Four years after the now-notorious debut of Google Glass at CES, a number of high fashion labels have attempted entry into the wearable technology market with varying degrees of success. As with any completely new innovation, adaptation and adoption take time, and significant growing pains can result. The wearable market had a shaky start, but it has progressed significantly in the past four years, with no sign of slowing down any time soon —analysts claim the wearable tech market will be worth $34 billion by 2020.
From Snapchat Spectacles, the platform's simple yet brilliant take on an accessible wearable, to Fossil's new smart watch – one of the first created completely in-house by an existing fashion label – alongside Swarovski's Shine activity tracker, brands and designers alike are clamoring to join the action and see who will succeed in rivaling Google and Apple's pioneering wearable devices. Fossil's connected watch has launched versions from designer bigwigs including Armani, Kate Spade, Diesel and Lacoste.
As Google Glass' disastrous reception was largely chalked up to the device's clunky, profoundly geeky look (and the Apple Watch didn't fare much better), Google quickly tapped top names in the fashion industry to help transform the unpopular wearable into something consumers would actually want to wear. Within a year of the product's 2013 launch, models at Diane Von Furstenberg's fashion week show were parading down the runway in the designer's take on Google Glass.
Google later moved closer to their goal of getting in with fashion's cool kids by creating an undeniably cool video with mega hip star FKA Twigs – the same crowd Intel smartly targeted with their more successful MICA device, a fashionable chunky bracelet designed in collaboration with Opening Ceremony. Still, the influence of FKA Twigs was not enough to keep Google Glass afloat.
Over the next few year, many of the standouts in the market were designer collaborations that improved upon already popular wearable devices – Tory Burch's lucrative and well-received line of designer Fitbits. These fruitful collaborations are mutually beneficial: tech companies contribute the software, while fashion houses bring style and design to the tech device, and in turn, position themselves as forward-thinking members of the fashion industry.
Many wearable tech products have lagged in one of two areas: fashion cachet or actual functionality. Designer Fitbits and smart watches aside, much of the wearable jewelry thus far has little functionality beyond informing their wearers they have a notification on their phone (take notification ring, Ringly, and Rebecca Minkoff's notification bracelet). As we already carry so many gadgets that offer us valuable services, these devices do not add a large amount of value to users' lives just yet. They function more as novelty items for those who love to own the next big thing in tech.
In response, industry leaders like Business of Fashion founder Imran Amed have projected that Smart fabrics – also known as e-textiles – will be the medium in which high fashion and wearable tech can ultimately intersect in a meaningful way. Brands on the forefront of this new frontier include Polo's Tech Shirt and Levi's forthcoming Commuter Trucker jacket, which is created from hotly anticipated Project Jacquard smart yarn that interacts with smartphones.
Defined by a propensity for constant innovation, risk-taking and boundary-pushing design, it is no surprise the fashion industry jumped at the chance to make these tech innovations their own. In 2017, we expect to see a huge number of high-end brands investing in e-textiles and improving on current offerings, in ways that seamlessly integrate fashion and tech without sacrificing one at the detriment of the other.