fashion-wearables
Handheld Technology

How fashion is fuelling the new wave of wearable tech

This is a contributed piece from Hannah Pym, marketing manager at Apadmi.

In the last year or so, more and more wearable tech has entered the marketplace and the mainstream public’s consciousness. There was even a task on the latest series of The Apprentice in the UK dedicated to the development of two new items.

Although it’s probably best we don’t discuss the quality of the two pieces created on the show, one thing the candidates did understand was the importance of developing products that consumers would actually be willing to wear. I say this as wearable tech developers are now increasingly working with their counterparts in the fashion world to develop pieces that are likely to be a hit with the public.

What needs addressing though is if this partnership between two fast-moving and aspirational industries - fashion and tech - can develop products that are appealing enough to persuade the public to fully embrace wearable tech. To do this, let's take a look at a few examples.

When Google Glass was initially launched two years ago, the device was hailed by some but plenty more dismissed it, saying it was something the common man wouldn't be seen wearing in public.

Tellingly, Google has tried to address these concerns by partnering with the iconic fashion designer Diane von Fursenberg, who promptly set about designing a range of aesthetically-pleasing glasses incorporating Google’s technological innovations. However, a standard pair retails at around £1000, with von Furstenberg’s DVF Made For Glass range carrying an even heftier price tag.

It’s also interesting to note that Sony has developed a module that clips directly onto an ordinary pair of spectacles or sunglasses, turning them into a piece of wearable tech that debuted at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Furthermore, Sony is also developing EyeGlass, which industry analysts are describing as a direct answer to Google Glass.

Apple Watch, meanwhile, promises to be a real game changer. The company has been working closely with the fashion world throughout the development process of all three versions of the Watch, leading to the creation of a product range that is visually striking as well as highly functional.

For example, the Apple Watch Edition features an 18-carat gold case and a crafted leather strap. The fashion industry took particular note of this version at a dinner party attended by big names such as the photographer Karl Lagerfeld and Vogue editor Anna Wintour in Paris late last year. This then led to the product featuring on the cover of Vogue China, further fuelling interest in the range.

Elsewhere in the increasingly blurred worlds of technology and fashion, Ralph Lauren unveiled the Polo Tech Shirt last year. The shirt is designed to be used in conjunction with a smartphone app that analyses the biometric data - heart rate, distance travelled, calories burned, intensity of movement and so on – collected by the shirt’s multiple sensors during exercise. It was demonstrated at the US Open when the US tennis player Marcos Giron wore the garment during his practice sessions.

Furthermore, fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit Flex, have become a popular accessory for fitness fanatics. However, many of these do have something of a reputation for looking quite similar to one another though.

Therefore, Fitbit's partnership with the fashion designer Tory Burch is encouraging, as their silicone bracelet now comes in a variety of patterns. Meanwhile, a brass bracelet series has also been developed to turn Fitbit’s trackers into a practical accessory that resembles a high-end piece of jewellery.

Finally, when thinking about aspirational wearable tech, we must also consider Puls. This wrist accessory is fronted by The Voice judge and musician will.i.am.

What really sets Puls apart is that it can make phone calls without the need to link to a smartphone. Much like your average smartphone though, Puls also has a digital assistant called AneedA to rival the iPhone’s Siri and the Nokia Lumia’s Cortana, as well as the usual smartphone features, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter integration, and scope for further third-party app development in the future.

This makes Puls a very intriguing proposition and it'll be interesting to see whether will.i.am's celebrity endorsement, coupled with a solid product offering, convinces the public to buy such a bold statement piece.

What next for wearable tech then? Some developers have clearly already recognised that making their wearable tech offering fashionable is what will drive sales, with names big and small designing pieces intended to enter the mainstream. The rest will surely follow suit over the coming months.

So, as people see what wearable tech products have to offer, both in terms of style and functionality, it seems likely that wearable technology will become more and more mainstream in 2015.

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