Wearables In Fashion is the hot topic nowadays and there is a reason for that. Wearable technology has always had a bit of an image problem. Google Glass, Fitbit and other popular tech companies have found it difficult to add a sartorial touch to wearables. Jamming an ugly smartwatch onto a chic outfit has always been the curse of those who sit at the crossroad between fashion and technology.
I recently attended a conference about Wearables In Fashion where a friend from a leading tech magazine, US based, asked my opinion about “…that wearables company called Ringly that recently secured a 5.1 US mil investment, for a NFC type of ring that Chines manufacturers introduced to markets more than 2 years ago…” His words not mine. While I disagree with his statement, I get the point. It reflects how hungry the fashion industry is to tap into wearables market. It shows how much that “touch of fashion” changes the way the consumers see and accept technology and it shapes the path for this Wearables In Fashion trend.
I still remember Ray Edwards’s words at GlazedCon in London 2014. “I don’t think that the Swiss watchmakers are going to be in danger from Apple Watch as I do not see any parent leaving his apple watch to his son and his son to his son…etc”
Ray’s remark does indeed sum the thoughts of the old generation of fashion consumers. My dad never saw his Patek P. as watch and a fitness tracker and not because it would have been a blasphemy to add a GPS tracker and an accelerometer next to the tourbillon. No, it was because he could not even imagine that. The technology did not even exist. But as the fashion changes so the consumers change. The young generation thinks differently and the manufacturers should take that into consideration. I for example do not have a problem with having current technology in my watch at all. It retains the power, the image, the fashion statement that my classic watch instantly projects while improving its functionality, its capacities, its usability. Design houses must adapt and adopt technology in order to remain relevant on the market. The Swatch Group has a special department that is currently working on watch prototypes in an attempt to merge the classic swiss style with latest technologies in a hybrid timepiece, swiss made.
Good news is that Ringly is not alone in this Wearables In Fashion trend but also Withings with their Activite Smartwatch recently awarded at CES2015, MICA bracelet by Intel and Opening Ceremony, Notification bracelet by Rebecca Minkoff and June bracelet by Netatmo to name a few. There is a reason behind the success achieved with Wearables In Fashion by the above mentioned companies therefore I have compiled, in no particular order, some key factors behind successful Wearables In Fashion:
Deliver Real Value
Do not forget that the Wearables In Fashion doesn’t mean only Fashion, the way old generation understands fashion. Ensure enough technology in that wearable device. Technology that provides value that the consumer is seeking. If it is a fitness tracker people are buying, they should be able to create measurable goals and reach them. If consumers are going after smartwatches or eyeglasses that maximise productivity, those wearables should deliver that. Wearable device makers need not only to attract customers; they need to prove that the products they’re offering are actually going to come in handy in their daily lives.
Price And Affordability
Wearables need to be able to hit the price point in order to be successful. Don’t confuse early adopters with consumers. A successful KickStarter campaign has no real value if the final product for the consumer market is wrongly priced. Regardless of the device in question, a smartwatch, a smart ring, an UV bracelet, one thing remains constant: Wearables must be affordable.
Image And Aesthetics
A successful wearable device in fashion is simply put, technology embedded in existing lines of jewellery or indeed entire apparel collections. Use technology add value to existing fashion, don’t fashion design for technology. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that wearable tech means gadgets worn on the body. Let the final product be both aesthetically-pleasing and genuinely provide a practical solution that consumers always want to wear.
In the smartphone space, planned obsolescence is what helped Apple and other manufacturers boost revenue. On contrary, wearable space fashion brings a change. Smartwatches, smart-rings, intelligent bracelets must be able to last for years. Consumers won’t buy a new wearable device every year just because Apple launched a new necklace with an upgraded camera from 8 mega pixels to 8.5 megapixels; Device makers, who have been unwilling to provide such products for fear of losing revenue, need acknowledge this.
Wearable technology cannot succeed without acceptance within contemporary culture. People need to feel comfortable wearing their Galaxy Gear S, Apple Watch or Google Glass in public. If consumers feel that it is not culturally “cool” to wear these products, the result will be failure. This was the primary cause of death for google glass for example. Also, designers must understand new generation of fashion consumers. Consumer values change, fashion must adapt.
The number of third-party apps available on wearable products right now is somewhat slim. With that in mind, it is important that wearable tech manufacturers attract developers to their products. From fitness tracking apps to health apps and games, third-party programs, add ons and armies of developers are absolutely essential pieces of the puzzle for a complete device and a successful product.
Full Integration – Be Smarter
Right now, it is hard to find real “smart” wearable devices. Sure, there are products that can monitor fitness levels, deliver notifications on the wrist or finger and feature some basic smartphone-like functionality allowing calls, messages and directions but the consumers are still waiting on products that can provide real time biometrics and health measurements to both the user and GP, have the ability to keep the user informed and help controlling the the world surrounding us, like a real PA on a 24h call for example, completely replace the smartphones in our pockets or allow us work with virtual reality if we so desire. Learn from Microsoft HoloLens as these are the future wearables.
Let’s not forget the battery life. Consumers don’t want to have to think about charging a smartphone, a tablet, a computer and now “something else”. Hardware and software developers will add power hungry features/apps that will constantly increase the power consumption. A solution is RF induction charging and Apple Watch is supposed to have this feature, still, the consumer doesn’t have to remember to take the wearable off and place it on the RF charging platform – which was accidentally forgotten at home as the user is on a business trip. Always aim for integrating energy harvesting or power scavenging devices into wearables in fashion. Scavenging energy from human body’s movement, thermal energy or solar cells is mandatory for the ubiquitous deployment of wearable electronic as battery life remains a huge barrier for wearable electronics adoption.
If having a wearable tech product especially for luxury/mainstream fashion brands was, in 2014, the key to improve brand identity and to position the brand as an innovator in the mind of the customer, Nike comes into mind for example, in 2015 this is no longer the case. 2015 is about a hungry market waiting for fashionable wearables and embedded technologies that make the ones wearing them look cool and trendy. Fashion companies have the power to reach mainstream consumers in every possible market and demographic. Everyone buys clothes, everyone buys jewelries, everyone wants to be admired and here is a final word of advice: Fashion designers in wearables must remember that the consumers MUST fall in love with what they wear.