From the Outside: Interview with the Founder of AWAYTOMARS Alfredo Orobio

We talked to Alfredo Orobio, who founded the innovative platform AWAYTOMARS ahead of his presentation at #FASHIONTECH Berlin.

Alfredo Orobio is founder of AWAYTOMARS, a platform that is open to everyone and allows contributors to submit their design. The most popular designs are produced and available for purchase. With AWAYTOMARS,Orobio created a platform that democratises the design process and promotes co-creation processes to a new level. We talked to Alfredo Orobio ahead of attending #FASHIONTECH Berlin as a speaker.

How did you come up with the idea for AWAYTOMARS and how many contributors are linked to it nowadays?

AWAYTOMARS was the result of my studies at university where I spend almost a year mapping how people share creative information on social media and found out that a lot of people with great ideas for fashion products already shared it on specific groups. The most surprising results of my research was to see that not only people were sharing ideas, but other people were giving suggestions to improve each others designs. I realised that all this information got lost because of the lack of experience and opportunity in the industry. So we had the idea of building a place where people could share ideas, give feedback to improve them, make and sell the products in a single place. We founded AWAYTOMARS in 2015 and since then we just reached the mark of 20.000 users.

How does AWAYTOMARS promote the co-creating process between designers?

We strongly believe that this is the future for all the creative industries. We are moving from a centric-creative to a collective-creative way of working. There’s a lot of studies in other industries like science that uses ideas generated by the public to find solutions. We are doing the same; we are mixing people from different backgrounds and cultures in a place where the main value is the power of ideas and the improvements we can achieve when we open the creation and development to all. Nothing is better than users saying what works or not in terms of clothing design.

When someone uploads an idea to AWAYTOMARS it goes to a co-creation board where anyone can vote and give suggestions. We developed an algorithm on the platform that maps all the interactions every single idea had when the co-creation campaign is open. So afterwards we are able to see the ideas with most interactions and we choose the ones we believe have a more interesting appeal for the industry. After this stage we discuss with all the selected designers how we can use all the feedback collected to improve their idea. The entire process is very transparent and led by the users.

Which technologies or new processes will influence fashion and design in the future?

Fashion hasn’t yet been impacted by technology to the extent other industries have. Yes, we’ve seen an explosion of online multi brands in the last 10 years, but the whole concept is a replica of the offline model, which doesn’t make sense anymore.

There are a lot of costs involved in running a bricks and mortar shop; but when you move that business online you slash the outlay, so it doesn’t make sense that these online companies are working with traditional wholesale margins. The traditional model is impractical for any new designers that can’t meet high minimum orders or haven’t developed reliable cash-flow. We need to re-think the role of multi brand shops in a society that can access shops freely online.

What we want to do with AWAYTOMARS is to improve the roles of both the designer and the customer in the chain, offering them opportunities to purchase clothes at the same time as wholesalers with the same favourable conditions.

On the other hand, I think technology will revolutionise how we manufacture clothes. We are still 100% dependent on humans to run production lines and it will be a great social and human development if we could use machines to run the early and more intense stages of production.

So do you think the traditional model of fashion industry has come to an end?

I don’t think this is the end of the traditional model, I think now we have more tools to think in different ways. Twenty years ago it would have been impossible to imagine a brand like AWAYTOMARS - created by a global collective of fashion designers that are connected and co-create online.

What is important here is to understand that we need this change, we need to think about how and why we design clothes, durability, overproduction and overconsumption. We are only now starting to think about sustainability, and production methods, we are in the very early stages of this learning process. At the same time, we have to fix so many issues in the industry, exploitation and bad working conditions are still huge problems that brands don't want to discuss.

In the fashion industry there's a lack of vision that luxury brands should be leading this technology revolution as they are the ones with the money to invest in research, but what we see is the opposite: luxury brands are too scared to innovate, and young designers don't have the funds to do it so. That is one of the reasons why any kind of tech revolution in fashion will take a long time to happen.

Which role does Berlin internationally play for fashion-tech and design?

I always considered Berlin as one of the most creative cities in the world. Germany is recognised in the world by its pioneer use of technology in many industries, so I can see a huge potential if both, the creative and technology industries start to talk more closely. I think one of the main issues with fashion tech is that in such a broad universe people get lost in it and sometimes end loosing focus – so initiatives like #FASHIONTECH Berlin are essential for the development and understanding of our industry.