One of the biggest barriers for wearable technology’s uptake in the fashion industry has quite simply been around aesthetics. Something that puts functionality first, doesn’t fit so well in an industry geared to form.
And yet this technology is slowly morphing into something that is about so much more than biometrics, for instance, and rather entire experiences. In doing so, it’s opening enormous doors for the fashion industry, indeed the luxury world, to step in and think about where craft sits alongside.
That’s the premise behind a new exhibition called “Fashion Hack”, which opens in the windows of concept store Colette in Paris today for a week. 10 prototypes have been created by fashion designers; within them embedding various new technologies relevant to this sector.
Curated by Carole Sabas, a correspondent for French Vogue and the author behind The Fashion Guides series, the technologies were scouted from the west coast of the US, where Sabas is now based.
“In opposition to the ‘wearables’ category, these fashion accessories are first and foremost luxury goods, crafted as couture objects,” she explains. “Their invisible perks are limited to a few features: a surprising comfort (re-engineered soles) or stunning experience (self-heating sheer fabric, enhanced listening…) No biometrics will be measured, no apps will be downloaded. Seamlessly merged with fashion, the tech factor is an inconspicuous bonus. A secret layer of convenience, second to fashion.”
Included is a self-heating jacket from Thermaltech and ACRNM, enabled via solar panels coated on metallic threads; a 100% natural cotton shirt embedded with nano-encapsulated technology to ensure water, oil and wine stains are repelled, from Maud Jeline and Dropel; a headband designed to induce lucid dreams during sleep, created by Erik Halley and Luciding; and a pair of embellished earrings from Michael Schmidt Studios and Bragi, which essentially sees jewellery clipped on to a pair of smart audio earphones. Tech-enabled shoes, bags, belts and glasses all feature.
There are also nine mini robot balls that have been programmed by a choreographer to execute a baroque-inspired ballet in the window.
For Sabas it was really key to look at how to integrate technology, but not have it as the central feature – arguably the direction this space is set to move in. “After all, zippers and buttons are also tech,” she explains. “We’ll pretty soon stop aweing at connected jackets, as we long stop aweing at our iPhones. But we’ll still awe at cool, fashionable jackets.”
Sabas spends her time between fashion weeks and tech shows like CES in Las Vegas and is often left bewildered at some of the suggestions put out there, she explains. “I couldn’t believe that I was seeing the same umbrellas that buzz you if it’s going to rain, rings that blink when you receive texts and belt that text you if you’re on the verge of eating too much.”
But she also came to understand how the tech circle works in terms of secrecy, NDAs, patents and more, and wanted to prove how much more could be possible through collaboration.
“The idea is to suggest to tech start-ups to collaborate with fashion designers if their intention is to target luxury stores alongside electronic retailing. It also invites fashion houses to reach out to tech people, in order to get ready for things like the wireless charging bags, smart eyeglasses, high heels 2:0, connected jackets and jewellery and other ‘hearables’ coming their way in a couple of seasons,” she explains.
She’s a technophile at heart, but one with a vision that makes sense for both consumers and brands alike: “I would like what the rest of the world would like – IoT that grows meaningful, useful, invisible, weightless, universal, with no cables and long life batteries. Something that makes you feel chic, creative and efficient.”
More importantly, she believes the fashion industry needs to wake up to the revolution happening before the tech companies themselves become more powerful as brands within the same sphere.