Editor's pick technology

SXSW: our tips, tricks and must-attend sessions for 2015

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SXSW Interactive has steadily become a must-attend for fashion industry folk playing in the digital and technology space. But with over 30,000 people in town, and hundreds of talks, panels, exhibitions, meet-ups and parties to attend over the space of five days, navigating it is no easy feat.

Fortunately, we’re now somewhat veterans. So here are our three fast rules, and a highlight panel pick from each day so that you at least have one talking point at drinks each evening!

1. Think outside the box. Don’t just go to the fashion sessions because you’re in the fashion industry – you’ll find more inspiration from other categories (as we’ve almost entirely suggested with our picks below).

2. Accept that you can’t get to everything. There are over 1,000 things in total so it’s impossible. Be ruthless with what you stick with therefore – if a panel you’re in is weak or you just don’t get in, leave and make speed to another. Worst case scenario you’ll stumble upon a spur-of-the-moment gathering elsewhere that will serve you far better anyway.

3. Make a plan, but don’t expect to keep to it. There’s a lot to be said at SXSW for getting swept up with a crowd and going with the flow. It’s much more relaxing, plus usually just as fortuitous.

Top 5 sessions:

Our selection of not-to-miss sessions are based on themes we’re picking up on so far including wearables, women in tech and virtual reality, as well as some broader talks that will hopefully make for inspirational listening:

FRIDAY: The Emperor’s New Wearables
This is about as ‘fashion’ as we’re recommending this year. There’s no escaping wearable technology at the moment, and especially not in Austin this year. It’s an interesting cross-section of speakers including Intel, Fossil and law firm Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP, which should make for a good conversation around what’s happening in partnerships between consumer brands and technology companies particularly.

SATURDAY: Princess Reema’s Mission to Empower Saudi Women
This is one of this year’s keynote sessions and up there as something we’re looking forward to the most. Princess Reema is the CEO of Saudi Arabian luxury retailer Alfa, Intl. Her focus on employing (and empowering) Saudi women fits within a wider theme across the festival of the role of women in technology and in business.

SUNDAY: Oculus Effect: How VR Will Change TV and Retail
Virtual reality is something we’ve been tracking in a big way, from interactive campaigns to the promise of immersive fashion week experiences. Oculus has a big presence at SXSW this year, but this session with Saatchi & Saatchi promises to dive into VR’s application for the likes of retail. The fact there are hands-on demonstrations is another win in our eyes.

MONDAY: How Innovation Happens
It’s the speakers that have wooed us for this one: Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google. Their aim is to discuss how great ideas become technologies that truly transform business, government and culture.

TUESDAY: Moonshots and Reality
If like us you’ve been lucky enough to see Astro Teller, captain of moonshots at Google[X] (real name, real job title), speak before, you’ll know to add this one to your list immediately. This is the guy responsible for making ideas that sound like science fiction a reality, from Project Loon to the self-driving car. From the write-up there’ll be a good focus on failing fast and trying again, which is a pretty great way to end the week.

Be sure to check out Fashion’s Collective’s Survival Guide for many more top picks from WGSN throughout the week. And head to their Fashion Brain Bar on Monday where, as sponsors, our team will be congregating.

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

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