Wearable devices are still trying to gain a solid foothold with consumers. The concept is already boring some, so manufacturers are scrambling to figure out how to appeal to the masses.
The wearable device market is evolving as tech manufacturers try to figure out what it will take to appeal to a broad audience. The connection between fashion and tech wearables is getting stronger as manufacturers recognize that people want to not only wear something that works well, but looks good, too.
Face it. Putting on a wearable makes a statement, whether it’s to tell someone that you are into health and fitness, or that you’re a techie and you want instant access to texts and emails.
“We’re at the very beginning of wearables. People are finally waking up to the fact if you’re going to be on someone’s body, you have to at least be not unfashionable. With Shine, we were trying to be not unfashionable,” said Sonny Vu, founder of Misfit Wearables, which developed the stylish Misfit Shine fitness tracking device.
Making wearables appealing
There is a problem with the drop off rate once someone buys a health and fitness wearable. A previous TechRepublic article focused on an Endeavour Partners survey that revealed more than half of the people who bought a health and fitness wearable had stopped wearing it, and a third of those had put it aside within the first six months of receiving it.
Dan Ledger, principal at Endeavour Partners, said that the appearance of a wearable is one of the key things that keeps someone wearing the device.
With this in mind, wearable manufacturers are looking toward the fashion industry to add style to their tech products, including Ayse Ildeniz, vice president of the new devices group and general manager of strategy and business development at Intel Corporation.
“What we have seen are the technology companies taking the lead on the wearable domain, and we believe it is time the fashion companies take the lead. They should be defining what a wearable aesthetic should look like and the kind of functions it should provide. There’s a larger sensitivity in the industry toward that,” Ildeniz said.
Fashion is an important consideration when designing a wearable. And yet, many of the wearables on the market have a uniform look that doesn’t draw people into wearing them daily.
Fitbit is working to incorporate even better design into its colorful wearable devices, said Tim Rosa, vice president of global marketing for Fitbit. “The fusion of fashion into technology will be an important part of the widespread adoption of wearable technologies. If you are making a product that is intended to be worn 24/7, like a Fitbit tracker, design is key.”
To achieve a more fashionable look, Fitbit has partnered with designer Tory Burch to create accessories for the Fitbit Flex, from pendants and bracelets to wristbands designed to hold the Flex tracker. The products will debut later this spring.
It makes a personal statement when something is visibly worn on the body.
Ildeniz said, “Anything we wear is very personal. I like to think that whatever I wear as a woman is a true reflection of myself, rather than the basic functionality of it. There’s a clear distinction of having technology and carrying it with you versus putting it on yourself. I think this is almost unavoidable that the two have a clear interplay and if people are to carry technology it will have to be fashionable,” she said.
To keep the wearables market strong to a broad audience that includes women, devices will need to become more fashionable, she said.
“If this thing is to go beyond Silicon Valley males, then it has to have some aesthetic appeal to it. I actually think wearables are at the start of a journey. It is a journey we all collectively, the fashion as well as the technology industry, will have to explore. We need to look at what audience is resonating to. It’s interesting how the genders are approaching this technology,” she said.
To achieve this goal, Intel has partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to work with the designer brand Opening Ceremony and Barneys New York to create a smart bracelet that will debut later this year. This will be the first time a department store has created and carried a smart wearable, Ildeniz said.
“Our relationship with CFDA is very strategic. They’ve got the best of the best. The intention is the technologist, the innovation company like Intel, we introduce our software engineers to the people who actually make the wearables. We create a giant platform where everybody comes together and talk how innovation can be done with technology and fashion. It introduces technology to the fashion industry but also creates a platform for future collaboration on not what just we want to do but everybody else,” she said.
Intel is also sponsoring a Make it Wearable campaign to challenge small companies, startups and individuals to create a wearable concept. “We wanted to create the platform so they could enter a challenge where certain people who are selected we will be coaching and supporting and helping them take to market all these interesting ideas they’re playing with,” she said. The contest will result in 10 finalists who will be paired with mentors. The winner will take home $500,000, with $200,000 for second place and $100,000 for third place. There’s also a video entry that gives $5,000 to each of five winners.