The three panelists posing with event organizer and moderator Sammantha Johnson. Photo by Jazmin Darling.

SCAD’s “FashionTech Panel,” held on January 26, was an insightful glance into the world of fashion, retail and how the advancements in technology are changing the way consumers shop in 2017.  The panel’s discussion on the importance of the brand, where retail is going and advice for students can be read here.

Sammantha Johnson, event organizer and moderator of the panel, was gracious enough to take the time to answer questions about how the panel came to be, the importance of the topic at hand and more.

How did the idea/concept of a fashion tech panel come to be?

Johnson: As a resident assistant, I’m tasked to create two programs per quarter. I thought it’d be perfect to provide fashion tech awareness to students by utilizing my resources as a luxury and fashion management graduate student.

This is also my passion. Ever since I enrolled at SCAD, I’ve felt the need to share my knowledge on the impact of technology on the retail environment. Fashion design, marketing and luxury fashion majors need to understand the emerging technologies they may use when leading projects and dominating the first steps in their careers.

Who chose the panelists, and why?

Johnson:  I chose the panelists based on their customer experience and professional niches. A customer experience is the moment a customer comes into contact with a brand and, if all goes right, sparks fly. A successful experience typically involves technology that aids in the customer experience. It also involves the customer leaving the store feeling positively impacted in some way.

However, technology is but a tool. In order to create a solution, we must determine the problems the customer is facing. I believe strategists are those who answer those questions and work closely with the brand and its customers. These are the people I sought after. Each panelist had specific traits in strategy, fashion robotics and fit. This made our conversation extremely diverse and fun.

How was the experience of being both the event organizer and the moderator leading the panel?

Johnson: It was nerve-racking, but incredibly fulfilling. I’d been planning the event since the fall quarter, so it was easier to devote enough time to the role of the organizer and moderator. It was incredibly important to sculpt an idea that would intrigue an audience.

As the organizer, the customer experience panel had to deliver value and service. As an LXFM major, delivering an effortless presentation is the optimal expectation. Personally, I seek for the grandeur experience in the most light-hearted way. Each segment, including the attendees, speakers and volunteers, had an experience.

As the moderator, it was my job to guide the conversation and keep time. I’m very passionate and knowledgeable about the topic, so it wasn’t hard for me to chime in and steer the conversation. Playing dual roles was challenging, but with the help of three hardworking SCAD resident volunteers, they made the experience ten times better. Jazmin Darling, Shelbi Harris and Anya Law took control of their roles and made it their own. The flow of foot traffic from entry to the building, check-in, reception and theater was all managed by these ladies. I was extremely proud and thankful.

Why do you think the topic of this panel was such an important one?

Johnson: I’ve felt this panel topic was highly relevant ever since working as an emerging tech writer for an app company in Austin, Texas. The loss of emotional connection and being overwhelmed in the stores has deterred many shoppers to making the trek for an in-store experience. I don’t blame them.

I felt there was a need to take all the emerging technology and foster a forum to help fashion students understand their role in technology. Fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff’s interactive panel is a prime example of disrupting the fashion digital age within design and brand marketing. Brick-and-mortar stores will not die – people still crave interaction. It is how we as fashion marketers, designers and managers tell the impactful brand story. It will be required in the industry, and we as SCAD grads will always have the leg-up.