Categories
data Editor's pick Retail technology

From relevancy to regulation: Why SXSW 2019 was the year of the individual ?

There was undeniably a continued focus on culture at SXSW this year, as what was once the behemoth tech festival aligned itself with broader societal shifts as well as the consumer itself.

Author Brene Brown set the tone by opening the first day of the event with a discussion on empathy and the simple notion of belonging and connection in a digital age. Now, this as a concept isn’t new for SXSW – it was our top takeaway from 2018 off the back of rising concerns around the ethics of artificial intelligence. But this year, it wasn’t said in the context of how we should build technology to behave, but instead really on how we as individuals can live better lives.

On the simplest end of the scale, that of course meant experiences – evidenced by the brand activations that continued to pop up around the city of Austin. Offering opportunities for people to have a great time, isn’t going anywhere. But on top of that was everything from politicians fighting for what society deserves through to an increased focus on wellness.

Underpinning all of it? How we create greater than ever relevancy for individuals in a way that is both fair and meaningful.

Smart wellness
Current Global's co-founder and CEO Liz Bacelar and Calm founder Michael Acton Smith
Current Global’s co-founder and CEO Liz Bacelar and Calm founder Michael Acton Smith

It’s easy to say wellness was a trend at this year’s festival – its presence was felt more than ever, from the huge volume of cannabis-related programming (60 sessions to be precise) to the second year of the wellness expo, which featured everything from breathwork 101 to a conversation on Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. There were also activations including the Real Self House, which offered free consultations with medical doctors and complementary treatments such as lasers and injectables.

Our Innovation Mansion also heavily focused on wellness, with speakers including Calm founder Michael Acton Smith, Dirty Lemon, Recess and Under Armour all playing a role. Where these conversations proved particularly interesting, was in the way connectivity played a role. This wasn’t so much about wearables, nor about that “quantified self” trend from years gone past – rather it was around how technology is more passively enabling me to find out more about myself to then achieve better results.

One key example was in L’Oréal’s announcement of its partnership with microbial genomics company, uBiome, which the Current Global’s Liz Bacelar explored with Guive Balooch, VP of L’Oréal’s technology incubator, on the SXSW main stage. This is about deepening its research into the skin’s bacterial ecosystem in order to develop more personalized skincare solutions for individuals. The end goal is quite literally prescribing products based on exactly what the science of our own bodies tell us we need. “When it comes to skincare, people often audition product after product to determine what works for their unique skin. At L’Oréal, our goal is to advance scientific research and leverage new technologies to change this relationship, by allowing deeper levels of personalization.”

Meanwhile, futurist Amy Webb dedicated a good portion of her trends talk to biometrics, not just for identification scanning, but predicting behaviors. “These are systems that take all biodata and are constantly learning from it in some way, she explained, referencing Pivot Yoga’s connected yoga pants, which monitor poses and correct users’ form while syncing the data to an app. It’s the first time behavioral biometrics made it into her trend report, she noted. She related such a trend to “Persistent Recognition Systems”, which are algorithms that use our unique features, like bone structure, posture, or facial expressions to recognize not only who we are, but our frame of mind in real-time and make personalized suggestions as a result.

In doing so, consumers often end up giving out more information than they realize, Webb added. At Walmart, a smart shopping cart could measure your temperature, heart rate, and grip strength. If the cart senses you’re angry, it can send a representative to help you out. Walmart is reportedly using this data to create a baseline of biometric information about individual users to drive better customer service.

Personalization
Atlantic Pacific for Amazon Fashion

Optimizing data about individuals is the million dollar question for brands. We hear this at every trade show, conference, festival and exhibition we go to around the world. We hear it from every client. How do I better get to know my customer? And how do I then ensure relevancy for them in order to drive my conversions upwards?

SXSW was no different. Amazon Fashion’s CTO, Tony Bacos, said relevancy is his number one goal. “We’re focused on helping connect people to the products that we know are going to delight them. Not just in their individual taste and style but in their bodies,” he explained. By that he meant thinking about how to drive personalized discovery when the challenge is the huge scale of Amazon’s catalog, and then how to solve fit and sizing issues. With the latter he referenced machine learning in order to map sizing from one brand to the next as well as understand the role consumer preference and buying history play. Virtual try-on, where users can visualize themselves in items, will play a role for Amazon in the future, he hinted.

“No one has nailed these things in fashion yet – both the opportunity to create better and personalized experiences online and to solve the fit challenge,” he said. “That’s why it’s an exciting category.”

Kerry Liu, CEO of artificial intelligence software company, Rubikloud, agreed the future of retail really is about relevancy, and about using AI behind the scenes to facilitate it. In the words of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, it’s about using tech to “quietly but meaningfully improve core operations”, he said. But more than that, it’s about optimizing decision making, which increasingly humans alone cannot do.

Walmart CTO Jeremy King, said it’s about efficiency, which ultimately means giving humans the tools to make better use of their time. As Marie Gulin Merle, CMO of Calvin Klein, reminded everyone: “Fashion is an emotional business; you still need people to shake the hearts of the consumers.”

Data regulation
Dennis Crowley from Foursquare

With a focus on data, of course comes conversation around privacy and increasingly, regulation. When the programming suggestions were submitted to SXSW last summer for inclusion in this year’s content line-up, top of mind were two major subjects within this: the GDPR regulations in Europe, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal with Facebook. Cue such continued debate come March.

Roger McNamee, early Facebook investor and one-time advisor to Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, spoke about the importance around regulation. “Users and society have not had a chance to debate whether companies should gather information and profit from people’s financial transactions, health data, or location,” he noted. An avid critic of Facebook today, he nonetheless understands the problem is endemic to a world where the most profitable business model is tracking people, using data to predict their behavior, and steering them toward the companies’ desired outcomes.

One company keeping a close eye on regulation is Foursquare, whose co-founder Dennis Crowley explained the company’s evolution from hyperlocal advertising to a business-to-business data play. “Now, Foursquare offers a base map of the world,” he said. But it refuses to sell data on individual customers in the process.

For Facebook, by comparison, the pressure around data privacy continues to heat up. Just before SXSW, Zuckerberg announced the platform will shift its focus away from public posts to encrypted, ephemeral communications on its trio of messaging apps. To McNamee, this supposed commitment to encryption and privacy reads like a stunt. “They’re not getting out of the tracking business. My problem with Facebook is not whether it’s end-to end-encrypted. It’s what are they doing with the tracking, what are they doing to invade my private spaces. I don’t want them buying my credit card history. I do not want them doing business with health and wellness apps to get all that data. I do not want them buying my location data from my cellular carrier.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren also took to the SXSW stage to address her tech regulatory proposal, announced the day before. This seeks to undo massive tech mergers that exist and introduce legislation that would prohibit marketplace owners from developing products for sale on their own platforms. “Amazon has a platform to sell you a coffee maker, but that company also sucks out an incredible amount of information about every buyer and seller. Then they can make a decision to go start a competing coffee making-selling outfit, and drive out of business everyone else in that space,” she said. McNamee revealed he’s now advising Warren as a presidential candidate for 2020, on her data regulation agenda.

For global brands, the role of data privacy is only going to continue apace. Regulation looks inevitable in the US, as it has been in Europe. The question is, how to balance that pressing consumer demand for personalization with the protection they equally expect.

Additional reporting by Larissa Gomes.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
Comment Events Retail sustainability technology

Your guide to SXSW 2019 through 10 key themes

SXSW has shifted quite remarkably in the past 10 years – from a launchpad for new technologies, to a reflection of much broader connected culture. During the Interactive portion of the festival, there remains an underpinning of innovation, but so too is there everything from politics to gender on the agenda.

The audience accordingly has widened from those looking for the latest tech trends or emerging startups, to those aiming to understand how societal shifts and digital consumer behaviors are impacting their businesses.

For 2019, that looks set to continue. For those headed down to Austin from the brand world therefore – from marketers to retail executives – it pays to be one step ahead in what to expect. Here are 10 themes to look out for during this year’s festival and the main events to head to in order to see them…

Entrepreneurship

There’s always a theme around entrepreneurship that pops up during SXSW, but this year’s line up looks particularly engaging. Top of the bill is Howard Schultz, former Starbucks Chairman and CEO, who will be talking about growing a global brand with an eye on humanity as well as profits. Meanwhile, Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are taking to the stage for the first time since leaving their company, to talk about their entrepreneurial journey. Other highlights come from Esther Perel, who is applying her relationship therapy to workplace dynamics, and Brene Brown, who will explore showing up and speaking out.

Wellness

Wellness as a theme has been increasingly emerging at SXSW over the past few years, as digital health has evolved beyond fitness trackers, for instance, into mental health and mindfulness. That plays out in a few different ways this year, from the expo dedicated to wellness as a theme, to the house Lululemon has with programming focused on yoga and meditation, and a keynote from Gwyneth Paltrow talking all things Goop. Over at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion, highlights lie in a keynote from meditation app Calm’s co-founder and co-CEO, Michael Acton Smith, alongside a guided meditation experience from the app in our pool house, and a game show dedicated to the wellness revolution.

Michael Acton Smith, Calm
Michael Acton Smith, Calm
Sustainability

Sustainability follows neatly after wellness as we think about not just ourselves but our planet. On that note, there’s a lot for the fashion industry to stew over this SXSW, including a session featuring the H&M Group and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition; another from Finery founders Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey, and one from SAP on a more sustainable supply chain. There’s also Rent the Runway talking about the sharing economy, Walmart looking at sustainable beauty, and a keynote at our Innovation Mansion? with the head of global product innovation at Levi’s.

Experiential

When it comes to retail, experience remains the buzzword du jour, and there’s a lot to learn at SXSW related to such a theme. From the large-scale activations taking place across the city, to those discussing how to do such things well. Giant Spoon is the agency behind last year’s winning Westworld experience at SXSW, and they’ll be on stage discussing how they do it. Also worth seeing is a session dedicated to how to ensure engagement, delight and success through experiential retail above and beyond the overdone ball-pit and photo-worthy backdrops. We’ll also be heading to Calvin Klein’s talk on how to humanize your brand experience in the robot era.

International Women’s Day

Gender and equality isn’t a new topic to SXSW, but International Women’s Day takes place on the first day of the festival, which provides an appropriate opportunity for a celebration of women this year.  Cue lots of events and talks dedicated to the subject, including a full set of programming from Bumble, a panel featuring the women building brands we’ve always wanted, such as Rachel Blumenthal’s Rockets of Awesome, and a session on the rise of feminists with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. Also look out for actress Zoe Saldana’s keynote on changing the narrative for millennial and Gen Z audiences.

Melinda Gates on stage at SXSW 2018
Melinda Gates on stage at SXSW 2018
Retail Tech

What’s interesting about this year’s SXSW schedule is seeing talks by the likes of Magic Leap distinctly pointing their focus towards the retail audience. They’ll be talking about AR in the digital shopping experience, while Walmart, Amazon and Kohl’s are (separately) discussing the future of shopping via computer vision, machine learning and AI. Also not to miss is a session featuring the Current Global’s CTO, Scott Emmons, formerly head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, diving into how retailers can leverage emerging technologies to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.

Street Culture

If we’re talking culture today, there’s no escaping all things streetwear in terms of mass consumer spread. SXSW is reflecting that fact with various sessions dedicated to the topic. StockX’s Josh Luber has a keynote session talking about his online marketplace designed to work like the stock market. Meanwhile, I’ll be hosting a panel on stage with Levi’s, NTWORK and Johannes Leonardo – the agency that has worked with the likes of Alexander Wang and Adidas Originals – to discuss how streetwear turns hype into big revenue. That story will continue over at our Innovation Mansion with a business of streetwear-themed gameshow. One additional talk to try and get to is with Nike’s Tinker Hatfield, who’s known as a legend among sneakerheads.

The Nike PG 3 NASA on StockX
The Nike PG 3 NASA on StockX
Blockchain

With a new track dedicated to blockchain at SXSW this year, it’s almost cheating to add it as a key theme, but there’s no escaping the growing presence it’s had at the festival over the past few years. The most interesting sessions for 2019 include a keynote from Joseph Lubin, co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain and CEO of ConsenSys, the Winklevoss twins talking about the cryptocurrency revolution, and a session on radical transparency in the food supply chain. ConsenSys also has a house during the festival where blockchain trends happening across entertainment, fashion, media and more, will be discussed.

Privacy

If blockchain is a key topic, then setting the stage for that, has to be trust. The past couple of years at SXSW have been heavily navigated towards fake news, but after a year of big data protection busts, 2019 orientates itself towards tech ethics and privacy above all else. There’s a not-to-miss session from the founder of Foursquare on location privacy, a couple of deep dives on user privacy in a post Cambridge Analytica and GDPR world, and a look at trust in the era of data.

Looking to the future

Rounding out our themes is the required nod to the future that SXSW has always brought. Malcolm Gladwell is in town to discuss self-driving cars, Publicis is going to explore invention in the age of creativity and the Current Global’s CEO, Liz Bacelar, will dive into the future of beauty with L’Oréal. We’re also looking forward to the Serpentine Galleries’ Hans Ulrich Obrist exploring the possibilities that AI presents for the creation of new art forms, and for those still in town by Wednesday, Bruce Sterling’s always enlightening annual closing remarks.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

American Express brings shoppable AR feature to Coachella

Coachella
Coachella

American Express has integrated a shoppable augmented reality feature to the official app of the Coachella music festival, spanning two weekends in Palm Springs this month.

The payment company’s AR experience allows its cardholders to buy select merchandise by using an AR camera feature when at the festival’s grounds.

Within the Coachella app, Amex cardholders can tap a dedicated Amex tab that will enable the AR experience, as well as give them a series of other benefits and rewards. Clicking the “shop” feature and waving their phones will trigger an AR image of exclusive merchandise, which can be purchased on the spot.

Other cardholder benefits at the festival include entrance into a club area, access to an Uber priority lane and free Ferris wheel rides, while Platinum card members get access to a dedicated house that hosts exercise classes and music performances.

The AR app from American Express at Coachella
The AR app from American Express at Coachella

Amex has been increasingly experimenting with AR technology in order to enable tech-enhanced, real-world experiences that blend discovery and commerce to its cardholders.

It has recently collaborated with Justin Timberlake to launch an experience to promote his new album, titled “Man of the Woods”, within the American Express Music app. The “Outside In” AR camera experience sees Timberlake himself guide users through a Montana setting while he shares details of how his “Breeze Off the Pond” track came together. Users can also shop for exclusive merchandise while partaking in the experience.

Justin Timberlake and American Express
Justin Timberlake and American Express

Brands are upping the ante when it comes to striking the right balance in providing immersive mobile experiences that eventually convert into sales. By its nature, AR technology needs to be deployed in-situ, meaning there is also scope to play with the element of scarcity by making the experience geo-fenced, as seen with the Coachella feature.

Most recently, Nike teamed up with Snapchat to offer early access to a new shoe at a basketball game that could only be purchased by scanning Snapcodes; meanwhile at SXSW this year, hip activewear brand Outdoor Voices encouraged Austin locals and visitors to go outside by creating an AR experience that surfaced particular products depending on location.

Categories
Events technology

SXSW 2017 – your guide to the very best of this year’s Interactive content

SXSW 2017
SXSW 2017

For anyone heading to Austin for SXSW Interactive this year, you will no doubt be entering into those few days ahead where you realise not only how much else there’s still to be done at work before you go, but just how little time you’ve had to prep for what’s to come.

Never fear! On the one hand, there’s something incredibly beneficial about the serendipity of going with the flow at this event. Plus the app is pretty spot on for getting you figured out hour by hour. That said, on the other, there’s a need to do several RSVPs to make sure you can get in to the parties you want to etc, and having a rough idea of your itinerary for the week, never harms.

So on that note, here are our highlights for the best of each day, designed specifically with those working in fashion and retail in mind. There’s also a link at the bottom to my full schedule for the week should you wish to see a more detailed, but still filtered version of the programme.

Look forward to seeing lots of you there. Don’t forget, we have #FashMash drinks at 6.30pm on Friday, March 10. If you didn’t get an invite, do drop me a note. Last but not least be sure to check out the survival guide Olly Rzysko of Primark wrote for us last year, complete with insanely relevant Kanye GIFs throughout.


FRIDAY, MARCH 10

Friday is a real ease-in kind of day, with a slow start to allow you to get your badges, and only a handful of highlights throughout the programme. One of the true beauties of SXSW is stepping outside of your usual remit and learning from other worlds, so don’t miss Cory Richards’ keynote at 2pm – a climber and visual storyteller, he was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year (2012) and a National Geographic Fellow (2015).

Also worth checking out is the 11am session on how tech is shaping the future of entertainment. Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable, will sit down with leaders in the entertainment and technology space to discuss how television and film are working hand in hand with Silicon Valley to not only reach consumers in the new ways they’re watching videos, but adjusting their creative process based on new advances in audience data.

On top of that is a session on the dawn of the drones, and how blockchain applies to other industries beyond fintech. If you have time, The Girls’ Lounge is also open from 8am – 6pm and is worth heading over to.


SATURDAY, MARCH 11

Saturday is a real conundrum with multiple incredible sessions all planned at the same time. Here’s where the luck part comes in at SXSW: some of them will be the talk of the week, others will be a total fail, and some you may not even be able to get into (if it’s a popular subject or speaker, be sure to arrive at least 30 mins early). For the 9.30am session for instance, it’s a toss up between learning about where artificial intelligence is headed from Microsoft, the real application of it in Disney’s case, or a talk from Bolt Threads’ CEO on their progress with spider silk as a new fibre for the industry – an exploration of how his team is using biotechnology to design protein-based materials at the molecular level. That’s a tough choice.

Later on, there’s an influencer session under the SX Style umbrella with Reward Style’s Amber Venz Box and a deep look at data specifically in the fashion industry with StitchFix and Poshmark. My true highlight for the day however, has got to be Casey Neistat’s talk at 3.30pm.

If that’s not enough, the Levi’s Outpost also opens on Saturday (and runs through the week), with a party in collaboration with Google’s Project Jacquard team the same evening.


SUNDAY, MARCH 12

Sunday is Decoded Fashion’s day, meaning if it’s really fashion content you’re after, you may not need to move from their Hangar Lounge location. That said, if you’re looking to mix it up and step out of your comfort zone, several other talks look very promising, including Fjord’s 2017 trends report examining not only trends that will impact consumers, but those set to impact design, business, organisation, culture and society in the next 12-18 months.

By the time you get to Sunday, it’s quite likely you’ll have already been to, or intended to go to, a handful of sessions on chatbots, but there’s another at 11am that seems particularly worthwhile. Outside of those, we’ll be heading to one on mixed reality at 3.30pm, followed by what looks to be a very fun session all about the technology promised us by Marty McFly in Back to the Future at 5pm.

As for other events, ModCloth and Wrangler have teamed up for a reception early evening, while Intel also has their AI lounge (running March 10-12) to head over to and learn from. If that wasn’t enough: Liz Bacelar (founder of Decoded Fashion) also launches her new business, TheCurrent, with a VIP programme from 4pm-7pm looking at innovation in the fashion and retail industries featuring speakers from Under Armour, Ford, Google, Parsons and more. There’s also a live podcast recording on Saturday morning with Rebecca Minkoff.


MONDAY, MARCH 13

If you haven’t had too much in the way of tacos and magaritas yet, and you can still manage to get up early, kickstart Monday with Ford’s session with executive chairman, Bill Ford, all about smart mobility. Make sure to get out on time however, because Marc Jacobs is up at 11am in conversation with Vogue’s Sally Singer and the queue is likely to be popular. The discussion is around designing in the age of the social media, which isn’t exactly a new topic (for anywhere, let alone SXSW), but it is Marc Jacobs.

A true highlight of the day (in fact the whole week), mind you, comes from futurist Ray Kurzweil, a director of engineering at Google, with his daughter Amy Kurzweil, who works at the Fashion Institute of Technology no less, at 12.30pm. Ray is one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen, so all hopes are pinned on this session being one of the best.

Rounding up the day is Matthew Drinkwater of London College of Fashion on designing in a digital world, and then Avery Dennison on connecting our clothing and our wardrobes, followed by a drinks reception with their team. If you have a spare moment, you might also want to check out Giorgio Armani’s Films of City Frames installation – showcasing five cities by five directors through five films. It runs all day from 10am-6pm, from March 12-15.


TUESDAY, MARCH 14

On to the final stretch and why not end on an inspirational high on the last day? Netflix is talking about mobile, L’Oréal is discussing holograms and the one and only Buzz Aldrin is also in town.

The big hitter, however, will be Yasmin Green of Jigsaw (of Alphabet variety, not the British fashion store), who leads the team’s innovation efforts, overseeing projects on counter-radicalisation and fragile states.

And last but not least, it’s not a true SXSW experience until you attend one of Bruce Sterling’s closing keynotes. “The future: history that hasn’t happened yet”, as he calls his session, will whip the slider-bar between the unthinkable and the unimaginable, which is exactly what you’ll need to cap off your Austin week.

For my full programme, check out this link to my shareable schedule. See you all there!

Categories
Comment Editor's pick social media Startups technology

Comment counts: How to survive SXSW. Warning! This post contains Kanye GIFs

As a bit of a SXSW Interactive veteran, Olly Rzysko of Primark, felt a responsibility to share information with festival newbies on how to make the most of the week. Cue Kanye West…

KanyeWest

I have been attending SXSW Interactive for four years now. Every year the experience improves and I learn more about navigating it in order to come back to the UK feeling motivated and more informed. I wish someone had helped me on my first visit as it was an intimidating and daunting experience, where I, like many, had travelled solo due to cost constraints.

I now feel the responsibility to share some info with other newcomers with the capable assistance of Kanye. We work in a world where success relies hugely on collaboration and this is my little contribution. This is nothing crazy or life changing but I hope it helps a few newbies.

giphy_kanye

Keep it comfy

Austin is casual, this ain’t no fashion show. You’re going to be on your feet all day, sometimes walking 30-40 minutes between venues. Invest in some real comfy trainers for those crazy days. It gets hot most years and you may end up leaving the hotel at 9am and not coming back until gone midnight. Packing is everything.These are also a VERY good idea.

giphy (6)

Stay powered up

Funnily enough, SXSW Interactive involved a lot of WiFi and battery draining demos, not to mention note taking. Pack some spare batteries for your phone. If you can buy two, leave one charging in the hotel while you take one out with you. You can pick these up at a little place called Primark. This one is only £8 / $10 and you can also pick up a multi connecting USB for around £2.50 / $3.00. Shameless plug over.

giphy (5)

RSVP, RSVP & RSVP

My biggest mistake on year one. I didn’t RSVP to things such as parties and events, in America you HAVE to do this to make sure you are on the list. Nobody likes an embarrassing wait to get into an event. Using http://rsvpster.com/ is really smart along with a few other sites such as http://do512.com/ andwww.eventbrite.com

giphy (3)

If you didn’t #, it didn’t happen

Hashtags drive the conversation and Twitter is the most important channel for gaining some insight. During the talks and events you should tweet along, track the hashtag and follow the conversation. This is great for note taking too. Screengrab the best tweets and add into your notes. I take all my notes using Evernote, which is quite handy as it keeps everything central and you can move from device to device as your battery life dies on each one.

Kanye tweet

Save the map

SXSW is a drain on your data and this makes navigating the hundreds of venues difficult. A little trick: save your area on Google Maps. Here’s a little guide on how to do that to save your data, your battery life and your mind. You’re gonna need this map from dusk til dawn. Alternatively, kick it old school and take a paper one from the hotel.

giphy (4)

Plan ahead (but not too much)

You can plan ahead by getting the app and starring all the talks and sessions you want to attend. You won’t make all of them, just be honest with yourself, not least for the fact you could be looking at a very long line when you arrive for that one key talk about the “Gamification of Hamster Wheels Using Augmented Reality in 9 Easy Steps”. So don’t get caught out; if it’s important to see a talk (i.e. Barack Obama), arrive early, get in the room and wait for your panel. Remember not to fall for click baiting talk titles like “The Best Social Media Strategy Ever” too, as some of these can often be a 15 minute sales pitch from an agency.

giphy (7)

It’s OK to have a bad day

It happens to the best of us but if you are there for a week, you will hit a brick wall where you go to three panels in a row that are awful and get a mental block. My advice is go for a walk and take a few hours off so you can clear your head. This event isn’t competition about who can go to the most events. FOMO is very 2015.

giphy (8)

It’s not all about the convention centre

Get out of central downtown Austin to see what the city is really like. The people in Austin are really friendly and welcoming considering 35,000 of us descend on them and take over every bar, public space and transport system for two weeks. So, try shopping and eating with the local businesses and not with the big chains. I recommend visiting:

  • South Congress, which is a really nice space and strip of stores and eateries south of the main city
  • Rainey Street although central is quite hidden away. This is where the party is at most nights
  • Talk to some locals and get their advice on where is good

giphy (2)

It DOES rain

They don’t tell you this. Pack a jacket, umbrella, mac whatever. Don’t be fooled by the weather reports.

kanye_disappointed

And finally, enjoy yourself

You’ve worked hard to get there, you’ve worked hard all week. Make sure you get to parties, talk to new people and make some new friends.

I’ll be at SXSW from March 10 through 16, as will Fashion & Mash editor, Rachel Arthur, who is hosting a #FashMash kick off mixer in collaboration with Decoded Fashion. If you’re interesting (and not trying too hard to sell something), we look forward to seeing you there.

kanye_gif

Olly Rzysko is head of digital communications at retail Primark. 

Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com

Categories
Editor's pick technology

No surprise: wearables are trending at #SXSW

wearables_SXSW

It’s impossible to miss the theme of wearables at SXSW in Austin this week, if only for the fact the Adobe-sponsored tote bags given to every delegate on registration are emblazoned with the phrase: “Totes: the original wearables.” The small-print even adds: “They’re tote-ally the future.”

The five days of conference sessions reflect the topic too with speakers from Intel, Misfit, Jawbone, adidas and Ringly all part of talks dedicated to exploring the connected devices consumers are beginning to place on their bodies.

Sandra Lopez, director of wearables, biz dev and marketing strategy for fashion at Intel, kickstarted her session on the first day today however, by wishing for the term “wearables” to disappear. “I can’t wait for the word wearables to go away because everything we wear is wearable.” What we should be talking about rather is how to make technology invisible, she urged.

Travis Bogard, VP of product management and strategy at Jawbone, agreed invisibility should be the primary consideration. “It has to first be wearable and then we can have the conversation about what it does. It has to be something you would want to wear anyway and then we can hide the technology in it.”

This focus on form versus function isn’t new in the wearables space – it was indeed a big theme at SXSW in 2014 too – but what’s happened since is a further exploration of making this a reality. Intel partnered with Opening Ceremony and launched its MICA in the timeframe for instance, while Apple has of course also introduced the Apple Watch, which hits retail next month.

Where there’s still an issue, said speakers, is thinking about a single device that people are expected to wear consistently. Brandon Little, chief creative officer of the Fossil Group pointed out that variation is key in the watch market. “The average watch collector globally own more than three watches. In some parts of the world they have up to seven. They change their watch dependent on their mood,” he explained.

The Apple Watch will come with a selection of different straps to choose from, as well as the varying metals defining its price point (aluminium, stainless steel or 24-karat gold), but fundamentally it doesn’t solve the fact that not everyone is going to want to wear it all the time.

Little explained that the wearables game isn’t going to be about one winner. With variation as a desire, we’re likely to see consumers switching from one device to the next depending on what functionality they’re after as well as what they like the look of at any point in time, he said. Where that gets complicated is enabling features on one device to then speak to another. “The future is all about offering variation and customisation, but the fundamental part is ensuring these connected things then all work together.”

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

Categories
Editor's pick technology

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

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

SXSW02_hr

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.

Categories
Comment Startups technology

Capturing #SXSW Interactive’s fashion crowd

Hundreds of individuals can be spotted out and about during SXSW toting hefty cameras, ready at any moment to snap the über eccentric crowd for their various street style blogs…

During the music portion of the festival that is.

During Interactive, it’s somewhat of a different affair. The nerds are in town, an estimated 28,000 of them, and the style bloggers don’t so much follow. But there is a little bit of fashion hanging around in there too. Honest!

So as a little bit of a joke, my dear friend Sarah Owen captured some of them for me during Monday’s Fashion Brain Bar, thrown by Fashion’s Collective.

The best thing about the resulting mini gallery below, is it epitomises Fashion & Mash, each of those featured working at the very crossroads of designer and digital for the likes of Net-a-Porter, Burberry, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Aritzia, WGSN, Moving Image & Content and the aforementioned Fashion’s Collective. There is also, of course, the lovely Cannon Hodge from Bergdorf Goodman, and Aliza Licht, better known as DKNY PR Girl, in there too.

SXSW is all about what’s next; in our industry, these are some of the people really paving the way…

More insight to follow from the festival keynotes and panels soon…

Categories
Comment social media technology

#SXSW Interactive in prep: a fashionable playing ground for 2013

FashionBrainBar_SXSW_main

If there was one thing I learnt from SXSW last year, it was that I absolutely had to go again in 2013. On top of the fact it’s the place to hear industry leaders  give expert insights, the place to learn about new innovations and source fresh inspirations, and the place where trends and directions for the tech world break… it’s also a breeding ground for incredible networking.

For anyone working within the fashion-meets-digital space, this seems especially the case this year, with more attendees headed to Austin from our industry than ever, as well as a host of relevant events to go with it.

Fashion’s Collective is hosting one of them, known as the Fashion Brain Bar on Monday, March 11 (as pictured above). It’s aim is to provide a bit of respite from the insanity of the festival, but also a space for everyone to meet the people they need to meet and have “the conversations that will play a key role in the advancements we’ll see over the next few years”.

Industry experts on hand will include Raman Kia, executive director of integrated strategy at Condé Nast through to Dave Gilboa, founder of Warby Parker. The full list can be seen here, as well as a space to submit questions to them in advance.

Another fringe event planned is called The Neighborhood. Created by AvecMode and 2nd Street District, it’s a move on from the Style X event of previous years, which brought a fashion focus (complete with runway shows) to Austin nearer the end of the festival. This time plans are in place from March 11 – 14 with a bit more of an industry edge. There are pop-up stores still, but also Q&A sessions with pros from the likes of Neiman Marcus, Michael Kors, Lyst, Refinery29 and more, as well as highlight interviews with menswear designers John Varvatos and Billy Reid.

The main SXSW schedule does of course feature a number of fashion-specific events too, including this one with Nina Garcia focused on the democratisation of high fashion. And this one featuring New York’s “digital it-crowd” in Aliza Licht, Cannon Hodge, Erika Bearman and John Jannuzzi (that’d be DKNY, Bergdorf Goodman, Oscar de la Renta and Lucky Magazine).

Fashion’s Collective has also published a survival guide to the whole five days, including must-attend events (lots of them non-fashion which I would highly recommend, there’s nothing like being inspired from outside your normal remit), as well as a handful of food and drink recommendations (indispensable).

I also love this guide from Andrew Hyde, called Ditch the Marketers, Find the Makers, it sums up the rest of the experience beautifully (be friendly to everyone, sit down when you can, put down your tech and look at people – yes really).

On that note mind you, if you’re going, drop me a line over Twitter. Assuming I can connect, I’d love to meet you.