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Topshop launches innovation lab to bring 'affordable wearable tech’ to the high street

Topshop has launched an innovation hub in partnership with L Marks, the same backer of fellow high street giant John Lewis’ JLab tech incubator, which it hopes will bring reasonably priced wearable technology to consumers.

The innovation programme – dubbed Top Pitch – will discover and develop start-up businesses which can deliver against the ‘accessibly priced tech-enabled fashion product' brief.

“Topshop has long supported emerging talent in creative industries and this project serves to further this aim,” said Sheena Sauvaire, global marketing and communications director at Topshop.

“As a brand we champion new platforms of innovation and we see wearable technology as an exciting area of further exploration. The merge of style and function has yet to have been seen in a true consumer-ready sense and our aim is to discover new-to-market, highly desirable product at accessible prices for our fashion-savvy customer.”

In a similar style to John Lewis’ JLab incubator, applications are being welcomed for an intensive month-long programme, which culminates in a presentation to Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green. The most promising team will then be awarded the chance to secure equity investment and potential to see their product in Topshop stores.

Whilst in the incubator, the start-ups will be given access to mentors from across the fashion and technology world including Rachel Arthur, journalist and founder of Fashion & Mash; Maddy Evans, fashion director, Topshop and Bethany Koby, co-founder and CEO, Technology Will Save Us.

Stuart Marks, chairman of L Marks, added: “Top Pitch is such a great opportunity for entrepreneurs working on a wearable technology product. When presenting to buyers, it is always better to know them really well. What better way is there to learn about Topshop than work in collaboration with them for four weeks, developing your brand and strategy as well as the direction your product will take.”

Topshop is no stranger to forging a path when it comes to embracing new technology. It was one of the first Fashion Week brands to prioritise giving its social media followers the first glimpse of a collection hitting the runway, something which saw other brands quickly follow suit. Now, major labels including Burberry have completely overhauled their production schedules due to the impact social had on sales.

The fashion brand joins a raft of retailers turning to the start-ups sector in an effort to get a head start on future tech. Last year, The Drum spoke to three leaders in the space – Argos, John Lewis and Westfield – to find out how they were navigating the challenges of adopting a ‘fail fast, learn fast’ attitude.

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