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