Update (July 20, 2021): Applications are now open! Apply to Awesome Lab here.
July 15, 2021 — Desigual has announced the launch of Awesome Lab, a startup accelerator with international scope and the first to be backed by a fashion brand in Spain, in collaboration with the open innovation platform Plug and Play. Through this initiative, the fashion brand will be driving the development of technological solutions that respond to the biggest challenges faced by the fashion industry. And it will do so through an open innovation model that will allow it to promote an innovation culture in the heart of the company.
The launch of Awesome Lab represents Desigual’s commitment to digital innovation and to boosting the flow of knowledge and ideas for identifying opportunities and swiftly implementing responses. To accomplish this, the company 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 organizations.
This initiative is an acceleration program which will support startups with outstanding potential through mentoring and the provision of resources and tools, thereby boosting their growth and the development of solutions that are essential to the transformation of the sector.
As Desigual’s Managing Director Alberto Ojinaga explained, “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 realize 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.”
“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 organization 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,” added Ojinaga.
As well as taking an active role in supporting the chosen startups, the company will also include the Digital Innovation Department, along with professionals from various areas, in the assessment and selection process.
Seena Amidi, managing director, co-head of Plug and Play EMEA, says they are “delighted” to be able to work alongside Desigual. “This company 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.”
“At Plug and Play we are true believers in the potential of Awesome Lab, and we are confident that this collaboration with Desigual will profoundly boost innovation within the fashion sector,” adds Jaime de Borbón Dos Sicilias, director of Plug and Play Spain. “Moreover, this joint project helps us to take another step towards consolidating our presence in Barcelona, which is already emerging as an international innovation hub.”
Alongside the acceleration program, a financial investment device will be set up to identify the startups the company will choose to invest in.
Open call between July 20th and September 15th for challenges related to product development and customer relations
The call for startups will start internationally on July 20th when the company will launch around 10 challenges related to product design and development as well as customer relations.
Plug and Play are expected to select up to 150 startups as candidates to join the program. In order to be selected, the startups must respond to these challenges with innovative solutions. Their proposals will 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 himself, Thomas Meyer.
“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,” explained Javier Fernández, head of Technological Innovation at Desigual. “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,” pointed out Javier Fernández.
The panel is expected to select between five and seven projects to join the acceleration program, which will commence in September and run for between six and nine months. Throughout the program, the startups will receive training and support from internal mentors who are employees of the company itself, as well as external mentors, including experts and successful entrepreneurs. The startups will also be provided with a variety of resources and advantages to help them launch their project, such as financing, access to Desigual's Barcelona headquarters, materials, key contacts, and a network of suppliers and logistics services, based on the needs of each company.
Two types of events will be organized as part of the program: Demo Day, which will serve as a meeting place for investors and the startups participating in the accelerator, and Innovation Day, a space for reflection and discussion on innovation with participation from experts in the sector.
Desigual is an international fashion brand that was established in Barcelona in 1984. It is famous for the individuality and unique character of its creations, which aim to bring positivity and authenticity to thousands of people who want to express the best version of themselves.
The company currently has a workforce of around 2,700 employees and is present in 107 countries through 10 sales channels, 428 monobrand stores and six product categories: Woman, Man, Kids, Accessories, Shoes and Sport.
About Plug and Play
Plug and Play is a world-leading open innovation platform with more than 35 locations on five continents. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, the company connects startups, corporations, venture capital firms, universities and government agencies. It delivers corporate innovation programs and assists its corporate partners in every stage of their innovation strategy. It also runs startup accelerator programs, and is one of the most active VC funds globally. Its successful investments include Dropbox, PayPal, Honey, Lending Club, N26 and Rappi.