustainability, ethical sourcing, and its role with regard to diversity. Questions have arisen on protecting fashion’s most vulnerable workers after COVID-19. How do we protect smaller brick and mortar brands from extinction?

“Whim hopes after this crisis, we will see a shift in sustainability to include global citizenship,” said McColl. “A focus on the way we think of each other and the responsibility we have to care for one another. We hope the DF+TH will bring awareness, and most importantly real solutions to aide brands in the midst of an economic collapse.”

“As the fashion industry continues to develop, it is becoming harder to talk about fashion without also discussing technology,” said Cassidy Tucker of Deviate Fashion, a DF+TH 2020 partner. “Technology has completely disrupted a number of industries that we would consider fashion related. For example, the textile manufacturing industry is more efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective than ever. However, it is still incredibly wasteful – a simple pair of jeans can require 1,500 liters of water to produce.”

While the DF+TH looks forward, its history demonstrates the event’s impact. The DF+TH was created in 2018 as a strategic event to attract investment and create jobs for Detroit. With the goal of diversifying trades and manufacturing, the DF+TH has an opportunity to impact technology and innovation to bring creatives together in a new and sustainable way.

Now, the DF+TH is moving beyond just Detroit.

“Of all segments of manufacturing, apparel has been one of the last to automate,” said Brenna Lane of Detroit Denim, a DF+TH 2020 partner. “There are so many opportunities for technology to positively impact every aspect of the apparel industry, from manufacturing to customer experience.”

“The DF+TH is a unique platform that has always brought creative minds together in Detroit and demonstrates how their talents and businesses could grow and thrive here in the state,” said Tanya Markos-Vanno, Development and Operations Manager, MEDC’s Pure Michigan Business Connect. “Now this annual event is moving virtual, providing opportunities for participants across the world to connect, meet mentors, and develop innovative solutions, showcasing how Detroit and Michigan play an important role in the growing apparel, retail, and high-tech fields globally.”

The 2020 DF+TH is building off the innovation and diversity of last year’s successful hackathon. The 2019 hackathon brought together more than 70 participants from 33 Michigan cities as well as out-of-towners from other states and countries to solve real problems facing established brands in the fashion industry.

Those experiencing DF+TH in 2020 can expect to see new partners and problem statements to support the event experience as the fashion industry enters a new “normal” as well as a new grand prize. The winning DF+TH team will be awarded an entrepreneur package worth five thousand dollars in value from ISM, Inc. The package includes three months of coaching and training, access to tools to create plans and slide decks, and world-renowned online training from planning to pitching a business.

Now is the time for innovators to bring new ideas to the table at the Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon, as the industry adopts new methods of innovation to bridge the gap between consumers and fashion.