Fashion industry veteran, Ronda Walker who pioneered POOLTradeshow is now introducing The Factory, a virtual trade show that will revolutionize the way the industry operates by connecting designers, retailers and consumers with the click of a mouse. Breaking down the limitations of the existing retail model of designers creating entire collections and a lag in time between designs and purchasing options for shoppers, the Factory is positioning itself to change the way designers produce merchandise, retailers shop for inventory and consumers make purchasing decisions.
The Icon Concierge sat down with Walker for a one on one on what prompted her to start The Factory, the benefits to new and established designers and how it can save the industry millions from every end of the spectrum.
ICON: Tell me about our background and the POOLTradeshow.
RW: Well, I have been an innovator in the industry since my early 20s. I was voted one of the top distributors in the fashion industry worldwide, was a designer and owned my own showroom. A lot of brands were coming to me and asking for help in marketing and branding. I obviously couldn’t help everyone, but thought everyone should have an equal shot at reaching retailers and customers. That is why I started POOLTradeshow. Before that the biggest booth at the big trade shows always got the most attention and it wasn’t fair and didn’t necessarily showcase the best talent. The Factory has been my pet project since before I sold POOL, but the industry wasn’t ready before. Now it is ready.
ICON: What prompted you to launch The Factory?
RW: I started developing it about six years ago, while I was still with POOL. I believe consumers should play a bigger role in the fashion industry, apart from sales. We’ve been doing business the same way for the past 30 years and it is time to move on. Consumers only see about 10% of merchandise that is being designed and it is very exclusive and one-sided. Now consumers will get a chance to view all that is being designed and vote styles into production. It also alleviates some of the risk for retailers if they know customer feedback before they choose to work with a designer or purchase stock. While the industry still needs to finish evolving and fully embrace the technology available to them, this is another great step.
ICON: Explain what The Factory is exactly and how it works.
RW: Well, The Factory is a virtual trade show that allows designers, retailers and consumers to connect all in one place, 24 hours a day. Designers can design their booths down to the color of the carpets and hangers and upload their designs at any time during the day. They will no longer have to wait twice a year and produce a whole collection to launch at a physical trade show. They can also get feedback immediately from consumers and expand their sales season. Retailers, instead of shopping feverishly for four days, can log in at any time and view new items from designers, receive notifications when their bookmarked designers upload new designs and also view feedback from consumers. They can also place orders directly from The Factory website. Consumers will be notified as to what designs were purchased by what retailers to know where to shop and will also be able to purchase select merchandise from the site.
Basically, The Factory is a B2B virtual trade show that allows consumers to participate, buy and vote designs into production. Consumers can now make an educated decision on what they’re buying instead of solely being presented with outdated designs in stores.
ICON: Who can join The Factory?
RW: Designers need to be approved and for the month of May joining is free. Once we officially launch in June, it will be based on a subscription program. Consumers and retailers can always join for free.
ICON: How do you see the future of fashion further progressing in this new age of digital and social media?
RW: I don’t believe in seasonal collections. Clothes are designed 24/7 and we should have access to these designs 24/7. We need a much faster turnaround from designs being created to production and getting them to market for customers. Retailers and consumers are going to be influenced internationally because of The Factory and the technology and social media that drives it. A site like this pulls everyone together through technology and will change the face of fashion.
ICON: Do you foresee competition for The Factory in the near future?
RW: Not really. There are very few trade show owners that are equipped to do this or understand the capacity behind the business. Their goal is to sell physical booth space, even if they do have an online component. The Factory is the first of its kind. We need to connect with consumers 24/7, not twice a year in order to really drive business. I have a unique knowledge of the fashion business and digital world and have merged them perfectly for the time.
Visit www.thefactorytradeshow.com for more information and to be notified of the official launch. Joining for the month of May is free – so hurry and sign up!