Until now, technology companies’ attempts at creating wearable technology have been met with cynicism and horror as consumers have been presented with bulky and unattractive products. Technology companies have arguably been focusing on the “technology” element, forgetting that fashion is driven by desire, beauty, exclusivity and aspiration. Apple’s recent decision to showcase its smartwatch on the cover of Vogue China perhaps indicates an astute change in strategy for technology companies. The race to win over the fashion crowd is one which should be ignored at companies’ peril with the direct value of the fashion industry contributing £26 billion to the UK economy alone. Shifting the focus away from technology companies, below is an exciting selection of the fashion industry’s attempts to master, and ultimately conquer, wearable technology.
CuteCircuit was established in 2004 and first gained publicity when Time Magazine declared its “Hug Shirt” as one of the best inventions in 2006. Embedded within the “Hug Shirt” are sensors that feel the touch, skin temperature and heartbeat of the sender, and actuators which then recreate this touch and warmth as a hug sensation on the shirt wearer. CuteCircuit gained further publicity when Nicole Scherzinger wore its haute couture dress featuring live Tweets, a world first, for the EE 4G launch in November 2012. People could use the hashtag #tweetthedress and see their tweets come up live on the dress. Other famous fans such as Katy Perry and U2 have helped strengthen the company’s profile. The company launched its Ready to Wear Collection in 2010 and has various ongoing projects such as “t-shirt OS” (which allows the wearer to show his/her Facebook status, Tweets and pictures on the t-shirt) and “Skirteleon” (a skirt which changes colour depending on the mood and activities of the wearer).
Great progress has also been made in respect of wearable technology accessories. In July 2014, Lulu Guiness and Autographer created a limited edition bag with a hidden camera compartment, allowing the wearer to take photographs without having to separately work the camera. The bag has a small hole at the front for the camera lens, a custom 136° eye view lens, a small GPS unit and 5 built-in sensors. These sensors are linked to an algorithm which informs the camera as to the right moments to take photos.
As part of her Spring 2013 Collection, Rebecca Minkoff created a clutch bag, in collaboration with Stellé Audio, which is also a stereo system. The clutch contains speakers, a power supply and microphone. The clutch can be connected to any Bluetooth system, allowing the user to play music. The bag aims to give 15 hours of continuous play and also allows the user to make calls. Rebecca Minkoff also worked with Case-Mate to create a collection of wearable tech accessories, which was launched during her Spring/Summer ‘15 show at New York Fashion Week. The first bracelet is made from gold chain links and connects, via Bluetooth, to a mobile to alert the wearer of calls and texts. The second bracelet converts into a lightning cable that connects to a USB cable, allowing the wearing to charge her mobile on go.
Fashion’s move into wearable technology is arguably a smart step for industry players. The recent decisions by technology companies, such as Apple and Google, to produce wearable technology have meant that fashion companies risk being left behind from an increasingly developing section of the fashion industry. Collaborations between technology and fashion companies, such as those highlighted above, may represent a transitional solution until fashion houses adapt to their unfamiliar surroundings, and feel confident enough to take on technology companies at their own game.
Embracing this fast developing sector, Olswang is very excited to be hosting its “Tech Is The New Black” event on wearable technology on 21 October 2014. We will be welcoming Tony King-Smith, Executive Vice President Marketing at Imagination Technologies, to speak about what he sees as the key features of wearable technologies, what is next for wearable technology and how these products interact with an increasingly connected world.