UNSW Fashionista Challenge

By Mary Liu, Capital W, and Women In Engineering

If you were given the opportunity to innovate the online shopping experience, how would you do it?

Fifteen female UNSW students were given the opportunity to innovate the online fashion industry in an exciting collaboration between UNSW Innovations, Capital W and Women in Engineering. The case was presented by Australia’s leading fashion retailer THE ICONIC and students were asked to address the challenges revolving around fitting and the transition from the bricks and mortar stores to the online market.

Students in teams of three were paired with an experienced mentor from Microsoft, THE ICONIC, Canva, Academy Xi and Kingdom Hack to guide them in brainstorming and developing their ideas. The event was held at Microsoft Flagship Store and all teams had the opportunity to validate their ideas directly with customers as they conducted their own market research along Pitt St Mall.

They then pitched their solution to an experienced panel of judges including, Zoe Ghani, product director of THE ICONIC; Joshua Flannery, manager of student entrepreneur development at UNSW Innovations; and Esther Mosad, technical evangelist at Microsoft.

These young aspiring students highlight the ambition and hard work of female entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, statistics show that only one in 13 women are looking at starting a business in the next five years, compared to one in five men, highlighting the clear gender gap that needs to be addressed. With platforms like this, young emerging female entrepreneurs are encouraged to leap into the world of startups and to see first-hand they have what it takes to succeed.

The winning team, FitMe, led by Tanya Han, Anita Wu and Jacqueline Chung, tried to solve the issue of shoppers not being able to find the right size online – both with brand inconsistency with sizing – as well as what different sizes would look like on them by offering customers the opportunity to create a FitMe profile.

This is then linked to their online retailer logins through an API. This FitMe profile uses the webcam – with existing body scanning technology found in gaming consoles – to create a full body scan of the customer. First iterations of FitMe will focus on recommending sizes for particular brands, and the vision is for the FitMe to eventually evolve to allow customers easy 3D visualisations of what clothing items look like on their body.

Han said, “It was honestly one of the best events I have had the privilege of attending. It was so incredibly well organised, and I personally learned a lot from the experience. I really hope this will be something which can happen annually. I have already raved to all my friends about what a great event it was, and they’re all hoping it will be on again next year.”

The three winning girls were awarded a full scholarship from Academy Xi, mentorship from THE ICONIC, and the latest Microsoft Surface Pro 3. No student was left empty handed with all participants being awarded $100 credit vouchers towards Academy Xi’s workshops, as well as continual support from UNSW Innovations, which includes a 14 stage program based on lean startup methodology plus connections to mentors, neuroscience consultants and professional software developers.

On top of this, THE ICONIC’s product team will evaluate the ideas of students within the next two weeks as well as FashHack Australia picking three participants for the chance at a scholarship, with tickets to their Brisbane event in July.

Image: the Fashionista Challenge participants. Source: Supplied.

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