Where Are Wearables on the Runway?

Spectacular New York Fashion Week catwalks left many hungry for more technology-infused wearables, but many deals in the works indicate that new stylish wearables could be poised for showtime.

The year of 2015 looks to be laden with opportunity for the fusion of fashion and tech, yet the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York F/W 2015 left many wondering where wearables were on the runway.

Whereas last year wearable technologies debuted during Fashion Week New York, this year they seemed to go missing.

In 2014 we saw new fashion tech products emerge out of pairings never seen before. The MICA intelligent bracelet, shown on the runway last season, was created through an organic product development process between New York-based fashion house Opening Ceremony and Intel’s New Devices Group.


Also featured on the catwalk last year were two wrist wearables by designer Rebecca Minkoff: a gold bracelet that notifies the wearer to calls and texts from chosen contacts through Bluetooth pairing and a leather bracelet that doubles as a USB cable to charge mobile devices.

Though this season hasn’t placed wearable technology in the forefront, there is an industry at play behind the scenes, according to analyst reports and interviews with industry experts. There are also new technologies being invented specifically designed for wearables, including the button-sized Intel Curie module, which aims to combine essential components needed to bring computing and communications capabilities to future wearables.

Projections by Gartner show that more than 90 million units of wearables will be shipped in 2016, including an expected 26 million “smart garments” and 19 million “smart wristbands.”

By the end of 2018, analyst firm CCS Insight predicts that the installed base of wearable devices will approach 350 million.

Among currently available wearable products, CSS Insight predicts wrist wear to be the dominant wearable, accounting for an estimated 87 percent of devices to be shipped in 2018. This leaves a significant amount of the marketshare up for grabs by the fashion industry, and established fashion brands are looking to capture this audience.

The GUESS CONNECT Smartwatch, created in collaboration with smartwatch company Martian Watches, debuted at CES 2015 this past January. It was recognized as one of the 2015 CES Innovation Awards honorees in the wearable tech category, along with Withings Activité, Moto 360 and Samsung Gear S smartwatches.

Also breaking into the market in 2015 is the Apple Watch. “It is becoming increasingly clear that Apple is putting substantial effort into positioning its watch as a premium fashion item,” said Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight.

“This is reflected in the people it has hired and the launch strategy, that has seen the Apple Watch appearing at events like Paris Fashion Week and gracing the cover of Vogue and other fashion publications.”

Robert Brunner, former director of industrial design for Apple and co-founder of Ammunition, the design studio that created Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, looks to fashion companies learning and growing to integrate fashion with technology in meaningful expressions.

“The idea of the psychology of wearing things and fashion – none of these companies are used to that. I think they’re all starting to try to figure out: well, what do we do to get people to wear our things and feel good about wearing them, and have that emotional component actually fuel the adoption,” said Brunner.

One common thread that those entrenched in the wearables space point out is that the future of this technology lies in the paradigm that the term ‘wearables’ will need to become obsolete. In the same vein that ‘smartphones’ are commonly accepted as the standard mobile device purchase, fashion items will come standard with embedded technology.

“A few years from now, you’ll go to the store and buy a shirt or an undergarment and you’ll just expect it to be a connected object,” said Stéphane Marceau, co-founder of Canadian startup OMsignal, which developed the technology behind Ralph Lauren’s Polo Tech smart shirt.


Deepa Sood, founder and CEO of smart jewelry company Cuff mirrored these sentiments in an interview with iQ

“Wearables aren’t going away,” she said. “The question is whether it’s going to be as big and splashy as everybody thought it was going to be.”

Wearable technology will be more integrated into how people are already buying, she said.

“There were will things that will be layered on a little bit more elegantly; pieces will have inherent utility.”

Theodora Koullias, Founder & CEO at Jon Lou, shared a similar vision for the future of fashion tech.

“My hunch is that we’ll move away from this term of ‘wearable technology’ and simply accept that our clothing and accessories will simply be technologically enhanced,” Koullias told iQ.

“Bags that can charge your iPhone 6 for a month are only stage zero of where products built by Jon Lou and other companies are going. We have a long way to go, and this will be proven in just a few years with several more advances in the wearables space.”

Koullias, a New York City native and an MIT grad, created the 314 by Jon Lou purse in a vision stemming from MIT meets NYC.


In collaboration with MIT technology, the 314 by Jon Lou is considered the world’s first intelligent handbag. It charges your iPhone 6 for a month, lights up in low ambient lighting, and learns your charging behavior to always keep you charged.

Ralph Lauren recently launched the latest version of The Ricky, called The Ricky Bag With Light, a purse similar in form and function to the Jon Lou 314 product, however the technology appears not to be as seamless.

The Ricky Bag With Light – in addition to a built-in light – contains a USB charger for a smartphone, while in comparison, the 314 by Jon Lou has seamless charging technology for an entire month.


Though this parallel launch of purses has yet to settle the sure-fire path of entry to market, existing methods of bringing wearable technology into reality stem from in-house efforts, partnerships and licensing deals.

Large brands licensing technology from emerging tech companies is one of the main future realities for the technology and fashion industries coming together. Sood’s Smart jewelry company Cuff is now entering the next stage of their development with a new partnership with Richline Group.

The partnership “allows their [Richline] customers to play in the Internet of Things space by layering on functionality to existing products, rather than putting another gadget out there,” she said.

On the partnership track, though Intel launched MICA in collaboration with Opening Ceremony at the end of 2014, a new venture into wearables is in gear for 2015. Intel recently announced a partnership with Luxottica Group, the largest eyeglass makers in the world, to develop new eyewear using wearable technologies.

Michael Kors has announced its foray into wearables when CEO John Idol told analysts and investors that they “will be in wearables,” though details of their development is still under wraps.

“We’re not interested in being the first one to rush to the race,” said Idol. “What we want to make sure is that we have an ecosystem that our customer really believes in and think[s] they’re viable additions to not only their fashion wardrobe, but also to how they live their life.”

This mix of strategies in launching new products has yet to see a clear path to wearable market success, but it hasn’t kept innovators from trying.

Sood points out that no matter the definitive path or time marker that sets the stage for wearables becoming widely accepted.

“The space has invigorated people’s excitement and imagination,” she said. “It’s not about just another computer; it’s about translating technology to your body. We are all still figuring out how we want to use these pieces in a meaningful way.”


Feature image by Sam Aronov/Shutterstock.com.


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