Wearables. Just where do we stand with them?
Flashback to only a handful of years ago when the relationship between fashion and technology began its development. During that time, the fashion industry has approached the merge with its tech counterpart with some scepticism, wondering if and how wearables could be more ‘on trend’ rather than geek chic.
Today however, the two are striving to be more in harmony with one another. Leaving room to ask the question: Has tech finally overcome its differences with fashion? And, will future fashion collections adopt technology as a basic characteristic? Perhaps in terms of fabric or colour?
So, let’s jump into the fashion-tech landscape…
The Bad Guys: Wearable Tech Opponents and the Reasons Behind Their Stance
The fashion world’s apprehension towards tech wearables has been varied, ranging from concerns on the overall appearance to battery life and even potential secondary health effects. In an industry where aesthetic is top priority; it’s no surprise that fashion’s main argument against wearables was style.
Take, for example, Apple’s partnership with Hermès in September 2015. The idea was to create a luxury version of the Apple Watch with the goal to convince wearers that the watch could be fashionable as well as functional (along with a ‘modest’ starting price of $1,100). As the watch was released, Hermès regarded itself as one of the pioneers of luxury brands integrating high-tech into its designs, in order ‘to provide our clients with elegant, creative and functional objects for their everyday lives,’ Pierre-Alexis Dumas, Hermès Creative Director.
The non-subtle and unisex feel of wearables breaks the ‘sexiness’ and feminine design of fashionable items. Just why was it that Google’s glasses bombed even after designer Diane Von Furstenberg introduced them into her fashion show during NYFW SS12? Those against wearables have made it clear, people want gadgets to make their life easier, but they want them to be less showy and more sexy. In future, devices will have to bypass friendly designs and wireless power to make them truly ‘wearable’.
But the differences between tech savvy and fashion consumers appears not to have ended in 2016, especially in terms of luxury items. According to the Head of the Fashion Innovation Agency (FIA), Matthew Drinkwater and British designer Henry Holland, fashion consumers are interested in products with a ‘beautiful aesthetic’ and not so much the functionality. Even when certain special features could potentially interest a wider audience, the appeal to the high-end buyer is still not great.
But it’s not just the fashion industry who faces the challenges of overcoming this problem. Technology must also sacrifice its high-tech features for the sake of becoming more wearable.
Today’s Wearables Landscape – A Crowded and Mature Business
Nevertheless, despite opposition to the current array of wearables on offer, there are some who support its integration into the world of fashion.
Take into account that wearable technology only started in 2007 with the introduction of Bluetooth headsets and Apple’s Apple Watch. It’s impressive to think that after only 9 years, we’re already starting to dig into a more mature and wider territory for wearable tech.
According to the Consumer Technology Association, the wearables market reached around $4.2 billion in 2015, an average of 40% more than the previous year. And sales are expected to keep on growing well into 2016, with an expected growth of 30%, bringing in over $5 billion.
This growth partly owes its success to the release of a new set of wearable tech which successfully pleases both the trend-conscious geek and tech-loving fashionista. But who is it that’s leading the market, offering consumers gadgets at realistic, affordable prices?
By the end of 2015, Fossil launched its collection Fossil Q which included gadgets like the connected bracelet, a optional non-display and display watch which when connected to your phone, provides activity tracking and notifications together in one stylish design. Another jewellery brand taking a technological step forward is Swarovski. Partnering up with Missfit to launch a Swarovski crystal encrusted version of its well-known fitness tracker, called Swarovski Shine. If there’s one thing the fashion-tech industry is monopolizing, it’s the wrist.
In their promise of improving our day-to-day lives; these gadgets have embraced innovation, being able to track and analyze a huge amount of personal data, from physical activities to body temperature. The prospering future of wearables will enable us to take their advances and improve our lifestyles, more so in terms of health and work. The future of smartwatches and wrist trackers and their connection to health and accuracy were of high importance during the last SXSW 2016.
Fitness Means Fashion
Within this landscape, fitness has become of utmost importance. Its leadership aligns perfectly with the current fashion and lifestyle trends, one where sneakers go hand-to-hand with Chanel ‘It-bags’ (Chanel’s SS14 Haute Couture Collection, anyone?) and being actively healthy is the highest expression of style.
And this trend not only includes wrist gadgets… As well as Nike’s Nike Flyknit which are characterised by their functional weave, the sportswear brand also just released their highly anticipated Nike Hyperadapt 1.0 sneakers in March. These revolutionary sneakers include a sensory feature that enables automatic micro-adaptive lacing (as incredible as it sounds).
How Will the Future of Fashion-Tech Look?
The wearable trend forecast is filled with innovation and development, even as the market becomes more and more saturated.
The race to the top is real in a tech industry with fast product cycles, which won’t cease any time soon, maximising growth in the upcoming months. Nevertheless, the future seems promising and smart fabrics will be the next (if not current) challenge to be tackled by fashion brands. Smart garments are predicted to grow from 100,000 units sold in 2014 to 26 million in 2016 depending on the item. One of the first brands to move away from the wearable watch trend and immerse into textiles was Ralph Lauren, who had already developed technology-enabled tennis shirts for the 2014 US Open Tennis Championships. And inevitably, other brands were quick to follow; Levi’s and Google’s partnership on Project Jacquard is one of the most outstanding.
Stylight’s fashion expert & Editorial Lead, Stephanie Morcinek, confirms: “Fashion Tech is super exciting. Especially when the garments you’re wearing say something about your mood – as Anouk Wipprecht designs certainly do. The Dutch designer is someone to definitely have on your list for futuristic fashion. Her dresses move or change colour according to your mood. But even the tiniest of technologies are exciting for up and coming designers. Smart watches, jeans that help moisturise your legs while wearing them (hello, Guess) or shoes that count your steps.”
For fashion and lifestyle aggregators, and specifically for Stylight, both wearable gadgets and smart garments are of high value. Ensuring that the products on offer, give consumers a more enjoyable and fashionable lifestyle.
|By Verónica Cobos Sánchez– PR & Communications Manager Spain|
Image Source: Fitbit