At the intersection of payments and commerce in today’s digitally driven world, there’s an endless number of routes where technology and payments merge — including fashion.
Or, as is the case of MasterCard’s latest collaboration with The New School’s Parsons School of Design, the global payments network is bringing together the worlds of payment technology and fashion in a joint-sponsored Fashion and Design Hack.
In this contest, teams of students will compete to develop solutions and build prototypes for connected commerce by embedding payments functionality into more than just traditional “wearables,” instead branching out to clothes and accessories that look good doing it.
With the focus of the first challenge being on contactless payment functionality, MasterCard is putting together students from multiple disciplines — fashion, design and media — and asking them to innovate around that theme. The prototypes that the teams create will be assessed by a panel of esteemed judges that includes fashion designer Adam Selman.
Three teams of Parsons’ design students were selected to participate in the Fashion and Design Hack and will compete for $15,000 in prize money and the chance to present their creations at MasterCard industry events.
To get the inside scoop on the event, PYMNTS spoke with Burak Cakmak, Dean of Fashion for Parsons School of Design.
PYMNTS: What were you anticipating the most walking into this fashion design hack?
CAKMAK: Honestly, I was most excited that a team of students might come up with a new system for digital payments that is safe, secure, and seamless so I could leave my cardholder at home. I’d love to do away with my cardholder all together. It’s beautiful and I adore it, but just so cumbersome.
PYMNTS: What were some of the most interesting integrations you saw?
CAKMAK: I was particularly interested in one team’s design to introduce a small compartment in the temple of an eyewear product, one that could accommodate the NFC chip. This chip could then be switched out and placed into other products, thereby offering the possibility to wear the eyeglasses without having to use the payment technology. I also really enjoyed another student-team’s design to rethink the handshake — an interaction that used to signal a business transaction and that we often take for granted, if we even do it at all anymore. By implementing a wearable payment chip on the skin of our palms, these students sought to challenge our lack of human interaction and our sense of human detachment from one another by making physical contact an essential component of the payment process.
PYMNTS: Was there a use case demonstrated that potentially could accelerate the growth of fashion and payments?
CAKMAK: One of the student-design teams came up with the idea to implement a Peel and Pay method to make purchasing products a personal, and no doubt exciting, experience. Their prototype would enable shoppers to design a customized Peel and Pay sticker, allowing them to show their personal style while paying for products.
PYMNTS: Do you see these concept designs being brought to commerce and, if so, how do you think consumers will react?
CAKMAK: I definitely envision designs like chip-embedded shoe insoles becoming popular. Some consumers are skeptical of the new technologies being implemented in their clothes, which represents a large part of their personalities and communicates who they are. They want to know they can trust these new digital payment systems, but they also want to feel excited about them. The objective for the designers is to make the payments feel personal and special, rather than simply transactional. Consumers like to know that their purchase means something to a brand. Digital payments need to energize consumers and give them a feeling of ease and satisfaction that lasts long after the rush of the purchase.
PYMNTS: Not factoring in what was demonstrated at this fashion hack, what areas of fashion (active, casual, formal, etc.) do you see growing the fastest with digital payments integrated?
CAKMAK: It all depends on the invisibility and the seamlessness with which a garment or an accessory can improve a customer’s experience. The product categories that the students were experimenting with at the Hackathon this weekend — chip-embedded shoe insoles, NFC chips embedded in the temples of eyewear — are great examples of areas that might grow very quickly. I also think there’s significant potential for categories that we haven’t even thought about or imagined.
PYMNTS: How long do you think it will take for fashion industry professionals to construct this capability into their designs?
CAKMAK: I think we’re already there in certain respects. Fashion routinely challenges the status quo by innovating with new forms, silhouettes, and fabrics, or responds to what people need in order to transform the garments we wear everyday. The partnership between Adam Selman and MasterCard is a great example of an industry professional creating a range of consumer products that can also function as a digital payment device.
PYMNTS: Outside of payments, what other fashion technology integrations are you looking at?
CAKMAK: Our students are constantly exploring new intersections between textiles and technology. We’ve designed a course this semester that partners with a software company in order to encourage students to think about new ways to integrate the worlds of technology and fashion. We have students reconceiving how we experience clothing by implementing sensors that detect motion, steps, heat and cleanliness. One of our students is working with augmented and embedded reality as part of his fashion collection. Today’s fashion students are designing the clothing that will shape our future.