Image source: Chromat
As most schoolchildren are told from a young age, A stands for Apple; April, on the other hand, surely stands for the Apple Watch. The industry’s most hotly-anticipated wearable has been preceded by months of speculation – could it sell as well as the iPad on its launch? Will it provide a natural fit for fashion editorials? Now, on the eve of its launch, keen industry-watchers are looking to Baselworld (the watch industry’s international trade fair) for possible rivals. There, a crop of new announcements are proving themselves worthy contenders to the smart watch throne – one which, as we should remind ourselves, Apple hasn’t ascended to quite yet.
On November 18-19, New York will play host to our global summit on Wearables and Retail Innovation, ‘Interconnected’. Featuring 100 speakers, mentors and movers and shakers, the event is well positioned to take the pulse of the fashion world now. Indeed, as 2014’s horizon comes into view, with it has come a tangible sea change: a whole new wave of wearable devices that are actually pretty wearable.
Apart from talks from key players in the wearables world, the summit also marks an opportunity for start-ups everywhere to get involved. Our startup competition aims to find this year’s most beautiful wearable, full stop. But what, when it comes to fashion X tech, should the criteria for beauty be? “Custom alloys engineered for beauty and durability” – that’s the Apple Watch’s take. “Effective, simple and durable” – that’s from the founder of Kovert Designs, Kate Unsworth (you can catch her in NYC, too).
When it comes to wearable fashion, then, it would appear that sleek function is what makes for beauty. But surely such an attitude doesn’t poach its preference for the practical from the fashion world. Silvia Fendi probably sums it up best when describing her ‘Baguette’ bag: “The Baguette really started this kind of new life for the accessory. It was treated like a fashion item, like a garment more than a bag.” In other words, the best-selling accessory of the decade’s bright color-ways, varied textures, small interior and single strap make it one of the least “functional” on the market. Is it about time we valued wearables by the same, aesthetically pleasing criteria?
The key, here, is integration. Fashion items so technologically advanced, so to speak, that the technology itself starts to disappear. Speaking sense on the point of aesthetics is the man who, in an uncanny move, dubbed himself with a URL-ready name since before the Internet was a thing: Will.i.am. As announced at the Wired conference last week, he’s enlisted architect Zaha Hadid to design variations on his smart cuff, Puls. The Hadid-designed Puls transforms the original sleek cuff, instead adding neofuturistic curves and bold elongation. Pushing the boundaries of the “sleekness and light” that is fast becoming the “aesthetic” of the incoming generation of wearables, it’s a welcome reminder to us all that what constitutes “beauty” in fashion isn’t interchangeable with what’s expected of its function. It is multiple perspective points, not the Apple-led monopoly, that really makes the wearables scene exciting. That’s also why, as our official competition will hope to demonstrate during Decoded Fashion NY, there’s no time like the present to bring the next wearable gamechanger to the industry’s attention.
Reported by Claire Healy
To look at the messenger bag, hoody and that gingham shirt of the average start-up worker, Silicon Valley really has valued function over fashion over the years. Not so, these days- 2014 has seen style and tech fused like never before, as digital stalwarts from Apple to Intel race to collaborate with the fashion world’s brightest. And, with NY-based firm CB Insights tracking a massive $1.4 billion of investment into wearable start-ups over the past 5 years – around $500 million of which was doled out in 2014 – the rest of this year and beyond is shaping up to be a retail landscape game changer.
So who are the need-to-know pioneers on the fashion x tech frontier? The Apple Watch, revealed last month, has set the bar high for covetable wearables. Smaller start-ups looking to move into the business of fashion, though, should be taking notes from more than just its high-tech specs and sleek personalisation – perhaps most savvy was the way it was rolled out. The Cupertino launch capitalised on the energy of NYFW – even convincing big fashion names like Natalie Massanet to skip the shows altogether to get a sneak peek – and later hosted a Colette takeover, attended by Karl and Anna, on the penultimate day of Paris Fashion Week. Elsewhere on the wearable scene, Intel and Opening Ceremony’s MICA – short for My Intelligent Communication Accessory – will launch this winter. The bracelet fuses luxury semi-precious stones with a 1.6-inch sapphire touch screen, but you’ll have to wait until December to find out what exactly its “communication capabilities” are.
With bold statements from fashion and tech’s biggest fish, the fear might set in as to whether smaller start-ups can break into the market in 2015. As our NYC global summit will demonstrate on November 18-19, the opportunities in wearables for retailers are huge – and far more tangible than you might first suppose. Industry movers and shakers who will be speaking on wearable innovations over the weekend include Lauren Sherman (editor and strategist at Fashionista), Matthew Woolsey (EVP of Digital at Barneys) and Amy Puliafito of wearable computing company Misfit. The latter company, specializing in stylish fitness and sleep monitors, combines affordability and style with every design: a combination that, though worlds away from the luxury vibe of more news-worthy designs of late, looks ahead to just how wearable wearable tech will be in 2015.
Reported by Claire Healy
Topics: wearable tech, Apple Watch, Decoded Fashion NYC Global Summit, MICA, wearables, barney's, Decoded Fashion New York, fashionista, Amy Puliafito, intel, Misfit, opening ceremony, Weekly Stories, NYFW, apple, Matthew Woolsey, Lauren Sherman