Monica Phromsavanh: From refugee to serial entrepreneur. Hear her story on our first-ever-podcast!

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A few weeks back I announced my panel and podcasts at the National Retail Federation‘s Big Show (“Getting Up Close and Personal with the Hottest, Coolest Ladies in Fashion Tech).  I was so fortunate to meet with some of the brightest, loveliest and most interesting women in the world of fashion tech and wearable technology.  Over the course of the next weeks I will be sharing their stories via the podcasts that we taped.

During our podcasts, we discussed a slew of topics like these women’s journeys, their points of view on the convergence of beauty and fashion with technology, and the challenges and opportunities they face as women in the technology.

In light of President Trump’s deplorable immigration ban, I have to kick this series off with the amazing story of Monica Phromsavanh, Founder of Modabox and formerly from Burberry, and Limelight Shops, to name a few.  She overcame tremendous odds to become the amazing entrepreneur that she is.  Her journey starts as a refugee in Argentina, working in a sweatshop.  

My favorite quote of her’s: “Technology is a great tool but at the end of the day we’re still human and we still want human connection.”

See what she’s referring to in this snap shot of our conversation.

No question the conversation with Monica could have gone on for hours.  Chatting about the beauty of, implications of, and challenges with the interplay of fashion and technology is and was fascinating.  But let’s also recognize what Monica, and others like her, gift us.  Perspective, new ideas, tenacity, grit, gratitude…to name a few.  Can you imagine if we let this administration ban more brilliant, game-changing people like Monica from entering and flourishing in this country?

You can hear the whole conversation, plus interesting dialogue with my co-host Valerie De La Rosa of Conde Nast Entertainment, and my other special guest, Jackie Trebilcock, Founder NY Fashion Tech Lab, via our podcast below!

https://soundcloud.com/kathleen-kiley/show-1-beautyskew-mixdown

Looking forward to your feedback!

 

Getting Up Close and Personal with the Hottest, Coolest, Ladies in Fashion Tech

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Warning: This is not your typical Beautyskew post :).

I’m taking a leap.  For those of you who follow my posts, you know that I share my thoughts in written form.  Well, for the first time, I’m going to leverage the camera for the next, few upcoming posts.  And even better, I’m going to bring in other points of view regarding beauty in culture!  Specifically, I’m going to be interviewing some of the coolest, smartest and most innovative ladies in the wearable tech space.

This weekend, I have the privilege of speaking on a panel at the NRF about my work on social media.  But, honestly, what I’m truly excited about is that same Sunday (January 15th) and Tuesday, January 17th, I will be interviewing the following amazing women:
1.Neha Signh @ObsessVR: Founder and CEO of Obsess; former Head of Product at Vogue

2. Monica Phromsavanh @MyModaBox: Founder of Modabox; former Burberry, Limelight Shops

3.Heidi Lehmann Founder SWSI @HeidiLehmann: Producer Fashion Geeks

4. Dr. Amanda Parkes Chief Technologist Manufacture NY & Visiting Scientist MIT @amandajparkes: Host Fashion Geeks

5. Dolly Singh: Thesis Couture founder

6. Alison Lewis: founder Switch Embassy

7. Christina D’Avignon @getringly: Ringly founder

8. Jackie Trebilcock: founder I NY FASHION TECH LAB @NYTFlab

9. Karen Moon: Co-Founder Trendalytics; Former Gap, Goldman Sachs&Co
@TheKarenMoon

10.Veronika Harbick: founder @ThursdayFinest 3D Printer

11. Robin Raskin: CES Founder Living In Digital Times @robinr – shares FashionTech trends hot off the #CES17 Showroom Floor

And what’s even better?  I get to cohost with my amazing and fun buddies:
1. James Eschricht from ESPN @JcreativESPN
2.Valerie De La Rosa from CONDE NAST @VDLR

What  a line up!?

We will be discussing these women’s amazing journeys, their products — from hi tech shoes (which I will be wearing!) to 3D printed scarves, their opinions on the merging to technology, fashion and culture.

I have to admit, I’m a bit nervous.  I’ve never done anything like this before.  But what’s a better way to kick 2017 then by diving knee deep into some new, scary terrain?

If you can join in person, please do.  Here is the full agenda at the NRFiLab. Otherwise, hang on for when we stream via Beautyskew.

I can’t wait!

Virtual VS Physical: What Really Drives Us

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VR, Placemaking and spirituality … one momentous day clarified it all for me.  While VR and AR are among some of the hottest topics at CES this year, we still have a fundamental need to find meaning in and add value to our physical world.  The anthropologists have been speaking about this for decades.  They call it Placemaking.  In essence, we, human beings, have a deep seated need to connect with the physical places and spaces that surround us.  This explains why we love to take photos of our environment, why so many social media groups popped over of the years dedicated to local communities, and, why vinyl records soared last year according to last year’s SXSW; and why we still love to decorate our homes. (For more of a description of Placemaking, see my article, Meaning of Mobile)

The concept of Placemaking didn’t just crop up just because of CES, but because I experienced it, first-hand, and in a highly dramatic, spiritual and meaningful way during this holiday season.   You see, my family traveled to Israel, specifically, Jerusalem, to celebrate my son’s bar mitzvah.  We gathered my extended family for a weekend of prayer; good and plentiful Israeli food; and togetherness in the historic Mt Zion Hotel.  Through it all we were overlooking the old city of Jerusalem, and the Hinnom Valley.

To give you some context, the Mt Zion structure was built in 1882 by Members of the Order of St. John, a British charitable organization dating back to the time of the Crusades.  The building housed an eye hospital serving Muslims, Jews, and Christians from all over the Middle East.  During Israel’s War of Independence, the building and a secret cable car attached to it, were used during the night to transfer medicine and arms to Mount Zion, and the wounded soldiers and Old City dwellers to the hospital.  In the daytime the cable was lowered to the ground so as not to be seen.  Years later it was converted into a hotel.  As you can tell from the pictures, it has a classic middle eastern feel, with arched ceilings, mosaic walls, Jerusalem stone and lush gardens.

Experiencing the events of the bar mitzvah in such a historic building — all the while having a view of Jerusalem’s Old City Wall, places of worship and ancient buildings — impacted us greatly.  The setting added beauty, spirituality, history and meaning to my son’s once-in-a-lifetime event that we would not have experienced anywhere else.   The  environment reminded us that my son’s bar mitzvah is a ritual that has dated back centuries, and is part of a religion that has a vast and rich history.  The beautiful hotel rooms in which we dined added a sense of splendor to the event.  And the middle eastern touches, he turkish hammam, morrocon-style furniture and decor, and the classic Judaica surrounding the common spaces, exemplified the mixing of cultures that has strongly impacted the people of Israel and their country.

Like so many of you, I love technology and what it brings us.  How can I not?  I make my living from it :).  But while technology can  transport us out of reality and out of our physical environments, let’s not forget the primal desire we have to surround ourselves with the physical.  We strongly need to touch, feel, plant our feet and smell the real world around us.  As my son’s bar mitzvah shows us, physical space not only grounds us, it heightens our experience.  It connects us to our worlds, to others, and to ourselves.

As we race into the future, don’t forget to embrace our physical world.  It’s primal, it’s necessary, and it’s amazing.

P.S., If any of you are attending NRF Big Show in NYC in a week, please join me on my panel and Beautyskew podcasts! More details to follow in next week’s post.