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Ideas, Innovations, and Disruptions at SXSWi 2013.

SXSW: Technology and User-Centered Fashion Design

Granted, I am not a fashion designer—but I do love fashion. I admit it. I'm a sneakerhead and have an unhealthy fetish with vintage watches. This interest led me to stop by the 3D Fashion: Nonstop Innovation in Production and Fit panel to see what they had to say. I’d like to start out by saying the panel approach to SXSW can be either really good or really bad. Unfortunately, the dynamic of this panel wasn’t the best.  But, as I sat listening to this bumpy discussion about something so seemingly insignificant as how couture fashion is now accessible to everyone through 3D printing technology, I had to think they might be missing the point. I know the maker community and most of them have no idea who Jean-Paul Gaultier is.

What we really should be talking about is user-centered fashion design and its impact on retailers and the marketplace. Believe me, I am a firm believer that if you give people a chance to be creative they will surpass your expectations. Still, I'm not sold that everyone being their own fashion designer is a good thing (or the fashion police might actually exist.) Instead, will there be a time when each of us has a ‘style signature'? A rich picture of what I like, my own style, palettes, fits, and exact measurements, combined with hyper-local data like extended forecasts and specific events that I may be attending. Could  I take all this data, tap an upcoming date on my iCal, and order a custom fit suit with a tie inspired by a picture of the fall foliage in my front yard? Are we entering an age where our clothing is code?

A few weeks ago, I spent some time at a Nike store. While I was there, I walked up to what I thought was regular display of shoes on a wall, only to discover one section of the wall was a screen displaying a shoe the same size as the real ones. Naturally, I swiped and began to browse different colors. Ok, you're thinking, no big deal, but then I was presented with a few different pattern swatches to customize my swoosh. After that, a few shoelace colors dangled down from the screen and I chose my lace color. After only 15 minutes of waiting in the store, my custom shoes with a 3D-printed swoosh were handed to me. Today, retailers are busy figuring out omni-channel retail strategies and how they close the gap between the digital and physical marketplace. I think the last gap to close is between you and the products the store sells. This gap is the ultimate in a personal relationship with a brand. 

Mitch Murphy is a creative director in frog's Austin studio.