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Do us a favour: fashion’s presence at #SXSW Interactive isn’t about style


Celebrating the fact that SXSW goers were better dressed, and celebrity speakers like Karlie Kloss, Joe Zee and Nicola Formichetti were present at the Interactive portion of the festival this year, does the fashion industry a disservice.

The uptick in the number of Celine sneakers dashing around Austin, as my colleague spotted, might have been true, but that doesn’t make ‘fashion and tech’ a trend, as a number of press outlets reported.

The fact of the matter is the fashion industry has actually been going to SXSW for years. What merely happened for 2015 was a subtle increase in volume across a broader range of brands. We held a #fashmash drinks reception in partnership with JWT Intelligence on the lawn at the Four Seasons on the first evening, welcoming over 60 individuals from the space (and that was a small percentage). What was interesting about doing so however, was appreciating the fact that some early adopters – think Burberry – are no longer attending, while the likes of Chanel through to Primark this time sent a huge crowd.

Fashion content at SXSW has always been a tough one. The advent of SXstyle (which has admittedly evolved over the past couple of years to become a much more substantial part of the schedule) brings with it all sorts of talks related to the industry, but the question always remains as to whether this is fashion content for the tech crowd, or tech content for the fashion crowd. The balance has never been struck too well, making the bulk of sessions fairly mediocre for the majority of intellectuals in the audience. A great number of fashion attendees therefore don’t actually buy a badge, but rather use SXSW as an opportunity for networking.

What we should care about nonetheless, is the fact retail innovation is seriously being discussed. Whether over drinks, at salon lunches or in line for some of the busiest sessions dedicated to that theme, everything related to this space was hotly debated, and not just by fashion people.

At an event like SXSW, we need to stop thinking about fashion and tech as a trend, and most definitely remove the industry’s participation as being about an improvement in the style stakes. Instead, we need to focus on what really matters, and that’s the things that effect this space. Wearables, live streaming apps, artificial intelligence, female entrepreneurship, VC funding, virtual reality, data and more were all relevant this year. Each of those feature in a big round-up report published on WGSN [subscriber access] today. Here’s an outline otherwise of some of the relevant coverage (from us and elsewhere) that was out there:

  • Six learnings from Rent the Runway’s Jennifer Hyman at SXSW [F&M]
  • SXSW 2015: signs of a rebirth for retail [The Guardian]
  • Top tips for retail start-ups from VCs at SXSW [F&M]
  • SXSW 2015: all about beacons, beacons, beacons [AdAge]
  • No surprise: wearables are trending at SXSW [F&M]
  • Why wearable tech sucks so hard [Dazed]
  • Apple watch is only the tip of the iceberg for fashionable tech at SXSW [AdWeek]
  • Virtual reality: an update from Oculus at SXSW []
  • Nicola Formichetti debuts Diesel campaign with Instagram artist collaboration at SXSW []
  • SXSW: 10 inventions that will revolutionize retail [Marketing AU]
  • SXSW musings: is Tinder the next marketing opportunity? [F&M]
  • SXSW 2015: these undulating, 3d-printed clothes are pretty amazing [PopSci]
  • SXSW: did it really matter for marketers and agencies? [AdWeek]
  • How brands can tap social media celebrities [Campaign US]
  • How Meerkat conquered all at SXSW [The Verge]
  • Why digital-facing brands stick around for SXSW music [AdWeek]

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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