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Brexit is here, Vogue.com’s return to e-commerce, fashion copes with Coronavirus

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

Top Stories
  • Brexit is here. What’s next for fashion? (Vogue Business)
  • Vogue.com to launch new shopping vertical (WWD)
  • How the fashion industry is coping with the Coronavirus crisis (Jing Daily)
Technology
  • AI-powered robot warehouse pickers are now ready to to work (MIT)
  • H&M and Magic Leap redefine the customer experience (Magic Leap)
  • Fashionphile is turning luxury authentication into a science (Fashionista)
  • ‘We can’t scale humans’: Why startups are raising millions to build AI avatars (Fast Company)
  • Smart tags seen as next marketing tools (WWD)
  • The Future of Fintech: AI & Blockchain (Business Insider)
  • Walgreens is expanding its digital cooler doors ad network (Digiday)
  • Birmingham’s Thomas Crown gallery to be city’s focal point for AR & street art (VR Focus)
Sustainability & Purpose
  • BRC announces new voluntary vegan guidelines for fashion (Drapers)
  • Guardian bans ads from fossil fuel companies (Campaign)
  • Copenhagen Fashion Week unveils ‘radical’ sustainability plan (Fashion United)
  • Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield achieves top score for climate action (Retail Gazette)
  • Pandora commits to carbon neutrality by 2025 (Fashion United)
  • The drive toward sustainability in packaging – beyond the quick wins (McKinsey&Company)
  • Adidas debuts sustainable football field made out of ocean waste (Highsnobiety)
  • H&M Conscious becomes first retail collection to feature Circulose® (The Industry)
  • Worn Again technologies opens R&D plant in England (WWD)
Retail & Commerce
  • Estee Lauder, Sephora unveil shoppable AR makeup try-ons on Pinterest (Mobile Marketer)
  • H&M’S new boss says its 500+ ‘stores will change’ as it focuses on digitalization (Charged Retail)
  • Allbirds set to open its second UK store (The Industry)
  • E-commerce deliveries will overrun cities in 1 to 3 years (Retail Dive)
  • UK retail space could shrink by 20% (Retail Gazette)
Marketing & Social Media
  • How fashion brands like Off-White and Balenciaga are getting in on Super Bowl 2020 (WWD)
  • 42% of people believe ads can change the world, despite trust crisis (The Drum)
  • Danish fashion is withstanding Instagram’s test of time (Vogue Business)
  • As TikTok looms, Youtube plans to remain the ‘clear founding ground’ of British talent (The Drum)
  • Sephora and Chipotle want to go viral on TikTok. Their employees already are (Vox)
Product
  • Nike sells out of Kobe Bryant products (Hypebeast)
  • Nordstrom launches secondhand clothing sales (BoF)
  • This makeup primer is Revlon’s first clean-certified beauty product (Fast Company)
  • Will we buy mostly vintage clothes in the future? (WSJ)
  • Atolla receives patent for adjustable skin analysis system (WWD)
Business
  • LVMH revenues rise 15% in 2019 but uncertainty in Asia looms (Vogue Business)
  • J.C Penney gets NYSE warning on possible de-listing (WWD)
  • LVMH, Kering, Anta and Alibaba pledge donations to battle Coronavirus (WWD)
  • How fashion can navigate 2020’s political minefield (BoF)
  • New CEO and chairman for H&M Group (Drapers)
  • Levi Strauss boosts digital credentials with new board member appointment (Fashion United)
  • A new model for crowdsourcing innovation (HBR)
  • L’Oreal launches Employee Human Rights policy (WWD)
Culture
  • ‘Angels’ in hell: The culture of misogyny inside Victoria’s Secret (NYT)
  • Disney partners Secret Cinema to create global immersive experiences (Campaign)
  • Camille Walala decorates “kid’s dream house” with more than two million Lego pieces (Dezeen)
  • Atari is opening eight video game hotels across the US (Input)
  • Is the gaming world become more trans-inclusive? (i-D)

How are you thinking about innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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business e-commerce Retail sustainability technology

From holograms to responsible packaging: 10 must-read retail innovation lists

This year has seen continued breakthroughs in retail innovation, with brands exploring new ways to interact with consumers, whether that’s through the physical store, virtual spaces, or new touchpoints like vending machines. 

2019 has also been an impressive year for sustainable innovations, with everything from creative store design and technological transparency, to responsible packaging solutions and the rise of rentals.

Here, we reflect on 10 of our must-read retail innovation articles from the year.

8 brands deploying vending machines as smart retail solutions
Mulberry x Current Global Vending Machine

Artificial intelligence, social media buzz and customer acquisition tools are just a few of the strategies behind vending machines being used as a key part of today’s retail experience. In this story we explore how the technology has been applied to brands including Mulberry and Adidas.

4 technologies aiding in-store navigation
Gatwick’s in-app navigation

Big box retailers including Walmart’s Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target are using a variety of interesting wayfinding technologies to improve customer navigation inside the physical store. This piece dives into the role of innovation for more efficient customer journeys.

5 brands pushing conversions through virtual storefronts
Lego’s AR-activated experience

Brands including Macy’s and Lego are using virtual experiences in physical locations to provide shoppers with the benefit of an interactive in-person experience without needing to carry inventory. Here, we look at how these “invisible” or augmented reality storefronts are driving sales, collecting data and boosting branding efforts.

7 ways fashion brands are harnessing hologram technology
Alexander McQueen’s hologram show

The fashion industry has been experimenting with holograms for some time, using them as both elaborate marketing techniques, as well as more immersive in-store opportunities aiming to drive brand engagement. In this piece, we take a look back at some of the best use cases from the likes of Alexander McQueen and Ralph Lauren.

9 brands pushing sustainable store design
Ganni’s sustainably designed store

With sustainability an increasing priority on the agenda for fashion and retail businesses around the globe today, attention is also turning to their brick-and-mortar stores – how they’re resourced, designed and constructed. Here we explore how the likes of Stella McCartney through to Ikea are approaching it.

4 innovative retail fulfilment methods to know
Ford’s delivery robot

With the on-demand economy continuing to fuel consumer desire for instant gratification, innovation in delivery continues to rise, from crowdsourcing to the latest in robotics. Explore how tech solutions are shaping efficiency in the last mile, here.

7 brands regaining consumer trust through transparency
‘I made you clothes’ campaign

Enabling transparency is a key focus for fashion businesses today, but with rising concerns of greenwashing – from misleading PR-led campaigns to the increase of fake news – consumer trust is at an all-time low. As a result, brands are having to work harder than ever to prove their authenticity in the matter.

5 brands using gamification to drive shopping
Nike’s React Land game

Brands and retailers are jumping on the growth of the gaming market and increasingly using ‘play’ mechanics as a way to encourage shopping. Here we dive into why gamification is estimated to be a $40bn market by 2024 and explore those making the most of it already.

4 effective ways brands are tapping into the rental market
Ba&sh’s NY store

The rental market boom is sending a clear signal to brands struggling to survive in the current retail climate: it is time to adapt to changing purchase behaviors, or risk losing market share. In this piece we look at the varying benefits of stepping into this space, from sustainability to data capturing.

8 brands turning to responsible packaging solutions
Toad&Co partnered with LimeLoop

The rapid rise of the e-commerce era has seen an equally colossal increase in plastic packaging used by brands around the world, something those at the forefront of sustainability are now looking to change. Check out some of the best alternatives introduced by the likes of PVH to MatchesFashion.com.

How are you thinking about innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Campaigns Editor's pick product Retail social media technology

5 brands tapping virtual storefronts to drive engagement and push conversion.

Brands are using virtual experiences in physical locations to provide shoppers with the benefit of an interactive in-person experience without needing to carry inventory.

These “invisible” or virtual storefronts – usually in the form of augmented reality content visible via smartphones – are being used to drive sales, collect data and boost branding efforts. At a time when physical retail is struggling, such mobile initiatives aren’t just eye-catching, they’re more convenient by providing curated products that can then be delivered on demand. 

To date, we’ve seen brands doing everything from collaborating with artists and social media platforms to creating personalized assortments using such virtual setups. Shoppability is key. Here’s a highlight of some of the more recent success stories…

Havaianas
Havaianas’s boardwalk virtual store

Early this summer, footwear brand Havaianas launched a virtual storefront focused on driving sales for one day only. Located on the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, shoppers passing by a colorful mural discovered it was actually a virtual pop-up store. Snapping a photo of the designs they liked directed them to a shoppable microsite at  StepIntoSummer.com, revealing a curated style guide with various tips on what to buy. 

The concept was powered by Google’s Cloud Vision AI platform, which helped Havaianas pair merchandise with colors from the mural – a big step up from QR codes. The brand collaborated with street artist Buff Monster on the mural and featured fashion tips from stylist Tara Swennen.

Lego
Lego’s augmented reality store

To promote its first limited-edition clothing line for adults, Lego opened a pop-up shop with a twist in February: the store was entirely empty. Shoppers in London’s Soho neighbourhood arrived to find a Snapcode (a QR code for Snapchat) displayed on a pedestal. Scanning the code with their phones then surrounded them with a virtual storefront in AR. 

Customers could choose between three different types of merchandise – sweatshirts, caps and t-shirts – and view them on a Lego character. The pieces then sold through an integrated “Shop Now” feature on Snapchat, which led shoppers through to a dedicated e-commerce page that displayed the products on a real-life model, enabling them to choose their size before completing purchase.

Macy’s
Macy’s Santa Monica Pier displays

Macy’s partnered with Pinterest to display scannable Pincodes at vibrant gathering spots in the US, such as Central Park in New York and the Santa Monica Pier in LA. Scanning a code took shoppers to a Pinterest board curated with ideal summer looks for their location with links to the online store. 

Unlike most immersive retail experiences that are fixed to a specific location, or indeed online only, this campaign was designed to inspire customers with virtual catalogs that meet them where they are. 

Nike
The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat

Nike is another that has been experimenting with the idea of using specific virtual spaces to release new products. In 2018 it also used Snapchat, this time to release its Air Jordan III “Tinker” for those in attendance at the NBA All-Star after-party only.

 Achieved via a partnership between Nike, Snap, Darkstore and Shopify, users could scan exclusive Snap codes to buy and receive the shoes by 10:30pm that same night. All of them sold out within 23 minutes.

Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices augmented reality experience

Austin-based activewear brand Outdoor Voices launched an augmented reality app experience at SXSW in 2018 that encouraged fans to get outdoors to find particular virtual products in the middle of the park. Once discovered, users could explore them in 360-degrees, find out more information as well as click to purchase.

How are you thinking about new technology? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Retail social media

Lego hosts empty store where products can only be bought via Snapchat

Lego is hosting a pop-up space where visitors can only shop exclusive streetwear merchandise by scanning a gigantic Snapchat code.

Located in Central London, the space is entirely empty apart from a bigger-than-life Snapcode, that once scanned gives users access to a special Snapchat lens that features a virtual storefront.

From then, users can walk around the physical room and view the store through their phones, featuring rails of merchandise, a DJ booth, cash till and arcade machine.

When approaching one of the rails customers can choose between three different types of merchandise – sweatshirts, caps and t-shirts – and view them on a Lego character. They are then directed to a dedicated e-commerce page that displays the products on a real-life model, and choose their size before completing purchase.

The limited edition collection is available in 12,000 individual items across all three categories. Customers don’t need to visit the London pop-up store to get their hands on the merchandise, however. The Snapcode is also available through flyers that once scanned trigger the same retail feature.

Lego's AR-enabled store

How are you thinking about digital 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. 

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business Editor's pick Podcast sustainability technology Uncategorized

Our top 10 innovation podcasts to listen to

 

Big issues such as sustainability, rising technologies and the changing role of the consumer were major topics of conversation in 2018, as evidenced by the top shows on TheCurrent Global’s weekly Innovators podcast.

Throughout the year, we explored far and wide what those leading the industry are doing to tackle some of the most pressing issues it faces today. Here, we highlight 10 of the most interesting conversations had as we look forward to 2019 and providing even more food for thought for our listeners.

Ian Rogers, chief digital officer, LVMH
Ian Rogers at The New York Times International Luxury Conference


Speaking to co-host Liz Bacelar at The New York Times International Luxury Conference in November, LVMH’s Ian Rogers rang the death knell for the chief digital officer, a role he himself holds. The title, he argued, is merely a transitional one as brands become accustomed to a future where there is a digital layer to every consumer interaction. He also talked about how it makes sense that luxury took so long to jump into e-commerce; why CEOs don’t need to know technology intrinsically; and what he’s driving at LVMH to keep up with the level of experience the customer expects online.

Listen here

Anna Gedda, head of sustainability, H&M Group
Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur
Anna Gedda and Rachel Arthur

“We only have one planet, and the toll [the fashion industry] has on resources today is simply unsustainable,” H&M’s Anna Gedda told co-host Rachel Arthur. With that in mind, the Swedish group is pushing towards an ambitious goal of being 100% circular by 2030. The sustainability expert also talked about how collaboration in the industry is critical and the important role artificial intelligence will play in this field.

Listen here

Laurence Haziot, global managing director, IBM
Laurence Haziot and Rachel Arthur
Laurence Haziot and Rachel Arthur

A leading woman in the STEM industries, Laurence Haziot, global MD at IBM, believes blockchain will have the same long-term impact that the internet has had on commerce. During this conversation, she broke down what this technology means for fashion, why she is bullish on the efficiencies it could drive throughout the supply chain, and how it’ll play a major role in sustainability and transparency.

Listen here

Avery Baker, chief brand officer, Tommy Hilfiger 
Liz Bacelar and Avery Baker
Liz Bacelar and Avery Baker

“When you’re trying to do something that really creates an impact and is somewhat revolutionary, then you’ve got to put all the chips on the table,” said Tommy Hilfiger’s Avery Baker. For the chief brand officer, who has been with the company for 20 years, risk, authenticity and understanding your consumer are the keys to innovation. She also talked about how the brand has translated its American roots and values to a global audience, how it overcame the unexpected lull, and why magic and logic need to work together.

Listen here

Martin Urrutia, head of retail innovation, Lego
Lego's Martin Urrutia with Rachel Arthur
Martin Urrutia and Rachel Arthur

Lego seeks feedback from six year-olds, and often breaks into moments of play in order to shift siloed thinking. That, believes Martin Urrutia, is how the company remains focused on the relationship between the user and the brick. In this passionate chat, the head of retail innovation also spoke about the importance that technology and a knowledgeable staff both play in creating elevated retail experiences.

Listen here

Jen Rubio, co-founder, Away
Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar
Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar

Direct-to-consumer luggage brand, Away, received its first round of funding without even having a product, which is a testament of how clear its vision was from the get-go. Co-founder Jen Rubio talks about how she built a brand based on making travel more seamless, how they overcame their first major hurdle, and why listening to customer feedback and constantly iterating is key to innovation.

Listen here

Matthew Woolsey, managing director, NET-A-PORTER
Matthew Woolsey with guest host Rosanna Falconer
Matthew Woolsey with guest host Rosanna Falconer


The future of e-commerce may not be about a traditional website at all, but about existing on multiple other platforms, said NET-A-PORTER’s Matthew Woolsey. One of the luxury retailer’s most expensive sales, a watch, was completed entirely on WhatsApp, for instance. This shows the importance of a customer centric strategy, he explained, from what platform to use to how to integrate data and AI into every process.

Listen here

Dan Makoski, VP of design, Walmart
Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski, Walmart
Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski

“Design is best when it serves people,” said Walmart’s now former VP of design, Dan Makowski. He spearheaded the world’s largest retailer’s e-commerce redesign, explaining that it all came down to focusing on elevating the shopping experience for the changing customer of today. With so many brands now under its umbrella, such as ModCloth and Jet.com, there was a new focus on having a wider conversation in order to cater to different types of consumers, he noted.

Listen here

Sandrine Deveaux, MD of Store of the Future, Farfetch
Rosanna Falconer and Sandrine Deveaux
Sandrine Deveaux with guest host Rosanna Falconer

The store of the future will solve consumer problems in innovative and meaningful ways, said Sandrine Deveaux, MD of Farfetch’s division dedicated to such a cause. Technology, she said, should not be deployed just for the sake of it, but to create better shopping experiences driven by personalization. She referred to the experience of Apple, but the convenience of Amazon, and why she’s on a quest to change the way luxury brands think.

Listen here

Guive Balooch, global VP of L’Oréal’s tech incubator
Rachel Arthur and Guive Balooch


L’Oréal is on a mission to marry technology and beauty in order to enhance customer’s lives, said Guive Balooch, global VP of the beauty group’s tech incubator. From the connected hairbrush to the customized formulas or augmented reality makeup apps his team has created, the key is thinking about how to personalize all interactions and solutions for consumers, he explained. “In 10 years time there’s no question to me that every person will have the ability to have the perfect product for them,” he noted.

Listen here

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, 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.

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Editor's pick product sustainability

Ikea unveils new collaborations with adidas, Lego and Sonos

A rug by IKEA x Virgil Abloh

Ikea has unveiled a series of upcoming collaborations that will further cement the Swedish brand in the realm of enabling a design-conscious, and in some instances more sustainable, lifestyle for its customers.

The collaborations, which will launch from now up to 2020, will include pioneering names such as toy giant Lego, sportswear brand Adidas and audio line Sonos, on top of the previously publicized collections with designer Virgil Abloh and fragrance label Byredo.

The announcement was made at this year’s Democratic Design Days, an annual event during which the brand talks through its design and product development goals to a group of 500+ journalists.

At the event, Marcus Engman, Ikea’s head designer, unveiled that the collaborations aim to highlight the company’s forward-thinkingness, saying: “They’re things that are not so familiar at Ikea, and I love that. It’s good to push the boundaries.”

Home and lifestyle

A collaboration with artist Olafur Eliasson and his company Little Sun, which provides solar-powered lights for people with no access to electricity, will develop solar products and also look to develop projects involving solar power and water consumption.

“We’re all sitting here consuming power. What would it feel like if we didn’t have it?” said Eliasson, explaining that the Ikea involvement is a great way to bring that problem to a larger audience. “It’s about getting people to understand these problems and to ask, ‘What can I do to take a more active step?’”

With audio brand Sonos, it is set to create a range of more affordable speakers that merge Sonos’ Wi-Fi-enabled devices with Ikea’s Trådfris range of smart devices, with a focus on bringing a more design-led audio experience to the home, which includes getting rid of unnecessary wires.

Meanwhile, launching summer 2019, Ikea’s party line with Stockholm-based software company Teenage Engineering, will see products ranging from speakers and light devices to glassware.

Following the 2017 Ikea Play Report which revealed 47% of children want more playtime with their parents, and that 90% of parents believe play is essential to wellbeing and happiness, the company is also teaming up with Lego. Although details are not available at this point, the companies highlight there is a strong synergy in their knowledge of the importance of encouraging fun and creativity.

IKEA x Teenage Engineering

Fashion and design

Beyond the Virgil Abloh collaboration, other fashion and design-focused partnerships include an upcoming Adidas collection that will explore exercising in the home, and how both brands can better support that behaviour; working with Byredo on a line of home fragrances launching in 2020; a partnership with African creative company Design Indaba and 10 African artists on a line of textiles and tabletop goods; and a collection with Saint Heron, a multidisciplinary cultural company founded by singer Solange Knowles, exploring art and design objects with multifunctional use.

Sustainability goals

The event also emphasised Ikea’s pledge to further push its sustainability goals by 2030, as previously hinted by Joanna Yarrow, head of sustainable and healthy living at Ikea on a recent episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

This means all Ikea products will be designed with new circular principals, with the goal to use only renewable and recycled materials, as well as from a retail perspective, offering services that make it easier for customers to take care of and pass on Ikea products.

Videos on each specific collaboration announcement can be found on IKEA’s YouTube channel here.

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Editor's pick Podcast Retail

Lego on the importance of play at retail

Lego's Martin Urrutia with Rachel Arthur
Lego’s Martin Urrutia with Rachel Arthur

Lego’s most important feedback often comes from six year-olds, says the brand’s head of retail innovation, Martin Urrutia, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur at this year’s World Retail Congress in Madrid, Urrutia says focusing on the relationship between the user and the brick, and constantly listening to consumers’ wants and needs, has been pivotal to the Danish brand’s longevity.

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

“Prior to rolling out anything important in our stores we actually sit at a table and present this to children and listen to them. And of course sometimes you say ‘Am I going to let a six or eight year old child tell me what to do in store?’ and the answer is yes, of course. If you present this to them, if you listen to the feedback, it’s going to be interesting,” he explains. “I’ve seen so many companies changing their essence and changing many things,” he says, “and the only question that comes to my mind is – have they really asked their core users what they want?”

In order to serve all types of consumers with the right interaction, the brand prides itself on being truly shopper-centric. Understanding the consumer is particularly key to a brand that is in the unique position of having such a vast fanbase – from small children to much older adults. This means engaging with core fans through a continuous conversation informs not only R&D, but also store design and interactive experiences. There have been many ideas that looked good on paper but were scrapped when they received negative feedback from real consumers or partner retailers, Urrutia explains, for instance.

Lego's AR in-store
Lego’s AR in-store

During the episode, he talks to the idea of store experiences that engender memories, and always bringing in an element of play to everything the brand does. Such is the importance of the physical toy for the 85-year-old company, in fact, that it is often found in its meeting rooms worldwide, and its workforce takes one day a year to put work aside and play with the brick themselves. This internal strategy feeds into a larger purpose that encourages customers to play and engage with the toys at any given moment – be it at home or in any one of the brand’s increasing retail spaces.

Throughout the conversation, Urrutia also explains about the importance of choosing the right technology for retail; both that which is easy for staff and customers alike to interact with, but also simple to update and scale. He also notes other imperative brick-and-mortar retail tools, such as an invested and knowledgeable staff, as well as ensuring that there is something for everyone within that physical space.

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.

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technology

A look back at SXSW Interactive – key takeaways for the fashion industry

This article first appeared on The Business of Fashion

Elon-Musk-SXSW

AUSTIN, United States With some 30,000 people in town for the 20th annual SXSW Interactive conference, not to mention hundreds of keynote talks, panels, exhibitions, meet-ups and parties to both participate in (and get distracted by) each day, you’d be forgiven for feeling completely overwhelmed by the whole affair.

The festival aims to provide a “view on the future” and is predominantly focused on the technology space. This year’s conference was headlined by Elon Musk, a South Africa-born, American engineer and entrepreneur who co-founded the groundbreaking electric car company Tesla, as well as payment system PayPal, and is the founder and CEO of SpaceX, the world’s first commercial company to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station. Musk spoke about a manned mission to Mars and shared a video of a reusable rocket that could, for the first time, land back on Earth with the accuracy of a helicopter. Former American vice president Al Gore, likewise, touched on all manner of big ideas, including the genetic engineering of spider goats. Meanwhile, there was tremendous buzz surrounding Grumpy Cat, the real-life meme with whom conference attendees queued up to have their photograph taken.

But for the fashion industry from which there’s a growing contingent that comes to town for the event how much was relevant? The answer is lots.

Part of the beauty of SXSW is, of course, meeting up with digitally-minded people from across the sector. But, without doubt, the most powerful insights are gleaned by stepping outside the fashion bubble and learning from other industries. The challenge is being able to distill down the key takeaways. So here goes.

The Maker Movement

This year’s festival was opened by Bre Pettis, CEO of New York-based 3D printing company MakerBot Industries, who said that cheaply available and easy-to-use desktop fabrication tools would give rise to “the next industrial revolution.”

“We’re empowering people to make stuff, faster and in more affordable ways,” he said, announcing the MakerBot Digitizer, a machine which can scan any physical object between three and eight inches tall and replicate it. Think of it as “a real-world copy and paste,” he added.

In another talk, Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO and co-founder of 3D printing marketplace and community Shapeways, said: “3D printing is so incredibly quick that what we’re doing is design-manufacturing.” Indeed, soon we will be able to not only buy an item online and print it out at home, but manipulate it first, to create a truly personalised product. Though the textiles aren’t quite there yet, a dress that’s downloadable in different fabrications and, better yet, a perfect fit, isn’t that far off.

Mike Senese, a senior editor at Wired, expects brands to swiftly take hold of this opportunity. NASA, Ford and Nokia are already doing so, while Nike, without the large official presence it had last year to launch its FuelBand, was quietly using the networking effects of SXSW to spread news of its new Vapor Laser Talon shoe. Created for American football players, it features a lightweight 3D printed plate, crafted using Selective Laser Sintering technology (SLS) and designed to improve acceleration.

Kimberly Ovitz, who featured 3D printed jewellery in her Autumn/Winter 2013 New York Fashion Week show, this February, was also on site at SXSW. She said that, for the fashion industry, the beauty of the technology at this stage comes down to timelines. Not only can she better keep up with consumer demand by delivering her jewellery within a two-week timeline, but she’s also that much further ahead of the fast fashion outlets who copy her.

Digital Meets Physical

Importantly, hardware dominated the discussion at this year’s SXSW, marking a major move away from the app-focused conversation of the past (SXSW was the launchpad for both Twitter and Foursquare in 2007 and 2010, respectively).

Unsurprisingly, Google Glass got a lot of airtime, with a number of individuals spotted trying out the augmented reality headsets around the festival’s convention center and a live demonstration hosted by Timothy Jordan, Google’s senior developer advocate, who showcased third party apps from companies like The New York Times and Path and introduced the tech crowd to Google Glass’ Mirror API. Expect much more on this front.

Google also introduced a talking shoe (that reminds wearers to be more active) in collaboration with adidas as part of the tech giant’s “Art, Copy and Code” initiative. It was prime example of the so-called ‘Internet of Things,’ the trend towards everyday objects becoming networked. Although still just a concept, the trainers feature sensors that track a user’s speed and performance and speak to them directly (via a speaker) or their phones (via Bluetooth) to encourage movement.

Leap Motion, meanwhile, was widely called “the Nike FuelBand of 2013? in terms of the buzz it generated. A device about the size of a USB stick that plugs into any Mac or PC, it allows users to control a screen with hand gestures alone. Technically, it’s a step on from Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect for the precision it allows. The device can track individual finger movements with accuracy up to one-hundredth of a millimetre. It also retails for only $79.99 and will ship in May.

Collaboration

Amidst all the new technology launches and cross-pollination of big ideas, came a call for greater collaboration. For Elon Musk and Al Gore, that meant fostering collaboration amongst institutions to solve major problems that no single company could address alone. For many brands, it meant embracing their consumer communities.

The team at Lego shared their focus on being “fans of our fans.” With the launch of its crowdsourcing site Cuusoo, the company is empowering their most engaged customers to design their own products, the best of which are actually manufactured. Peter Espersen, head of online communities for the Lego Group, said there was value, not only in listening to your consumers, but setting goals on what you hope to achieve from them.

PepsiCo hosted a similar panel (the company’s fans have helped produce ads for the Super Bowl and create new flavours of Lays Potato Chips). “When you give people a forum to express themselves, you unearth things you never expected to find,” said Jen Saenz, Frito-Lay’s senior director of brand marketing. She addressed the idea of creating a circle of advocacy that could likewise apply to any fashion house: sourcing information, doing something with that information, feeding that back to fans, listening to their reaction and acting upon it.

Not surprisingly, data was a big part of this conversation. In particular, Saenz highlighted the deep level of insight Frito-Lay now has about its customers’ flavour preferences across geography, information it would never have been able to source at such scale using traditional methods.

But despite the focus on crowdsourcing, the importance of powerful storytelling (beyond what the facts, figures and feedback might show) rang throughout the festival. Ultimately, breaking through the noise, said Gary Goldhammer, senior vice president at H+K Strategies, means adding something remarkable and unexpected. “What makes for great storytelling is 1+1=3.”