WHERE NEXT FOR WEARABLES?
by Maia Adams, Adorn Insight
Once in a while an event takes place which taps directly into the style zeitgeist. This year, that event was the New York Met Ball – a celebrity-studded gala which marked the opening of the Met museum’s Apple-sponsored blockbuster show “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”. In a milieu not known for understatement, guests outdid themselves to interpret the “fash-tech” theme, with musician Will.i.am setting the tone in a jacket that had intelligent, voice-enabled personal assistant AneedA embedded into its lapel. The wearable technology phenomenon is not a new one, but as applications such as software miniaturisation have become increasing sophisticated, it has leapt from the pages of a sci-fi novel to become a reality that – propelled by the runaway consumer trends of connectedness and wellness – has the potential to be revolutionary. Moreover, when it comes to targeting millennials – who are spending more on tech than ever before – the blend of fashion know-how and tech savvy that can be achieved through wearables could be just the thing needed to lure them back to the jewellery market.
The challenges to wearable brands wishing to stand out in a gadget-packed marketplace are not insignificant and in recent months the field has become crowded with solutions ranging from the customization of message notifications through vibration and light, to monitoring health and fitness metrics. For today’s sophisticated consumers, however, gimmicks are not enough. For wearable tech solutions to succeed they must add value to – and fit seamlessly into – the end user’s lifestyle. Software should offer meaningful experiences or solve problems. With self-expression still a significant emotional driver, and a target demographic who’s used to regular upgrades, versatile solutions that can support notions of individuality will be popular. It is also essential to offer inventive jewellery in line with prevailing design trends, and in this regard, the subtle but significant shift by savvy young jewellery lovers towards fashion-influenced fine collections offers exciting new potential.** Cutting edge manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, the emergence of new materials and the development of coloured gold alloys in hues including fuchsia pink, facilitate disruptive new directions that will ensure an eye-catching result, and – significantly – create a context from a marketing perspective that is entirely of the moment.
This June, London Tech Week – which was attended by over 40,000 people – included a panel discussion which addressed new wearable directions that fuse fashion, innovation in materials and wearable technology. Speaker Matthew Drinkwater, who heads up the Fashion Innovation Agency at the London College of Fashion, called for the tech industry to get closer to fashion in order to create what he billed a new fashion future. “In the next 12 to 18 months we will see a complete transformation of the fashion industry,” predicted Drinkwater thrillingly. “Retailers should be scared but also inspired.”
Fotocredits: Bracelet designed by Ontic, Mobile Phone Cover by Formartti made with Swarovski Zirconia, Speaker by iBling, ABS, aluminium with Swarovski Zirconia; Smartwatch by INWatch with activity and sleep tracker and UV-detector made with Swarovski Zirconia; Purple, a wearable locket prototype designed by Artefact
Those fearing a dilution of jewellery’s valuable sentimental appeal in a sea of innovation, however, can take heart from the latest trends coming out of the smart watch arena – a sector where it is predicted that by 2020, 60 percent of all watches sold will be connected with the internet. At Baselworld this year several watch brands chose to hide the technology within a fashionable design, speaking to a desire amongst consumers for aesthetics that have a heritage feel. De Grisogono teamed up with Samsung to create the Samsung Gear S2 by De Grisogono – a high jewellery watch with galuchat strap and rotating diamond bezel. Nixon’s The Mission hides weather updates and fitness trackers in a trio of sub dials that look like traditional chronograph timers. Montblanc and Hublot, meanwhile, maintain a traditional luxury watch elegance by putting smart technology into the straps. Leading the charge on the jewellery front, US brand Artefact has tapped this trend for updated icons with sentiment at their core by launching Purple – a “locket for the 21st century” which connects wirelessly to your social networks and receives images and messages from friends and family. Unsurprisingly, given its revenue boosting potential, the new playing field has seen a surge in tech companies and designer brands looking to capitalise on this burgeoning lifestyle trend. Recently, conglomerates Richline and Fossil acquired wearables companies Viawear and Misfit respectively. In the absence of a buyout, options for smaller designers wishing to tap into the market include collaborating with software startups or turning to crowdfunding platforms. London-based Vinaya’s – whose Zenta bracelet is dubbed “a personalised coach for both body and mind” – adopted precisely this strategy and successfully raised $100k from nearly 300 backers.