The Council of Fashion Designers of America wanted to provide a new point of view on innovation to its members to help them connect to customers and define the future of fashion and retail. It partnered with Accenture and Fjord, Accenture's design agency, on ground-breaking programs to help emerging and established fashion designers gain practical retail experience, better connect with customers and drive business results.

Real-world retail experience

Innovation in fashion isn’t just about design. To reach new customers and offer them novel experiences as well as exciting new clothing and accessories, designers should embed innovation into their business. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) selected Accenture as its innovation partner to help emerging and established designers experiment with new technology in-store and online to innovate their brands and connect with consumers. CFDA and Accenture worked on several programs—from research and immersion programs to a hands-on store called the Retail Lab—to help designers gain real-world business and retail experience.

What Accenture did

The Retail Lab, a physical store in Cadillac House, New York City, was a living showcase of technology and innovation that enabled designers to explore the new retail customer experience, hands-on. CFDA selected designers to run a retail shop for three months and learn the skills they need to succeed in a challenging retail market. Accenture teamed with the designers to think differently about the space and to create inventive experiences for customers to engage with products. For the selected designers, their stint in CFDA’s Retail Lab was their first experience in running a store and translating a brand to physical space. Accenture worked side-by-side to help them develop critical business skills, covering messaging, brand in physical space, retail analytics, artificial intelligence, tactile product engagement, and storytelling. Some new concepts included:

  • Testing RFID tags in the fitting room to identify which garments and pairings customers find most appealing.
  • Product tags that paired in-store products with online products based on the designer’s recommendation. Unlike the usual recommendation engines on many retail sites, this one was based on the designer’s discerning taste, not customer behavior. It could even allow brands to build in predictive intelligence capabilities that align with the designer’s vision.

New thinking

  • Workshop Presentations. How can designers use their fashion design process to build their business? Fjord shared its view on “How Designing a Collection is like Designing a Business” for industry insiders at CFDA’s 6th Annual Fashion Education Summit, as well as at the inaugural Fashion Future Graduate Showcase. The presentation challenged the industry to see building a business and brand as a parallel process to designing a clothing collection.
  • The Future of the Fashion Customer Experience. Accenture and CFDA conducted new research on the future fashion customer experience and tested them in live pilots with CFDA members. The first study, conducted with DHL, looked at how the fashion supply chain model would need to transform in line with changing customer expectations, new technologies and digitally enabled business models.

Making connections


In partnership with the H&M Foundation, designers learned how they could use some of the latest textile innovations from the Global Change Awards to build into their design process.

Elaine Gold Launchpad

Accenture mentored emerging fashion designers on how to scale their businesses and build personal brands as part of this CFDA fashion education event.

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People and culture

Insights for fashion designers

Accenture and Fjord helped fashion designers gain insight into consumer behavior, apply that new understanding to their brand and drive results across channels. For instance, designers learned how engaging customers with the product story and encouraging them to interact with the product can lead to feelings of ownership and a potential increase in sales.

In addition, graduate design students had the opportunity to work with Fjord in an Immersion Program that explored human-centered design and business strategies. Design challenges extended students’ academic work in a fast-paced, design-intensive program. They learned how to research, prototype and pilot new concepts through a hands-on design process. Students focused on consumer behavior, new business models for designers, behavior in spaces, sustainability, social engagement, and fashion and technology.

Value delivered

Together, CFDA and Accenture empowered emerging designers to create deeper connections with their customers and products. Designers acquired highly sought-after digital skills needed for them to be at the forefront of industry innovation, developed customized retail strategies, grew their businesses and networks, and drove tangible business results with new technology. The innovative collaboration between Accenture and CFDA helped to integrate new technology and consumer insights into the fashion business—and define the future of fashion and retail.

CFDA designers now have a better understanding of how to:

Apply innovative new technology to drive sales, not distract customers

Drive tactile product engagement and customer engagement


Best use their retail space and conceptualize their brands

Run practical and iterative processes for innovation

Tell stories that focus on the product and brand to drive deeper connections

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