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SXSW 2020 trends: From big tech to the explosion of cannabusiness

Artificial intelligence, sustainability, cannabis, gaming – just four examples of major areas impacting the fashion and retail industries today. As always, the key questions our clients want to know is in what way, and by when? Or in other words, at what point do I need to pay attention enough to jump into this space myself too?

Every August we take a pause and think about direction of travel for the industry. What within these trends really matter and how will they be shaped as we work towards 2020? 

We then like to reach out to our community about it to bring them to life at one of the industry’s leading festivals when it comes to the intersection of technology and culture today. 

Yes, we’re talking about SXSW.

Whether you’re a regular attendee, have the intention of being a first-timer, or just want to support great content from afar, this is your chance to bring to life the talks you’re interested in for next year. All you have to do is vote on the SXSW Panel Picker by August 23, 2019.

We’ve taken to heart those themes mentioned above, sourced some of the world’s foremost expert speakers on each subject, and we’re pitching for a total of five big sessions on stage. See them all below and click on each to place your votes.

Defending our humanity: The war on big tech
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie

This revealing interview with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, will discuss how in a world overrun by disinformation, increasingly segregated by algorithms and steadily dulled through tech disruption, the very essence of our humanity is at risk. We’ll explore why it’s naive to rely on government or big tech to do the right thing, and how our culture can be defended as a result. Vote Here

Nike revealed: Sustainability through skateboarding
Stefan Janoski, Nike

This insightful panel featuring skateboarding and sustainability superstars including Stefan Janoski, Elissa Steamer and the brand’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Noel Kinder, will explore how Nike is opening up to reveal its changing labor practices and to launch a new documentary series shot in China. Vote Here

Desire-driven data as the future tastemaker
Stitch Fix

With data increasingly impacting everything consumers do, is machine learning becoming the tastemaker of the future? Learn from experts at L’Oréal, Stitch Fix and Hulu on how they’re using data to shape creativity and almost everything they do. Vote Here

Dope retail: The luxury opportunity for cannabis
Beboe

The global legal cannabis trade is expected to hit $77bn in value by 2022. Join us to hear about the exploding retail opportunity in this space from luxury cannabis brand, Beboe, and iconic New York retailer, Barneys. Vote Here

Shopper engagement? Gamification is the answer!
Harry Potter Wizards Unite

Gaming is having a moment – not just on our smartphones but in our stores. This session will see shopping center Simon Malls, which is tapping into Harry Potter with gaming company Niantic, and luxury brand Kenzo, which is driving exclusive product access through gaming, diving into how “play” is reshaping brand engagement. Vote Here

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business Campaigns digital snippets e-commerce film mobile product Retail social media sustainability technology

ICYMI: Payless wins with fake luxury store, British MPs grill fast fashion, UN forms sustainability alliance

Payless's fake luxury store Palessi
Payless’s fake luxury store Palessi

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • Payless opened a fake luxury store with $600 shoes [Fortune]
  • MPs grill fast fashion bosses on sustainable practices at select committee hearing [The Industry]
  • UN to form alliance to make fashion more sustainable [FashionUnited]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Cambridge Analytica whistleblower joins H&M to lead AI research [TheCurrent Daily]
  • Muji designs “friendly” autonomous shuttle bus for Finland [Dezeen]
  • Smart speakers are everywhere this holiday season, but they’re really a gift for big tech companies [Vox]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Patagonia’s billionaire founder to give away the millions his company saved from Trump’s tax cuts to save the planet [Forbes]
  • Can the ‘broken’ fashion industry be fixed? [BBC]
  • For retailers and brands, sustainability needs good tech [Forbes]
  • Lane Crawford switches to greener shopping bags and packaging [WWD]
  • Next season’s must-have isn’t a handbag, it’s a conscience [i-D]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • How Casper is designing experiential retail moments [TheCurrent Daily]
  • A year in, Marks & Spencer’s virtual assistant has helped drive £2m in sales [Digiday]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • YouTube rolls out merchandise selling function [Drapers]
  • Nike tugs on heartstrings with ‘My Crazy Dream’ IGTV series [Mobile Marketer]
  • Steph Curry tells Under Armour to market his shoes to girls [BoF]
  • Instagram adds ‘close friends’ to let you share stories to a more limited group [The Verge]
  • Benefit to create pink train carriage for last minute brow treatments [Campaign]
PRODUCT
BUSINESS
  • Black Friday took one third of sales from smartphones [FashionUnited]
  • Kering to end Yoox partnership, take control of e-commerce by 2020 [BoF]
  • H&M to shut Cheap Monday [WWD]
  • Condé Nast to combine US and international businesses [BoF]
  • Cash-strapped millennials turn to instalment plans to buy t-shirts and jeans [BoF]
CULTURE
  • Bread & Butter cancelled for 2019 [Drapers]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.

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data Editor's pick sustainability technology

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower joins H&M to lead AI research

Christopher Wiley
Christopher Wylie

Christopher Wylie, the man known as the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, has joined H&M as its director of research, where he will work on using data and analytics to drive sustainability.

Speaking on stage at the Business of Fashion’s VOICES conference in the UK this week, he said artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to reduce waste in the industry and drive efficiency through the supply chain.

“A lot of fashion companies look at the supply chain and the mechanics from production to distribution, but actually understanding consumers will help you optimize the supply chain because you will better understand what it is they want to buy or they don’t want to buy,” he explained.

That comes off the back of the fact that H&M reported it had a stockpile of $4 billion in unsold clothing earlier this year. Meanwhile, Burberry also came under fire over the summer for news it burnt $37.8 million in excess inventory last year.

But Wylie argued that turning to data is not only good for the environment, but also good for business.

“Investing in AI will allow you to not only better match your units of clothing to your customers, and therefore make more money, but be able to make more money with less units of clothing. So there’s an argument in profit and profitability to invest in AI, and also an argument in sustainability to invest in AI.” That means that being more sustainable is not only an environmental decision, but a business one, he noted.

Wiley will join the H&M Group on December 1 to bring these insights to the fast fashion giant, where he will work alongside Arti Zeighami, the company’s head of AI and advanced analytics.

“If we put this data on top of what we have, then we can be more precise. It means you can stop guessing what you can calculate. It helps you be [sharper] with decision-making,” Zeighami added.

“Tech is cool. There are amazing things you can do with data, it doesn’t have to be evil,” said Wylie.

That followed a keynote he gave earlier in the day in which he outlined the way in which Cambridge Analytica used data from fashion brands as a weapon to help elect President Trump in the US in 2016. Facebook ‘likes’ from brands including Wrangler and LL Bean were used as a primary input for the algorithms that then targeted people with pro-Trump messaging. He referred to this as repurposing technology originally designed for cyber warfare to influence politics.

Earlier this year, Wylie also gave an exclusive interview to Vogue Italia in which he spoke further about why the similarities between fashion and politics are stronger than people think.

How are you thinking about AI for sustainable innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.

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business data Editor's pick technology

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower on the trends connecting fashion and politics

Christopher Wylie - Cambridge Analytica
Christopher Wylie

The similarities between fashion and politics are much stronger than people think, says Christopher Wylie, now widely known as the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, in an exclusive conversation with Vogue Italia.

Why is someone who blew the lid on the Facebook data scandal talking about fashion? Canada-born Wylie was studying trend forecasting at the University of the Arts London while working at Cambridge Analytica, and has spent much of his career exploring links in culture.

Much like fashion trends, politics is cyclical, and encompasses the idea of presenting an aesthetic, or narrative, he explains. “Trends are just as important in politics as they are in fashion; just that rather than an aesthetic trend, it might be an ideological, behavioural or cultural trend,” he says. “You need to keep track of all kinds of trends in politics because you need to know if you come out and say something, what the adoption of that will be six months down the road. And is that going to help you win an election.”

Given the nature of his role at a data business, unsurprisingly he also has a big view on the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on the fashion industry too.

Fashion’s intuitive nature is not only hard to measure in trends, but also incredibly complex for machines to learn, he explains. He believes fashion is contextual because its trends and aesthetics are hard to quantify. “How do you define bold? If I go to a black tie dinner but I’m decked out in camo, I’m actually wearing quite muted colours, but it’s quite bold,” he exemplifies, saying boldness is contextual, depending on where you are.

“How do you tell a computer about that? Amazingly, with fashion, is that not only is it visually and aesthetically really enriching, computationally and mathematically it’s really hard. It’s a hell of a lot harder than politics.”

Computer vision could be the solution, he says, because an outfit is essentially visually-encoded information. In that sense, it is human beings who would need to look at pictures of people wearing clothes and choose the relevant adjectives that describe what they look like. They then need to work closely with computers to teach them about fashion.

“Everybody needs teaching, even computers. You learnt fashion in the first place, so the computer needs to learn fashion from people as there are no machines that know fashion yet,” says Wylie.

Digital influencer Margaret Zhang wears Vetements
Digital influencer Margaret Zhang wears Vetements

We saw this movement towards focusing on the human earlier this year at SXSW. While every conversation was underpinned by the concept of artificial intelligence, the topic kept highlighting the sense of instilling humanity in all interactions – from robots learning from humans, to humans being freed from minimal tasks to focus on what matters.

Another strong theme from SXSW – and one permeating consumer trends full stop today – is around the lack of trust in society. The Edelman Trust Barometer has reported a straight-line decline for 25 years, and Wylie likens the rise of ironic fashion such as Vetements to this too. “If you have a lot of designers who are starting to make stuff that is ironic – or stupid like the €200 DHL t-shirt – and people are buying it, it’s because you have a total collapse of trust in institutions, including fashion institutions,” he says, adding that this is where fashion and culture in general have a lot more power than they give themselves credit for.

The Vogue Italia interview otherwise covered Wylie’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal more broadly, and exactly why he decided to go public with the information.

For more on the future of data regulation and privacy, listen to our episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast with Amnesty International’s Sherif Elsayed-Ali.

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data Editor's pick Podcast

Facebook’s data scandal: Amnesty International on the future of regulation

Amnesty International's Sherif Elsayed-Ali - Facebook
Amnesty International’s Sherif Elsayed-Ali

According to Amnesty International’s Sherif Elsayed-Ali, brand transparency and regulation are key in light of the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica news, which saw over 87 million individual user accounts improperly shared.

Speaking on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators, which was guest hosted by Rosanna Falconer at a live FashMash Pioneers event in London, Elsayed-Ali, the human rights organization’s director of global issues and research, said data protection and privacy have never been more pertinent topics.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

“In the atmosphere we are in, where this is this kind of diminishing trust in technology, creating transparency adds to the trust that people will have in any company or brand in a way that can be very positive… There’s something about empowering people, empowering consumers, to be able to say ‘I know what’s happening to my data, I know how it’s used, and I know how it’s protected’,” he explains.

For that to happen, there needs to be regulations in place for brands however, he added. By building a basic framework of minimum requirements, it will level the playing field, which is essential.

The advent of GDPR in Europe – the General Data Protection Regulation proposed by the European Commission and due to kickstart in May 2018 – will help facilitate this, he notes, explaining exactly what it means for marketers within the fashion and retail industries still looking to drive microtargeting and increasingly personalized campaigns.

Consent is a crucial focus he said, but so is removing lengthy jargon that makes it difficult for users to understand what they’re signing up for.

During the episode, Elsayed-Ali, who established Amnesty’s technology and human rights program, also talks to what artificial intelligence means for the future of the fashion industry – exploring the role of automation in manufacturing for instance, and just when we can expect this to become a reality. “We’re not talking decades, we’re talking just years,” he notes.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how 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.