Wearable Tecnology

What role does the fashion industry play in the development of new wearable technologies?

Text by Porto Fashion Makers Team
Insights Think Piece
January 26, 2015 16:47

Fashion and technology have always gone hand in hand, although at first sight their relationship might not be so evident. Were it not for the evolution of clothing, civilization would not be shaped as we know it today, and had technology never been in the picture, we would not have developed a sense of fashion. From the oldest known breakthroughs, such as bone needles and wooden looms to the development of Post- Industrial Revolution fast fashion, these social and cultural engines have always been undeniably connected. Despite this fact, technology has, however, been the subject of exponential growth over the last decades, whereas fashion has seen less of an evolution, limited by the use of the same materials and techniques.  

Now, a new approach to the market is in the make – wearable technology. Fashion and technology have come together once again and have bred a new trend. Still amid full-on mobile expansion, the market has been witness to the wearable explosion: gadgets and accessories that can be worn. Kickstarted by Glass - Google’s augmented reality device - and followed by fitness bracelets, watches and other smart accessories, the wearable revolution is now fast paced.

Its objective is to become ever more wearable and as close to our body as possible, so as to make interaction with it more natural and intuitive.


© Trend Hunter, Co.Design and Tech Crunch


Many in the fashion industry which over a hundred years has been responsible for the development of the products we wear daily - both out of need and as a demonstration of power and status – are still, however,  debating over the introduction of this new category. Why are wearables still not an everyday staple when they have been around for years now?

Several studies have shown that after six months, a third of wearables consumers such as the Pebble watch or the Jawbone fitness bracelet stop wearing it. That is to say that consumers eventually forget to put them on when they leave the house. Why is this category not appealing enough yet?

Some say that the tech industry is not focusing enough on fashion yet. Others say that the fashion industry is not committed to the introduction of this new category.

In spite of this, both sides have been trying to connect and engage. On the one hand, fashion sees the aesthetic limitations of wearables as an opportunity to intervene and complement them, on the other, it finds that that technology has the potential to set it on a new developmental path. Point in case are successful partnerships between designers and fashion brands being successfully launched, such as Tory Burch’s accessories for Fitbit, the MICA bracelet, which is the product of a collaboration between Opening Ceremony and Intel, or the recently announced Apple Watch, due out this Spring. 

Other examples include collaboration platforms, such as the one Intel and CFDA have developed and which provides a space where engineers and fashion designers can meet and use the same language – it provides access to a data bank with all the chips and materials made available by the world’s leading electronic components company in the world. This synergies go all the way to the top, with names such as Paul Deneve, the former YSL CEO, and Angela Ahrendts, former Burberry CEO, entering a tecnhological giant such as Apple.


© Gadfit, Dezeen, Intel NewsRoom and Stellé Audio


Although these gadgets are deemed to be a breakthrough in this category, they are also still seen as very visible, uninteresting, and, often, too dependent on the gadget that charges us up, the smartphone.  The feeling of discomfort is probably comparable to the one felt before with so many products - just like what the mobile products went through ten years ago – that meanwhile have unpredictably entered the market and, without us realising it, taken over our lives completely.

Credit Suisse has, nevertheless, estimated that the wearable market will be worth between 30 to 50 thousand million euros within two to four years.

That is not a reality our faces and wrists wear yet, but, just like all the product categories that over time made their way into the market, maybe one day they will.


© Intel, Dezeen and Trendland


Wearables still a have a long way to go, which perhaps doesn’t depend solely on the introduction of fashionable adjectives to their design, but on many other factors that need to be thought over: the availability of components that can be tailored, small and efficient enough to make them just like any of the accessories and clothing we wear on a daily basis. And equally important in the equation are marketing, communication and behavioural psychology – when we introduce a new product category we create a new consumption need, and this is where the answer to the problem lies.

In the end, it is not all just about the coming together of these seemingly independent areas – Fashion and Technology – as these new products will be on, and communicating directly with our bodies. Issues open to discussion are multidisciplinary, quite like all the areas that must work together so that this category can find its place in the market. The discussion is on, how can we contribute to it?