Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Saskia Fairfull is the founder of IFAB – the Independent Fashion Advisory Board, a global collective of fashion business and technology professionals. The IFAB community has members from Australian, US, UK and Asia and regularly discuss industry news, projects, innovative solutions and ideas.
From fashion styling and interior design to event management and B2B marketing in technology, Saskia integrates her knowledge of branded environments and lateral thinking to help fashion startups and businesses innovate and stay relevant.
Based in Melbourne, Australia she works with retail and fashion tech startups in areas such as business strategy, customer experience mapping, marketing, social media and community management. Her unique skill set lends itself to developing a solid foundation of considered processes and journey maps to communicate brand values, key messages and a visual identity to future proof fashion businesses.
What is the idea behind IFAB and how did you come up with it?
IFAB is the Independent Fashion Advisory Board, a global collective of fashion business and technology professionals. I came up with the idea for IFAB after feeling a lack of community for the business side of fashion. I was working for a software quality consultancy and digital transformation was a trending buzzword around 2014/2015, so I monitored the big players who were first to implement digital transformation projects and wondered why none of them were retail or fashion. It was this curiosity that sparked an invested interest to speak to people from the business and technology side of fashion to see if they felt the same. Through those conversations, I realized that a community would help minimize some of the fear to innovate within the industry. This would also help connect startups with existing businesses and that’s where we have been focused for the past 6 months in Australia specifically.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team?
IFAB started March 2017 and apart from the advisory board to IFAB, it’s just me managing the community, creating content, sending newsletters and curating articles across social media. As for the IFAB community, there are over 70 members currently and many global introductions and collaborations take place between members.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I guess it’s always been a work in progress, always putting a number of small strategic plays in progress, with the thought that at any time things change and to go with the flow. If I had to put a number on it, then I’d say 10 years from when I hosted my very first fashion parade in 2007 showcasing 6 local Queensland designers, but there has been a lot of pivoting and change in that time – nothing is ever what it seems until things fall into place and you think “oh, so I needed to do that job and work for that person and meet that person to see this opportunity to arise and then get that idea.”
What was the biggest obstacle?
Quitting my full time job of 6 years with no plans, but I gave myself permission to reinvent and concentrate on what I wanted to do versus what I should do. That process was incredibly challenging and experienced peaks and troughs of doubt, guilt, excitement and happiness. For two weeks straight I covered my home office with post-it notes looking at everything from my strengths, weaknesses, goals, industry gaps, contribution ideas, etc.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I tend to celebrate the small achievements when they happen, and regularly acknowledge what I have accomplished. Practicing gratitude daily helps to stay grounded and determined, knowing that what I am striving for is making an impact in the industry, because the industry isn’t a tangible thing, it’s made of people and it’s the people I’m building a community for.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
There seems to be a constant challenge of communicating the business and technology risks if businesses don’t innovate in fashion. That because it’s fashion, it doesn’t matter because people will always buy clothes, but it’s not about that – it’s about convenience, efficiency and personalization.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, it’s one of the most important movements and something I have been passionate about for a number of years. Especially creative women in technology, they bring such a unique perspective to projects, especially empathy toward the end user, which can sometimes be left out during the process.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Be patient, resilient and persevere. When you believe in your vision, the universe will guide you. Aim to be strategic in every move so, you can achieve your milestones and long-term goals. Always be validating your idea, new learnings will enhance why what you’re doing is important and by keeping it relevant, you’re building something sustainable.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
So much will evolve in the next 5 years and we’re already getting a glimpse of what we’re in for. Trends such as AI solutions suited to your style and preferences, connected spaces for seamless shopping experiences, sustainability and transparency will be the norm and we’ll be collaborating without boundaries.
Who are your inspirational women in fashion tech?
Emma Sharley, co-founder of Shop You; Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey; Sarah Chessis; Isabella Wren.
LinkedIn: Saskia Fairfull
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.