Wearables took the runways by storm at New York Fashion Week this year. Rebecca Minkoff partnered with Case-Mate to unveil two wearable devices. A chain-link studded bracelet notifies wearers of calls and texts via Bluetooth. A black leather bracelet doubles as a charger. Tory Burch launched a line of accessories that conceals Fitbit’s digital tracking fitness technology. Opening Ceremony and Intel introduced a snakeskin bracelet inlaid with semiprecious stones that send and receive alerts. Vice president of Intel’s new devices group, Ayse Ildeniz, could not have said it better, “We desperately need the fashion industry.” But something is off.
The wearables industry is overzealous about strapping communication devices to our arms when our iPhones are in our hands or pockets at all times. We have perfected tracking our steps and measuring our heart rates. But the health conscious market is only so big.
Karinna Nobbs, senior lecturer of fashion brand strategy at London College of Fashion, explains that “in order for wearable tech to become accepted by the mass market, the design has to fit, but the tech also has to add value to the product and not be a gimmick.”
Nobbs estimates that such an authentic marriage of fashion and technology is a few years off. The mobile market only exploded after the introduction of the iPhone - its combined browsing, music, and apps experience was revolutionary. The wearable tech industry is waiting on its game changer. But that is not to say the communication bracelets and activity trackers are a waste. Fashion brands introducing wearable tech products are smart to position themselves as innovators in the consumer’s eye.
Brands can also look beyond devices to incorporate technology into their designs. Richard Nicoll introduced a fibre optic dress in partnership with Disney during London Fashion Week. Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency, explained that the dress was ‘fashion’ not ‘tech’.
The wearables industry would be smart to heed Drinkwater’s words. Functionality is expected, but wearables need to make the wearer look and feel good. Only the intuitive and beautiful will win.
By: Elise Johnson