We live in a technical age, where science and style tend to exist as two distinct entities. This is particularly evident when it comes to the tech and fashion divide but recently, their relationship has become increasingly intertwined. And it’s clear that the two sectors will need to work together in order to thrive.
‘Wearables’ – tech built in to everyday clothing and accessories – is the next frontier in hyper-functional design. Except this estimated $50 billion future industry is already here, fueled by an insatiable international appetite for fitness and well-being and supported by general breakthroughs in sensor and battery technology.
Imagine the marketing potential for brands with access to constant data streams on consumers’ health, wealth, happiness; even their sleeping patterns. The biggest barrier to cross into the mainstream is a general lack of accessory design consideration, coupled with that subtle but crucial factor of appealing to a person’s personal style. There’s a danger that Apple Watches and Google Glasses alike will fail to convince non-Silicon types that wearables are fast becoming a staple, and not just a novelty.
So, the challenge is: how do you make wearable tech, well, wearable?
With high-end, aspirational products you only have to look in the direction of luxury brands to see that subtlety sells.
Apple certainly seems to think so. Angela Ahrendts, the retail impresario credited with reviving the fortunes of Burberry has been Vice President of Apple’s retail division since 2013.
As the wearable tech revolution is increasingly backed by the fashion and tech industries in equal measures, fashion brands are invested in creating the ‘next big thing’. Philip Treacy’s S/S 2013 collection at London Fashion Week featured an LED kinetic hat, viewed as one continuous stream of light orbiting the model’s head but was in fact a carefully considered and positioned propeller headpiece. That was certainly a headline-grabbing move, but one unlikely to shift products. Intel’s recent partnership with progressive label, Opening Ceremony however, is a savvy arrangement. Intel understands that it can bring rigorous product development and tech expertise, while Opening Ceremony understands what compels a person to push boundaries of personal expression through their choice of clothing and accessories. The result is a luxury snakeskin and semi-precious stones bracelet, equipped to receive notifications and send alerts. So far, it comes closest to executing a beautiful and smart wearable.
It’s exciting to consider just who and what will make a play for wearable tech at this year’s fashion week.