Fashion Innovations: Our Top Takeaways from SXSW

This week, the US Fung Global Retail & Technology team attended and participated in a panel discussion at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. There was much talk of the future of technology in fashion manufacturing and retailing at this year’s event. Here, we review three of our top takeaways from the conference.

1. New Fabrics Are Emerging

On the horizon are a number of new, naturally derived fabrics, including protein-based fabrics derived from spider silk. According to Dan Widmaier, CEO and Cofounder of Bolt Fabrics, textiles made using spider silk are naturally durable and stretchable, making them suitable for performancewear. About two-thirds of the world’s textiles today are made from synthetic materials derived from petroleum, and naturally derived replacements could dramatically reduce the waste and pollution associated with fabric manufacturing. Bolt Threads’ first product is a spider-silk tie selling at $314, and the company has already set up a spinning facility in California.


2. Brands Are Turning to Underserved Consumer Segments

One of the panels at SXSW focused on a movement in the fashion industry to provide practical yet fashionable clothing for individuals who are disabled. These consumers are largely underserved by the fashion industry: about 51 million Americans, or one-fifth of the US population, has some kind of disability, but the selection of clothing specifically designed to serve their needs is limited.

Canadian designer Izzy Camilleri created IZ Collection in 2009 as a fashion line with items designed for individuals with disabilities. The line includes a bomber jacket that features zippers along the inside of the sleeves for easy accessibility and other items that are designed to not bunch or pinch when the wearer is sitting in a wheelchair.

3. Retailers Are Offering Data-Driven Fashion

We also heard from industry voices on the use of data in fashion retailing. Poshmark, a fashion resale marketplace, collects data from two sources: explicit data consist of the information customers provide about themselves, while implicit data are derived from customers’ clicks and purchases. Interestingly, the company noted that customer data typically offer diminishing returns, as additional information is often less valuable than that collected initially. This suggests that, as brands and retailers race to understand their customers better, some firms could operate most efficiently by collecting and analyzing only core types of customer information.

Stitch Fix, an apparel subscription service, is using data to create “Frankenstyles.” These are completely new clothing styles generated by algorithms that leverage sales data on features such as sleeve type, neck style and pattern. The company emphasized that luck plays a huge role in whether or not a particular design succeeds, due to the difficulty in predicting fashion trends. Perhaps it is reassuring, in an age of big data and artificial intelligence, that there are some things computers cannot (yet) do perfectly.

Crowd Between Sessions at SXSW 2017; Source: Fung Global Retail & Technology

Crowd at SXSW 2017; Source: Fung Global Retail & Technology

Retailers can find our full coverage of the SXSW conference on

 Other pieces you may find interesting include: The 2.5 Billion Grab For Department Store SalesFree Two-Day Shipping Is the New “Table Stakes” for E-CommerceFrom Runway to Checkout, The See-Now-Buy-Now Trend in Fashion,

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