Growing up in the 80s, it’s amazing how both fashion and technology have evolved since Scrunchies and Commodore 64s – although a quite separate evolution. I can’t recall a fashionable pager (really, go try to find one), or a chic mp3 player (I had an Archos Jukebox, look at that brick). That all changed once Apple focused on form as much as function when it released the iPod.
People love fashion because it is an extension or reflection of their personality, and a part of their personal brand. People love tech gadgets because they are also extensions of themselves, allowing people to work more efficiently, connect globally, and learn about themselves and their environment by processing information more quickly. But with the exception of a case for these technological tethers that reflects our personal brand, little has been done to the devices to make these devices “fashionable.” Sure some corners have been rounded, it might be sleek, and maybe there is a great user interface with some clever icons, but not much else reflects the user’s personality.
With the recent advent of wearable tech, naturally a new opportunity for interweaving design and technology has emerged. Are they electronic devices or are they jewelry?
This meshing of design and technology hit the runway earlier this month at New York Fashion Week and also with Apple’s introduction of its Apple Watch product. Several designers over the past year have announced collaborations with tech companies to make new wearable tech gizmos more fashion friendly:
- Tory Burch announced a collaboration with FitBit
- Rebecca Minkoff announced its collaboration with CaseMate, including a bracelet that will notify you of a text or call
- Opening Ceremony announced a collaboration with Intel for a bracelet called the MICA (which apparently stands for “My Intelligent Communication Accessory”)
- Diane von Furstenburg has been experimenting with designs for Google Glass frames
- Ralph Lauren debuted a smart shirt at tennis’ US Open, held in New York during Fashion Week, which takes biometric data for athletes
For a gadget nerd like me, it’s comforting that the fashion community generally has viewed this as, well, “nerdy” and “dorky.” Good to know that geek thankfully is still not quite chic. In light of the lucrative design patent wins from Apple and Lululemon’s aggressive assertion of its design patent rights, the fashion industry should be on notice that design patents can help protect their inventive designs against substantially similar ones from their competitors. Where some of these new wearable tech products are collaborations with tech companies, it is critical that these joint development projects have underlying agreements clearly outlining ownership rights in the wearable tech. When I asked my Magic 8-Ball whether we would be seeing any patent cases involving fashion brands about these wearable tech devices, it said “you may rely on it, yes” and I agree.
So to our branding gurus, there’s clearly a lot of collaboration going on between fashion brands and tech companies, and campaigns to bring public awareness to that collaboration. Do you think the consumer will buy the product because of the fashion brand alone, or will they need some indicia of source of the underlying technology like the Tory Burch / FitBit collaboration? Or, from the other perspective, does wearable tech need a fashion brand with a following to help sell it?
Are you buying wearable tech?