Mobile apps and beacon technology suddenly seem so last year. A look into the fashion future — something the fash-tech set will guess at during the South by Southwest conferences starting today — would more likely show that hyper personalization and virtual reality are all the rage.
SxStyle packs three days of fashion, beauty and media-centric programming into SxSW’s Interactive conference.
“The industry in general is really interesting and interested in tapping into the audience of digital creators and early adopters willing to learn and change the world,” said Kelly Krause, head of Interactive press and SxStyle. “The industry as a whole sees that opportunity and is using South by Southwest as a great platform to talk about the future.”
The panel topics are chosen primarily by using a community-sourced platform where industry experts can submit proposals, which are then vetted by an advisory board and a voting system.
While Krause is looking forward to a range of events and speakers — like “queer fashion,” power women and model Ashley Graham — she said the concept of personalization in retail was one of the most anticipated and popular themes. “There’s a lot of interest in humanizing a brand and tapping into a personal shopping experience online,” Krause said. One such panel, for example, will come from Adidas global creative director Paul Gaudio.
Fay Cowan, whose London-based Decoded Fashion is returning with an expanded presence this year, said brands are interested in personalization digitally and in-person. “The consumer is ever-hungry and expectant, they want everything to feel that it’s touching them in a certain way,” she said. “Brands and retailers have to be quite clever in the way they speak to their consumer, and how do they look at data in a way that is individual?”
In addition to this opportunity, Neiman Marcus’ Scott Emmons, who heads the company’s innovation lab, sees exciting experimentation in virtual and augmented reality.
“Virtual reality is like the golden chalice,” he said, “like the ability to do a digital try-on. When I’m thinking about things I want to try, I’m thinking about VR and AR technologies that are starting to mature.”
Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey agreed, noting that virtual reality will break out this year, with key offerings on the market and for sale. However, he didn’t foresee AR (smart glasses, for example) taking off until 2017. “AR doesn’t have consumer offerings on a wide scale,” he explained.
But, Emmons said, he predicted that as wearable tech becomes more mainstream, we will see AR riding along with the shopper and help direct her to what she is looking for. “It’s going to be the next smartphone,” he said. “We all need our hands back.”
He said as tech evolves, retailers are not only going to get better about the digital experience in physical stores, but find new ways to connect the physical shopping experience with the online shopper.
But the biggest draw of SxStyle might be the unknown.
“What I like about going down there is that I never know what I’m going to see,” said Neiman Marcus’ Emmons. “I’m looking for the surprises and the unexpected.”