If you follow me on Insta then you know that I participated in the 2nd Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon this past weekend.  For those of you who may not know a traditional Hackathon is usually a nonstop weekend long event where programmers and coders either try to hack into a system or create a new product.  What I loved about the Detroit hack was that it was more of an  innovation challenge that brought together talent from across a number of disciplines to solve real problems facing brands in the fashion industry.  We kicked off on Friday with two local brands and two problem statements.  One on hand was the York Project who was curious to know how smaller brands could better evaluate pop up opportunities to get the most bang for their buck.  The other was Pingree who wondered what technology or data could be used to help brand, designers, consumers or all three wanting to reduce their environmental footprint.  Since this was my first Hackathon I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect or how to proceed so I thought it’d be fun to share my experience and lessons learned for surviving a Hackathon in style.  

Wearing H&M Blazer, TJ Maxx Shirt Dress, ASOS Socks, Converse Sneakers



What to Wear

The first day I layered a shirt dress over some bicycle shorts and topped the look off with a blazer.  I will say I wish I had worn some pants because later in the evening I did end up getting chilly.  For the second day I decided a jumpsuit was the move.  It was breathable and felt like I was in pajamas which was perfect since this was the longest day of the event so comfort was key!  For submission day I decided to go with a little more formal outfit.  I reached for my one shouldered top with some wide leg pants and finished the look off with some sneakers.

The biggest thing is to make sure you wear something that is comfortable and breathable.  Also make sure to bring extra layers because the temperatures will fluctuate so much from the morning to the afternoon into the evening.  Another thing to consider is bringing deodorant, face wipes and maybe some perfume.  Though you aren’t spending the night, Saturday is a long day and Sunday with all the stress of presenting you’ll probably be sweating a little more than usual.

What to Expect

To be honest since I had never participated in a Hackathon before I really didn’t have high expectations.  All I had were horror stories from my friends of all nighters surrounded by sweaty people slamming away at their key boards in desperate need of a shower.  Thankfully my experiences was NOTHING like that. Here’s what you can expect from the Detroit Fashion + Tech Hackathon:

  • You can either sign up as a team or come as a free agent and create a team that evening.  
  • Diversity.  I loved that there was a large mix of people not just in terms of race but age range and also professional backgrounds. As you can see in the photo of us finalists above.
  • Most meals were provided, parking however was not.  Plan accordingly!
  • Deciding on which problem statement might be more difficult than you think.
  • Mentors who will give you unique insight not only on the direction of your solution but on the submission side as well.
  • Though it isn’t an over nighter, you will probably spend more time at the venue than expected, especially on submission day.
  • Presenting your team’s work to judges and if you place in the top 3 to the other participants.
  • A little bit of drama, some miscommunication, frustration, anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation but a whole lot of fun!

Check out the complete itinerary here.

Zara Top, Zara Pants, Forever 21 Sneakers


Lessons Learned

  • Team work really makes the dream work.  There’s nothing more invaluable than having a team who is supportive, open minded, and adaptable.
  • Communication is key. It’s so important to slow down and make sure that you’re understanding what is being asked of you and what you’re asking for.  It may take a few back and forths but it’s worth it to have everyone on the same page.
  • Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep.  The idea that our team went with and won us 3rd place came after we slept on our thoughts from Friday night and woke up Saturday with a fresh perspective.
  • Things don’t always go as planned and that’s okay.  If I’ve learned anything is rarely can you control the outcome of things.  No matter how much work you put in, how well you prepare.  The key is to put in your best effort, enjoy the process, the work and adjust as needed.
  • Don’t take everything so seriously.  When we didn’t place first or even second I won’t lie I was really upset.  And the fact that we didn’t get any find of formal evaluation or follow up as to why didn’t help.  But when I stepped back, realized what we accomplished and how proud I was, that’s really what it was about.  While victory would have been sweet, it’s not that serious in the grand scheme of things.

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