When Fashion Goes Smart

Illustration Kristina Kordovski

Illustration Kristina KordovskiOk, I admit it; I am married to my smartphone. It is with me anywhere, everywhere, and always; and if for some god-awful reason I am without my digital companion – separation anxiety quickly ensues, leaving me feeling naked and miserably detached. As my dearest possession, it accompanies me through all of life’s ups and downs. Never far from reach, it lays next to me when I sleep. While I shower, it waits patiently on the marble counter, safe from water, but still close enough where I can see the screen if it were to urgently summon me. Yes, as I describe our relationship in words, I realize it seems obsessive and crazy. But the fact remains that this gadget is essential to my reality as a self-employed woman tirelessly devoted to the success of her business. Undeniably dependent, I guess you can call it a kind of ‘smartphonism’.

As my ambitions and hard-work materialized into tangible success, so did my appreciation and fascination for technology. In this realm of continuous development and advancement, I find excitement in discovering the latest tech phenomenon. I love to be the first to try out the newest gadgets and download all sorts of applications that can tell me how my life is – what I need, where I need to go, and how I feel right now. Just in case I do not know those answers myself!

But even though I consider myself a proponent of all things high tech, I am still fundamentally grounded in the world of fashion with a very selective taste for style. The biggest challenge with many of the first wearable tech accessories was their lack of appeal to a target group like me – let’s generously call us tech-savvy trendsetters. These initial smart devices faced no issue sending Silicon Valley tech geeks into a giddy frenzy. But besides functionality they lacked aesthetic, the essential fashionable touch and social value needed to attract the trendsetters and then the masses. If wearable tech is to have a chance, the high-tech world needs to start flirting with fashion.

Illustration Kristina Kordovski2015 is predicted to be the year where wearable tech or smart clothing as you might say, breaks through and becomes fashionable reality for more than the few with big business profits. Analysts at Gartner predict that Americans will buy 91.3 million wearables in 2016, a sales increase of 20 million more than in 2015.

Fashion giant Ralph Lauren announced The Polo Tech Shirt last year. The shirt, designed specifically for use in exercising, can be your new digital fitness trainer. It has various sensors that collect the user’s biometric data, including heart rate, calories burned, distance travelled and intensity of movement. All of this information is then transmitted to your corresponding smartphone app. At last year’s US Open, American tennis star Marcos Giron wore this Polo ‘smart’ shirt, showing support for the favorite Americana brand. And even though it is far from hot news that sportswear goes high tech, it was the first time that it came from such a renowned fashion brand.

Fitness is just one area booming with GPS shoes, heart-beating monitors in various apps, straps, smart socks, and motion tracking underwear, to name a few. Today the trend is looking to spread to everyday fashion, with ready to wear brands eager to explore their own romance with high tech. Even beach wear could go smart, with bracelets that track your desired tan level and swimwear that changes color when you have had too much sun.

And once tech companies unite with luxury fashion brands, wearable tech wins the powerful entrance ticket into the fashionable world they were so clearly excluded. This is what exactly seems to be happening as collaborations across the two industries are well underway. Some of the most respected avant-garde purveyors of fashion like Colette in Paris, Barneys New York and Net-a-porter are already on the ride. (…)

Read more in Tomorrow’s Journal | Issue 10

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