Fashion and Product/Industrial Design have always been almost opposite spectrums of design as an industry. The job of an industrial designer is to make products that compliment the life of the people. To create and provide solutions to problems the community has with everyday life and hence make it easier and more productive. A fashion designer on the other hand focuses more on an emotional front. Their solutions provide a medium for people to express themselves physically and visually. One can argue that fashion actually enables human beings to ‘upgrade’ themselves giving the ability to change how they are perceived superficially and/or their first impression to/on a stranger. 

We are all aware of the evident exponential growth of wearable technology. Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns tells us that wearable technology will be adopted by 50% of the United States this year (TEDx Talks and Tudela, 2014).  The futuristic, stylish and shiny products have become more than an essential to own; with their ability to detect every step, heartbeat or calorie — creating a new necessity to monitor and better control our lives. They are affecting social and cultural norms on a global scale and continuously feeds the ever-growing hunger of information and curiosity. With unfathomable ingenuity embedded in the form of a well engineered, minimalistic device, that can also be worn makes wearables extremely desirable.

However, with the failure of products like the Jawbone, Nike fuel band, Fitbit, Google Glass, and other tech wearables in impacting the market, particularly those for health and fitness, it is evident that they have failed to keep the interest of users for more than a few months. There is a lapse rate of more than 50%! (Maddox, 2015) 

Leading manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have also failed to impact the marketIn an age of information overload, information for information’s sake is not winning many points with consumers. For one thing, many are skeptical of the accuracy of information provided by wearable technologyBut more importantly, they don’t know what to do with the data acquired. (PWC, 2014) They should be able to improve an aspect of their lives using the information the customers are given access to by the function of the wearable.

Bill Geiser, CEO of Metawatch, spent 20 years designing health and fitness wearables for Fossil. Geiser said that it comes down to one fact as to whether someone continues to use a wearable – the design aesthetics. They are functional in design. Geiser on the other hand said, “If nobody wants to wear it, is it really wearable?” (Newman, 2012) The aesthetic of the wearables in the current market clearly represent themselves as gadgets worn by the user to perform a particular task. So what is a wearable? In today’s day, it can be considered a part of the jewellery or accessory legacy, part tech gadget and a fashion statement (Charara, 2016). These products need to be more human centered and functionally more empathetic and relevant to them.

Misfit and Swarovski, Apple and Hermes, Xiaomi and Tag Heuer amongst many have launched products that have solved the people’s desirability of fashion and the obsession with technologyWe can see that various tech brands have decided to team up with successful, well-known, high street brands to give the product more prestige and trust. Nick Hunn talks about how wearable-tech companies concentrate on fitting their technology to fit consumers’ needs whereas wearable technology is more personal than just a device used to perform a function (Hunn, 2015).

There are several partnerships that are already in stores that are encouraging the customer base of the fashion brands to look further than just fashion. They want the buyers to think about buying products that they would normally buy but with an additional functionality — one that would appeal to them without any technological utility

Frank Bitonti says, “Fashion brands are going to have to adapt to this, which is going to mean a shift in core values for many brands.” Bitonti believes that it is technology that will take over fashion. He strongly suggests that we are going through a hardware revolution which will cause the technology brands to change their core values in order to be in fashion (Howarth, 2014).

personally believe Apple understands the fact that an ordinary watch is an emotional thing — an adornment that you wear for years, possibly decades. It is also the most common and modest communicator of status. Which means that by introducing the wide price-range and aesthetic interchangeable straps for the Apple Watch, it adds value to the device. Purchasing a 18k gold Hermes strap still shows of status, fashion taste and/or emotional value (variable from person to person) alongside owning the latest bit of technology. Another example that demonstrates this theory of design is Tory Burch who has released a variety of designs just made for the Fitbit. The website describes the product as “An exclusive collaboration between Tory Burch and Fitbit. Transform your tracker into a super-chic accessory for work or weekend, day or evening, with the Fret Double-Wrap Bracelet. Featuring a smooth leather strap, it’s lightweight, versatile and effortlessly tomboy. The metal detailing is based on the graphic, open fretwork that’s a signature of our design — complete with a secure, easy-access latch on the back. Adjustable to fit various wrist sizes, it looks polished while keeping the device comfortably close.” (Tory Burch)

Clearly, the use of fashion and trends is applied to wearables to make them more desirable, meeting all requirements of comfort, accessibility, function and fashion. With relevance to tech giants such as Google teaming up with retail titans Levis plan to exactly that in 2016 (Technology woven in). Krispin Lawrence (co-founder and CEO at wearable firm Ducere Technologies) made a statement that he believes wearable technology is about taking fashion and making it relevant to what we do today (Bourne).

Consequently, this could possible create a completely new type of designer! A spokesperson on the behalf of Paris based tech company Withings said, Some [tech companies] have tried to move closer into the fashion camp by borrowing the credibility of high-end and established designers through partnerships and special editions of their products,” she said. The true marriage of fashion and technology is not just going to come from the established fashion houses and tech giants, but through the creativity of innovators and a new brand of designers.” (Avins, 2014)

If this is true and applicable to all areas of wearable technology, it can help bring us closer to the conclusion that fashion in the future may engulf wearable-tech design and form a new sector under the branch of design heavily impacting the fundamentals of product and fashion design!

Written by Samarthya Bhargava (Email/LinkedIn)

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