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Desigual launches start-up accelerator with Plug and Play

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

Jul 16, 2021

Business

Image: courtesy of Desigual

Spanish fashion brand Desigual is launching an incubator programme called Awesome Lab in collaboration with the open innovation platform Plug and Play.

The international start-up accelerator programme aims to find companies in product design, development, and customer relations, as the fashion brand looks to drive the development of technological solutions that respond to the “biggest challenges” faced by the fashion industry.

Desigual managing director Alberto Ojinaga, said in a statement: “Since our very beginning, we have been committed to innovation: an inherent characteristic of Desigual and one that is essential to transforming ourselves as a company.

“Now we are laying the foundations for an open Desigual through which we will realise one of our ambitions: becoming a company that translates collaboration into a key and differentiating competitive resource. Launching this accelerator marks the beginning of a new stage of growth.”

The incubator marks the first developed by a Spanish fashion brand, according to the company, and is part of its strategic commitment to making collaboration a key pillar for incorporating creativity and innovation.

Desigual launches incubator to support companies in product development, design and customer relations

Desigual has partnered with Plug and Play, a world-leading open innovation platform that has invested in companies like Dropbox and PayPal, and whose mission is to connect the most innovative startup-created technologies with large organisations.

The Awesome Lab acceleration programme will support start-ups with “outstanding potential” through mentoring and the provision of resources, tools and financial support to boost their growth and the development of solutions that are essential to the transformation of the sector.

Ojinaga added: “In 2019, we took the first step by committing to collaborations with artists and designers in the creation of our collections. With this initiative, we want to take this a step further and promote an innovation model that will allow us to incorporate the creative and enterprising spirit that lies beyond our organisation and get closer to startups at an earlier stage so their technological solutions can be implemented in a more strategic manner in our own business.”

Image: courtesy of Desigual

Desigual ‘Awesome Lab’ opens applications on July 20

There will be an open call for start-ups to apply to the Awesome Lab from July 20 to September 15. This will launch with around ten challenges related to product development, design and customer relations to find the most innovative solutions. Plug and Play are then expected to select up to 150 start-ups as candidates to join the programme.

The start-ups’ proposals will then be assessed by a panel made up of members of Desigual’s Steering Committee, prominent players in the sector, experts from Plug and Play and the founder of the fashion brand, Thomas Meyer.

The panel will select between five and seven projects to join the acceleration programme, which will commence in September and run for between six and nine months. Throughout the programme, the chosen start-ups will receive training and support from Desigual employees and external mentors, including experts and successful entrepreneurs.

The start-ups will also be provided with financing and resources to help them launch their project, including access to Desigual’s Barcelona headquarters, materials, key contacts, and a network of suppliers and logistics services, based on the needs of each company.

In addition, Desigual will also organise a ‘Demo Day,’ which will allow investors to meet the start-ups, and an ‘Innovation Day’ for the start-ups to reflect and discuss innovation with experts in the sector.

Javier Fernández, head of technological innovation at Desigual, said: “We have decided to partner with Plug and Play due to its international expertise, its reputation in the market and the innovation ecosystem, and because it has a highly collaborative model that matches our philosophy.

“This initiative will allow us to make it easier for startups to develop their solutions in a way that more closely fits the needs of today’s dominant business models, and to integrate them in earlier stages. To do this, they will be provided with resources ranging from mentoring to training and funding.”

Seena Amidi, managing director, co-head of Plug and Play EMEA, added: “Desigual is one of the most prominent players in Spanish fashion and is perfectly aligned with our mission to create a smarter future. We believe that their disruptive and creative DNA, the brand’s relevance and its commitment to driving open innovation within the sector will underpin what will be a successful collaboration.”

Image: courtesy of Desigual