ThesisPDF Available

Wearable Technology : Successfully Failing (A Study To Assess The Right Balance Between Fashion & Technology)

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Abstract

With a multitude of brands trying to expand into fashion infused with technology, the options for wearable fashion technology which is available to the consumers has indeed increased. But the products available today don't precisely combine the fashion factor with cutting edge technology to produce a truly innovative fashionable product. This research aims to dissect the state of the current market, why does fashion tech constantly fail and how brands can succeed in creating the right product which is appealing to customers. The research is based on review of various academic papers, study of the product market over last 40 years, review of specialised articles by experts along with quantitative analysis. The research also leverages the knowledge and data from my practical experiences of creating wearable fashion tech products and opinions of industry experts.
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Keywords
Fashion technology , Wearables , Smart clothing , Connected fashion , Evolution of fashion
Abstract
With a multitude of brands trying to expand into fashion infused with technology, the options
for wearable fashion technology which is available to the consumers has indeed increased.
But the products available today don’t precisely combine the fashion factor with cutting edge
technology to produce a truly innovative fashionable product. This research aims to dissect
the state of the current market, why does fashion tech constantly fail and how brands can
succeed in creating the right product which is appealing to customers.
The research is based on review of various academic papers, study of the product market over
last 40 years, review of specialized articles by experts along with quantitative analysis. The
research also leverages the knowledge and data from my practical experiences of creating
wearable fashion tech products and opinions of industry experts.
MAIN CONTENT WORD COUNT:
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Acknowledgements
This work would not have been possible without the kind support of the management at IFA
Paris who were kind enough to give me an opportunity to research a topic which I have always
been passionate about. I really appreciate the kind support of all the academic professors who
guided me with their valuable advice throughout the research and broadened my spectrum of
thinking and look at the future of fashion from a new perspective. I am especially grateful to
Mr. Johan Avoine for constant guidance throughout the research and providing me with
insights to push me in the right direction. I would like to thank all my friends and associates
who made this research successful by sharing their perspectives and views which ultimately
helped me study the mass perspective of this topic. I would also like thank everyone who
shared their valuable time to participate in surveys and interviews. I would also like to convey
my deepest gratitude to the experts who shared their expertise and views on this topic.
Nobody has been more important to me in pursuit of this project than my family. I would like to
express my gratitude to my parents who shared with me, their passion and expertise in science
and technology throughout the years and encouraged me to actively pursue my passion for
fashion and technology.
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Table of Contents
KEYWORDS 2
ABSTRACT 2
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 3
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 8
RESEARCH MOTIVATION 13
PROBLEMATICS 13
1. INTRODUCTION 14
2. HISTORY 16
3. WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY 18
WHAT IS FASHION TECHNOLOGY? 18
WHAT IS WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY? 18
4. PRESENT DAY SCENARIO 20
CURRENT MARKET FOCUS 20
CONNECTED CLOTHING 21
TECHNICAL TEXTILES 21
GENERATIONS OF WEARABLES 22
MARKET SCOPE 23
MARKET TRENDS 24
5. THE FASHION ECOSYSTEM 26
TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES 26
SMARTPHONES & APPLICATIONS 27
MODERN TECHNOLOGIES 28
TRANSPARENCY IN PRODUCTION 29
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CONSUMER PERCEPTION 30
EVOLUTION OF TECHNOLOGY 31
6. LIMITATIONS 32
TECHNOLOGICAL KNOW-HOW 32
HARDWARE LIMITATIONS 33
- Power Source 33
- Flexibility and bulk 34
PRODUCT COSTING 34
BRAND HERITAGE 35
MARKET READINESS 35
GENERAL DATA COMPLIANCE RIGHTS (GDPR) 36
FASHION CYCLE AND OFFERING 37
LACK OF CLEAR USE CASE 38
7. ENABLERS 39
RAW MATERIALS - VALUE CHAIN 40
- Textiles 41
- Hardware and parts 43
Integrators 45
End consumers 45
TAGGING AND CONNECTIVITY 46
INTERNET OF THINGS (IOT) 46
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) AND DIGITAL FASHION 48
INCUBATORS & ACCELERATORS 48
8. WHY DO BRANDS VENTURE INTO WEARABLES? 49
PUBLICITY AND BUZZ 49
MARKET TESTING 50
REINVENTING THE BRAND 50
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9. VISION FOR THE FUTURE 51
TECHNOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY 51
USE OF AR. VR AND MR 52
DIGITAL FASHION 52
BIO-MIMICKERY IN FASHION 52
TRANSPARENCY 53
END OF OWNERSHIP 53
BIG DATA AND E-COMMERCE 54
COMMUNITY BUILDING 54
10. MARKET OPPORTUNITIES 55
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES 55
REVENUE MODELS 55
MEDIA AND COMMUNITY 55
CUSTOMER SERVICES 56
11. CUSTOMER SEGMENTATION 57
12. UNDERSTANDING CONSUMER NEEDS 59
PERCEPTION 59
AWARENESS 59
OWNERSHIP 60
PURCHASE INTERESTS 60
LIMITATIONS 61
SUSTAINABILITY 62
EXPECTATIONS 63
13. WHAT CAN BRANDS DO TO EXPAND INTO THIS DOMAIN? 64
14. EVOLUTION OF CLOTHING CONNECTED CLOTHING 66
15. FURTHER IMPLICATIONS 70
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16. CONCLUSION 71
17. REFERENCES 72
REFERENCE IMAGES 72
INFOGRAPHIC REFERENCES 74
OTHER REFERENCES 75
18. APPENDICES 84
SURVEY RESULTS 84
QUESTIONNAIRE 88
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Executive Summary
With an influx of products infused with technology flooding the market, the fashion industry is
starting to shift focus to wearable technology also popularly known as ‘wearables’. Both mass
market and luxury brands are trying to introduce products infused with technology every
passing season. But the problem faced by the brands today is the domains of fashion and
technology don’t intersect in in a balanced way to form a truly fashionable product. Today,
numerous brands from both technology and fashion sector are exploring the possibilities of
successfully launching fashion technology products in the market. Though only a handful of
brands have succeeded to launch commercially viable products. This thesis investigates the
current scenario of the market with a goal to understand the scope of the future and how
brands can successfully enter the wearable technology market.
Wearable technology is a collision of to the world of technology and fashion to form something
which is both functional as well as aspirational. The simplest way to define it is the integration
of technology in fashion products in such a way that it serves additional purposes. The
wearables market today is very much focused or rather limited to wrist based deices or sports
and fitness. Brands are slowly trying to innovate outside these domains but there is little luck
even with advancements in fibers and technologies. The concept of connected clothing is
becoming more popular these days and is slowly on the rise along with Internet of Things (IoT).
With the given rate of evolution, connected clothing is set to become popular in the coming
years. According to researches by several firms around the world, the market for textile based
wearable technologies is set to grow the highest in the coming years. The market value of
wearable technologies is set to double by 2024 with a compound annual growth of 11.3% every
year.
The textile wearables can be divided into three different generations starting from early
innovations from athletic brands like Nike who attached sensors to their products, which can
be said to be the first generation. The second generation is the current generation of garments
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which have embedded sensors in their garments like the project Jacquard. The future
generations will feature clothing which itself is the sensor. We see that fashion brands are
turning to technology for innovation today and brands from both fashion and technology
domains are crossing borders to venture and collaborate to introduce fashion tech products.
Fashion brands alone fail to innovate in terms of technology which leads to high process and
the products being limited to prototype phases. So it’s essential for fashion brands to recognize
and seek out collaborations to find the right balance between fashion and technology. The
fashion technology ecosystem is more than just fashion brands. It also comprises of tech
companies, modern technological innovations like smartphones and applications and most
importantly, the consumer perception which controls the limit of practical innovation.
While the fashion brands try to find the right balance between fashion and technology, they
are faced with several limitations, which are cannot be directly controlled by them.
Independent designs and brands don’t have the technological know-how or the understanding
of the technological hardware which often limits them in exploring the possibilities. The
hardware technology available today is limited in terms of flexibility, bulk and the source to
power the products. This leads to limitations in the terms of launching a practical product at
the right price point. Wearable technology requires additional processes like integration of
technology and keeping in mind privacy issues and at the same time following the fashion
cycle. Due to these reasons, the frequency of launch of wearable technology devices in much
lower when compared a standard fashion product. And on the consumer end, the products are
not always understood by the consumers which is by the brands have very little success due
to the market not being ready.
While the brands are faced with several limitations, the industry is still growing every day with
supporting of enabling factors like advancement in raw materials, rise of IoT, tagging and
connectivity. The developments in these domains have broadened the scope of the wearable
technology which is beyond just wrist based devices. To understand the scope of development
of wearables, it’s important to understand the value chain of a product, which can be seen in
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three phases starting from raw material, to integrators and ending at the consumers. The
factors of innovation at each stage ultimately impact the development of wearable technology
which we see today and in future. The core of innovation lies in the raw materials stage which
is highly impacted by developments in textiles, sensors, conductors and actuators. These raw
materials alter the way products are designed and assembled. Apart from this the major factors
which are impossible to ignore are the rise of IoT and digital fashion which has drastically
increased connectivity and has also impacted retail methods and consumer shopping patterns.
The brands today venture into wearables for reasons which are beyond sales or profits. Even
with products at nascent stage, venturing into wearable technology gives the brands a chance
to test the market scope along with publicity and buzz. With a highly saturated market, brands
are looking to radically reinvent themselves and the only way to do this is with help of
technology and venturing into wearables keeps them relevant with modern times and market.
The balance between fashion and technology will be highly impacted by macro factors around
the globe. Technology has the potential to increase the transparency and make fashion more
sustainable with techniques like 3D printing. Digital fashion, and alternate realities like AR, VR
and MR can change the way we shop and interact with clothes in the future.
The wearables of tomorrow don’t have to be necessarily something which perform additional
functions or collect data. They could be means to build communities or change the purpose of
clothing altogether. Instead of enhancing performance or performing functions, the wearables
of tomorrow can be focused on creating customer experiences and services. The wearables
can be a mean to generate newer revenue models and be tools for direct advocacy and
marketing. In order to implement an alternate use, it’s important to understand what
consumers really want. The consumers for the current market can be segregated into two
groups which is the generation between age 16-34 and the generation which are older than
34. These segments use wearables for variable purposes and have different biases for fashion
and functionality. A survey conducted across 6 different countries, concluded that the
consumer don’t want products which are overly complex or ‘scary’ The consumers expect
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technology to be part of everyday products which they can actually use. Complex products
tend to seem less inviting and limits consumers to purchase them along with expensive prices.
The brands need to start moving away from sportswear and wrist based devices and focus on
integration of technology in clothing in such a way that usability of the product is not disrupted
while balancing aesthetics. Developing a completely new product from scratch is really costly
and requires a lot of resources, which is why brands should take a step back and focus on
making their existing products ‘connected’. More importantly, its essential for brands to
integrate technology into the products which consumers can use every day and not on
occasional basis. Integration of technology into everyday clothing or products can give the
brand an opportunity to create experiences which go beyond sales and products. The
consumers can be provided extensive services and can have an enriching experience of being
associated with the brand.
This can be practically demonstrated through an industry case of a brand, Mud Jeans which
is known to make the world’s most circular denims. Denim is a product which represents
democracy in fashion and can be evolved using technology while maintaining its form factor
and use case. Rethinking the product as a connected product with tagging technologies like
NFC will enable the consumers to interact with their jeans on frequent basis by simply scanning
the tagging technology from their smartphone. Upon scanning the product the owner of the
product can learn more about the product, special marketing offers, and exclusive invites which
are pushed from the back end by the brand. This establish a two way communication between
the brand and the it’s active community. Mud Jeans is famous for their ‘Lease a Jeans’ model
where they aim to lease the jeans rather than selling them. Making their jeans connected will
make the process more transparent and offer an enriched experience to the customers. Such
an ecosystem of connected products evolves everyday products without losing its actual use
or aesthetics and has very little impact on the production and costing of the final product. This
essentially blurs the line between the physical product and the digital system, thus enabling
new possibilities in marketing as well as interacting with the product.
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To further advance on the idea of practical connected jeans, I will be joining the team at Mud
Jeans in 2020, where I will have an opportunity to develop the idea to a prototype phase and
eventually contemplate the possibilities of implementing it commercially.
Conclusively we see know that it’s no longer sufficient to be just fashionable. It’s now crucial
for brands to expand their horizons to incorporate technology in everyday products in a discreet
way which does not disrupt it’s aesthetics and still has a solid use case. The right balance
between fashion and technology can be achieved by making the products ‘connected’ rather
than complexifying the product. The fashion of the future is connected and it’s going to change
the way people and brands interact with their everyday fashion products. Fashion has never
failed to be fashionable, it’s time that technology catches up to it.
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Research Motivation
The work presented in this thesis is a result of personal assessment and interests which I had
in technology and fashion from an early age. I have been actively looking and experimenting
into wearable technologies from last 7 years, by creating IoT based connected clothing and
collecting industry wearables such as the Google Glass and smartwatches. The experience of
implementing technology in fashion within a resource constrained environment in the past
motivated me to actively study this domain to look for future possibilities. The apparent
potential for future collaborations is an early indication of the scope of this work which
motivated me to explore alternate avenues in the inevitable evolution of clothing.
Problematics
How can fashion and technology be balanced to make truly fashionable product with
practical functionality aided by technology?
Why is wearable technology constantly failing?
How can brands successfully venture into wearable technology?
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1. Introduction
As the fashion industry progresses beyond the boundaries of everyday consumer centric
demands, a significant number of brands including luxury brands are trying to venture into
fashion infused with technology or wearable technology, otherwise popularly dubbed as
‘wearables’. Be it just the use of technical fabrics which are used by sportswear brands, or
spectacular couture pieces by designers like Hussein Chalayan, everyone is trying to get their
bite of fashion infused with technology. While giant retail brands like Adidas and Levi’s have
been practically able to implement this globally, other brands like Louis Vuitton have introduced
unserviceable products on their runway like the bags with flexible screens *[Reference Image 1].
But on a universal aspect, practically speaking either these products are either limited to
functionality, while compromising on ‘fashionable’ aspect of it or they look fashionable but don’t
have a clear use case. Largely, these lines of function and fashion are still parallel. They don’t
really intersect to form a truly fashionable product which leverages modern technology to serve
a function.
Today the term ‘wearable technology’ is closely associated with the fashion technology. On
first glance, wearable technology may seem like something recent like things straight out of a
sci-fi movie. But wearable tech has been around for a long time, dating back to 1280 when the
eyeglasses were invented, which was groundbreaking at the time and now over the centuries
has evolved into a fashion accessory. In the subsequent years we saw the introduction of many
such ground breaking wearables like the watch with computer keyboard by Seiko, sneaker
phone by Sports Illustrated and the ICD Jacket by Levi’s in 2000.
Today a handful number of brands, both from domains fashion and consumer electronics are
exploring the options and possibilities in wearable technology. Consumer electronics brands
like Bose and Google have managed to produce commercially viable eyewear which serve
everyday purposes like eyewear with bone conduction which also act as earphones. Brands
like Adidas and Nike have invested themselves heavily in fashion technology research to
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create fashionable wearables which enhance athletic abilities but is still not available for mass
market.
The aim of this research is to analyze the aspects of this coveted sphere of wearable
technology, starting from the historical developments of this complex intersection of fashion
and technology to the future scope and developments of practical wearable technology which
is truly fashionable. The research also aims to understand how consumer psychology,
business of fashion and the industrial infrastructure & technology, currently impact, limit and
enable wearable technology and what are its future prospects in the fashion industry.
In-depth understanding of intersection of fashion and technology will enable fashion brands to
radically reinvent themselves to create consumer centric wearables which are truly fashionable
and functional, and further lead to development of newer business models and practices. This
will not only opens all new frontiers in the domain of fashion but also how lead to new
groundbreaking possibilities in research and academics. Contextually, the aim of this study is
to stipulate how wearable technology and fashion tech will lead a breakthrough in future of the
fashion industry and alter the way consumers wear clothes and brands do business.
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2. History
Designers throughout history have always been keenly interested in the frontiers of what
fashion might look like in the future. This can be dated back to the 1960’s when designers like
Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin and André Courrèges were inspired by the space race. They
pushed the boundaries of fashion through innovation and experimentation with unconventional
materials and fabrics. Such advancements over time have driven the fashion industry to what
it is today.
On the other hand historical innovations like synthetic textiles, zippers, sewing machines have
also greatly influenced and shaped the present day scenario of fashion and will continue to do
so in the future.
Fashion technology has steadily grown over the years and is gradually becoming an important
innovation factor for brands today. The ICD Jacket by Levi’s which was launched 20 years ago
was considered to be the first commercially wearable tech garment with a conductive harness
which integrated consumer electronic devices like Mp3 player, phone and earphones.
Unfortunately the line failed to capture the consumer market despite a groundbreaking design,
and was suddenly shut down.
The first decade of 2000 saw numerous introductions of wearable technology which were more
focused as technology hardware devices rather than fashion products or accessories. In 2006,
sportswear brand Nike introduced Nike + iPod which was the first move towards connected
fitness. The concept was a Nike shoe with a detachable chip which acted as the activity tracker
which sent data to an attachment on the iPod. This was a major success and the kits were
sold out within weeks. Till this day Nike has continued the fitness tracking through Nike +
franchise which works with various fitness trackers in the market.
The subsequent years saw introduction of wearable fitness trackers as a very popular fashion
accessory pioneered by brands such as Fitbit, which have been really accessible in the recent
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years. Much of today’s wearable fashion technology is still very much focused on fitness,
health and athletes.
2013 saw introduction of tech giant Google into wearable fashion with its Google Glass which
was essentially a computer mounted on spectacles. It didn’t receive success because of its
hefty price tag and the factors like privacy concern since the a mounted camera on spectacles
can essentially record anything which a person sees.
Subsequent years saw introduction of Jacquard commuter jacket by Levi’s and jacket with
embedded solar panels which allows users to charge their phone on-the-go by Tommy Hilfiger.
While the concepts received a lot of attention but popular critics like DigitalTrends deemed the
concept as ‘leaning towards a no’ due to its aesthetics and the inability of the fashion and tech
industry to consistently produce any attracting wearable tech fashion.
In 2019 we saw return of these brands and their products with newer versions which are much
more practical, affordable and aesthetically conventional *[Reference Image 2]. The new versions of
Jacquard jackets by Levi’s are have a very affordable price tag along with practicality and
aesthetics. Brands like Laurent Saint also collaborated with Google Jacquard to make smart
backpacks. Though the success and awareness of these products is still very limited but this
could be a practical vision of what wearable fashion tech could look like in the future.
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3. Wearable Technology
What is fashion technology?
This is still a debatable topic as one may ask, who defines or sets the criteria for a garment to
be ‘fashionable’? Or what exactly is categorized as ‘wearable technology’ and ‘tech fashion’?
To answer this question, several factors go into consideration. The criteria of a ‘fashionable
product’ largely varies as per individuals. Which can further depend on factors which vary with
age, gender, psychographics, demographics etc. The Cambridge Dictionary defines fashion
as something which is popular at a particular point in time, or something which conforms to
recent customs. But for a layman a ‘fashionable’ product is something which aesthetically
pleases them.
To put this simply fashion technology or ‘fashion tech is the savoir-faire of fashion which
includes the tools and technology to produce fashion products. The process of production itself
is also a part of fashion technology. Fashion technology is also not only limited to the savoir
faire and the production process. It extends up to several other domains like retail channels
used for distribution and also the technology which is used to market those products.
What is wearable technology?
Wearable fashion technology is a collision of two different worlds of fashion and technology.
While fashion is more lyrical, creative and aspirational, technology is more rational and
functional. Though there is no fixed definition of wearable technology in literature, it can be
simply defined as technology devices which are worn on users body (Nugroho 2013). Carrying
it to context of fashion, we can also safely establish that it is the integration or use of
technology in fashion products in such a way that it serves some purpose or function.
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Another comprehensive way to define wearable technology could be a computing device which
accepts inputs and is worn on the body. The device can function in an independent way or
may be remotely linked to a smartphone or a remote computer allowing a meaningful
interaction to the person wearing the device (Kurwa et al, 2008).
This leads us to think that does the interaction of fashion and technology have to be this
complex? Experts today believe it doesn’t have to be this complex. Johan Avoine (ex. COO
at Neue Labs) states that as soon as you add something as small as an NFC chip, the garment
or the wearable can be classified into ‘fashion tech’ which is unlike the older beliefs that the
products must have embedded sensors or something which inputs data.
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4. Present Day Scenario
Current market focus
The wearable fashion technology market today is very much focused on wearables for wrist
and foot, which further concentrate dominantly on health and fitness.
Multinational tech giant Apple also tried their luck with wearable computers with Apple Watch
in 2015 but failed to capture the market. And over time it shifted product focus to a health
monitoring device rather than a smart watch which increased the product popularity in recent
years. Apple further went on to focus on aesthetics side of the watch by collaborating with
brands like Hermes and Nike.
Another major area where fashion and technology have integrated successfully is footwear.
Brands like Under Armour and Nike have managed to drop commercial versions of connected
shoes which have abilities like tracking athletes metrics and functions like self-lacing. The price
range of these devices also makes them very accessible to consumers who are willing to
experiment with products with connected technology. But these connected footwear products
compromise on some major practical use aspect as they are not resistant to water or possibility
of the hardware being crushed. This adds major limitations to the products, thus rendering
them to be used as occasional items, rather that everyday use.
For centuries humanity has relied on fibers from plants and animals as materials for clothing
and fashion. In the beginning of the 20th century, polyesters and nylons lead to an era of
synthetic textiles. And presently we are at the beginning of another wave in the textile industry
with advancements in collected threads, micro sensors and embedded electronics in
mainstream textiles. Textile innovation is at core of every apparel brands, specially brands
which focus on athletic performance. Specific characteristics like heat captivity, breathability,
moisture wicking, anti-microbial and scented are already being utilized by apparel
manufacturers for retail production. *[Infographic 2]
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Connected clothing
Becoming more popular is the use embedded micro sensors and conductive threads. Which
leads us to the term ‘smart clothing’ or ‘connected clothing’. These can be defined as apparels
and products that have been enhanced with the use of technology to add functions that go
beyond the traditional use’. The concept of a ‘connected’ lifestyle has been on the rise in the
recent years and is becoming popular due to the enhanced system of IOT, sensors and mobile
devices. *[Infographic 3]
The term ‘wearable technology’ is largely dominated by fitness and health trackers which are
hardware pieces in form of wrist accessories of different sorts. With the given rate of evolution
in materials and textiles, connected clothing will be joining the same roster.
Technical textiles
Technical textile innovation is an important part of connected (or smart) clothing. Tech
companies are playing an important role in innovating these textiles which can add more
functionality to everyday clothes. Project Jacquard by Google envisions seamless integration
of connectivity woven in everyday clothing and objects. Jacquard weaves panels with
conductive yarn in the clothes which allows the wearer to send commands to their device just
by interacting with the textile surface. A report published by Data Bridge Market Research in
2018, highlights that similar attempts have been made by others companies which are key
market players such as DuPont, Freudenberg Performance Materials and Phillips.
European electronics company Phillips has a research program called SKIN focusing on smart
textile development. Since 2006 they have been experimenting with a series of garments as
part of their SKIN project which is based on emotion sensing. The garments or dresses when
worn sense the emotions and produce illuminated patterns on the surface. This is a whole new
way of expressing one’s personality through the emotions. It is often said that fashion is an
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expression, this project by Philips Design provokes one to rethink how we interact with our
clothes on everyday basis and can express ourselves in newer ways.
A report by Cientifica Research based in London sheds some light on the market for textile
based wearable technologies and says that, textile based smart clothing not only measures
body performance and functions, but can also help the wearer improve performance. This can
be evidently seen in athletics industry where we have yoga wear products which give feedback
to the wearer by maintaining connectivity with an app. These functions make the process of
learning yoga independent easier and independent. Interestingly the brand also made sure to
focus on the aesthetics aspects of it along with embedding 16 sensors which in the garments
which monitor body position of the wearer.
Another instance of successful incorporation of electronics is by ElekTex, a UK based
company which specializes in embedded fabric interfaces. Their conductive interfaces have
been used by companies such as O’Neil, Marks and Spenser and Pearl Izumi.
Generations of wearables
Through all the different cases illustrated above, we can identify textile based wearable
technologies into separate groups or generations:
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1. The Premier generation consists of athletic brands like Nike and Under Armour who
have successfully introduced retail-able products by attaching sensors to apparels and
footwear.
2. The Secondary generation consists of brands and companies which are exclusively
into production of electronics and fashion separately. Companies such as Jacquard,
Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Bose have managed to embed sensors into clothing and
wearables.
3. The Tertiary generation will be the future generation where the garment or the product
itself is the sensor. These sensors along with IOT will lead a major disruption in the
coming years.
Market scope
We can observe a clear trend in both apparel and tech companies synergizing with each other
to reach the next stage of disruption in fashion. A study published by UK based Juniper
Research in 2018 also stated that the current market is dominated by wrist based wearable
tech but the trend is shifting away to other categories such as connected clothing, which is
estimated to grow the fastest at by 2020.
The total market size of wearable technology across all product categories such as watches,
clothing, eyewear, wristwear etc. is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate
(CAGR) of 11.3% every year till 2024 with the market value reaching to $62 billion (Meticulous
Research, 2019). The textile based smart clothing market alone is expected to be valued at $4
billion by 2024.
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Market trends
Some cue’s which one can clearly deduce from all the products from the past and the ones
currently in the market is that brands are turning to technology for innovation. And more
popularly we see that both fashion and technology companies are crossing borders to
collaborate or venture into introducing products from other domains, like in past few years a
number of fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Armani, Fossil, Diesel have ventured into
wearable technology with introduction of smartwatches.
Comparing the prices of these products to rest of the offerings by the brand we can also see
that they are at a much higher price point along with the fact that they are not for conventional
use. Let’s take into account the Hyperadapt shoes by Nike which claim to be the future of
footwear with the ability to lace automatically according to the wearers foot. Though the shoes
exceed in the innovation factor, they still need to be charged in order to function, and charging
your shoes in order to be able to wear them is something which is not exactly conventional.
We can also see that fashion brands lack the savoir faire in technological innovation and
product research for they turn to other entities/agents outside the fashion industry. Ralph
Lauren recently launched jackets with integrated systems which is a good balance of cutting
edge technology and timeless design. However for this they used the conduction ink
technology system provided by DuPont which specializes in dyes and chemicals. This also
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lead to a really high price point which was 4 times more for the same product without the
heating tech.
So we can conclude that it’s essential for fashion brands to understand and leverage the role
of other entities such as tech and product research companies in order to further innovate in
future and find the right balance between their designs and the technological practicality.
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5. The Fashion Ecosystem
The building blocks of the wearable fashion technology ecosystem of present and the future
are not just made by fashion products but also by factors on retail technologies, production
technologies, trends in the tech industry and society, innovations in materials and most
importantly consumer readiness.
Technology companies
Needless to say that tech companies like Google play a major role in enabling the disruption
in the fashion industry. Years ago no one imagined that an apparel company like Levi’s and a
tech giant like Google would come together to change the course of fashion and how we
interact with clothes today. Ivan Pouprev, Project Leader of Project Jacquard at Google states
that’s companies like Google plan to empower the apparel makers today rather than venturing
into apparels themselves.
Such synergies between fashion and tech companies are essential in the future for disruption
of the fashion industry. State of Fashion 2019 by McKinsey & Co. also highlights that while
fashion brands and specially luxury houses always had the advantage of heritage in their
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success, it is no longer enough for self-disruption. And subsequently we see houses like Louis
Vuitton turning to technology for further innovation. Earlier this year the French luxury house
showcased a set of bags with flexible screens as the outer shell on their Cruise 2020 runway
show. The brand was clearly influenced by the recent developments in the technological
hardware such as foldable and flexible smartphone screens. The brand further stated that
through this is they are reconsidering the digital canvas of the future and they imagine fashion
accessories like handbags as an extension of modern day technology devices such as
smartphones. As per the view of popular consumer electronics and technology network
Engadget, anticipates that these bags cannot move past the prototype phases due to the retail
cost, which is one of the major problems with tech fashion today.
Smartphones & applications
We also notice that the wearable fashion tech products today are very much reliable on
external agents such as applications or internet to function in an optimal manner. Smart fashion
accessory brands such as Ringly and WiseWear managed to pack their technology in
aesthetically pleasing jewelry which looked consumer friendly. Despite that the brands faced
problems and were eventually shut. One of the prime reasons for this was the dependency on
an external ecosystem i.e. operating system and apps. One of the major factors was
dependency of the brands products on Apple’s operating system. When Apple made changes
in their operating system it rendered WiseWear products unusable, because of which
WiseWear further failed to raise funding from investors and eventually went bankrupt as it
wasn’t able to provide products on a desirable price point. We see that a series of actions are
triggered because of one factor in the ecosystem. This dependency of fashion brands on the
ecosystem around them is inevitable, so it’s important to foresee and understand the impact
of other agents in the ecosystem and design the products accordingly.
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Modern technologies
As the retail system progresses, the brands are also adapting the products to counter the
modern day problems of retail such as controlling the counterfeit merchandise and achieving
radical transparency. In case of luxury brands who are popularly victims of circulation of
counterfeit merchandise, the products can be enhanced with hardware which enables them to
validate and certify original products. Unlike other fashion technology products, this is a much
simpler induction which does not affect the aesthetics and appearance of the product majorly
and yet enables the brands and the customers to authenticate the products. French Luxury
conglomerate LVMH, along with tech giant Microsoft is working on implementing blockchain
technology for their brands Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, through which they hope to control
the circulation of counterfeit products. The system incorporates use of a blockchain network
on the backend to validate the products, while the hardware side of it can be just a small
scannable Near Field Communication (NFC) chip which would be embedded in the products
and can be scanned by the users in order to know more about the product they purchased.
The positive side of this is that it’s a practically function system which does not affect the design
and aesthetics of the product majorly. However we cannot ignore the fact that the success of
this system also depends on the technological advancements in areas outside fashion like
availability of smartphones with NFC. At the moment there are a handful of devices which
deploy use of NFC without use of an external app. A report published by Accuracy Research
LLP in 2017 predicts that the NFC market will grow by 17.9% CAGR in next 8 years. This
would eventually make use of NFC more popular in everyday lives and thus support the system
which will be implemented to counter grey and black market products. Another important factor
to consider here is that not everyone is comfortable with use of modern technology. It’s
essential for the brands to understand their consumer base and implement them accordingly
in their products.
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Transparency in production
With rise of demand for transparency by customers, technology can greatly help brands to
achieve this. Reports published by McKinsey & Co. in last two years (2018 2020) have
stressed on the fact that fashion players need to take actions on being transparent and take
measures to tackle the problems of waste, energy consumption and pollution. The reports
further highlighted that, on an average 40% of Gen Z and millennials demand to know how
their products were made and before they purchase them. Additionally 66% of them are willing
to pay more for products which are transparent in their production and materials.
One of the ways brands can tackle this is by working with trusted suppliers who have
implemented technology at roots to ensure their production is clean and pure. Pimacott which
produces cotton has implemented a DNA tagging at molecular level in cotton gin, right before
even the fabric is made. This has no impact on the final product and so there is no compromise
on the aesthetics and design while maintaining transparency. The DNA tagged fabric can be
scanned with special fabric scanners at the final stage to ensure the product is still pure.
Another way brands can do this by implanting blockchain systems such as Aura by LVMH
which also enables customers to gain information about their products production, materials
along with other information such as product care instructions. These transparency measures
have little to no impact on the final design of the product and yet maintain the functionality of
providing information to customers. It’s important to note that, even if these systems are
effective, they are really expensive to implement successfully and thus cannot be adopted by
small or independent brands at the moment.
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Consumer perception
A very important factor which comes into play for brands venturing into wearable fashion
technology is market readiness and the customer stigma about adopting such products. The
thought of fashion blending with technology strikes some people as a sci-fi fantasy and are
often mistaken to think that wearable fashion technology is what we see in science fiction
movies or books. But the fact is that, its far more simpler that and those who understand this
fact adopt wearable fashion technology more conveniently. Unfortunately that’s still a very
limited consumer base. Looking at product launches in the past by brands such as Levi’s and
Google, we see that the customers don’t want products which are excessively complicated but
are rather easy to use. The Google Glass was cutting edge eyewear technology but failed to
capture the market even for tech savvy people. The prime reason for this is that the way the
product looked was far from ordinary eyewear fashion, and customers want to be able to
practically wear what they buy. The customers want their fashion products to look less scary
and more inviting rather than pieces of hardware. It could be argued that fashion is not always
practical and is sometimes designed to be associated with people who want to stand out but
in case of wearable fashion tech, this has been very contradictory.
As a fashion design student, in 2016 I created a collection of smart clothes which operated
with Arduino hardware and IOT functionality to produce illuminated effects on the fabric surface
of the garments. The jury which consisted of industry experts, who reviewed the collection was
puzzled with questions regarding the safety issues of wearing something with hardware
technology imbedded in it. I observed the same stigma with others who saw the collection. So
as consumers we are far from being ready to adapt clothing with infused hardware and
technology but when it comes to wrist based wearables, we are generously open to
possibilities.
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Evolution of technology
Most importantly the ecosystem of wearable fashion technology is influenced by the evolution
of technology itself. The wearable fashion tech market which is dominated by wrist based
devices at the moment was shy of fashion brands a few years ago. Even though the Apple
Watch launched in 2015 was criticized and there have been claims ever since that the concept
of computers as fashion accessories is a failed concept, we still see brands venturing into in
every year. In the past 2 years alone we have similar connected watches from Armani, Louis
Vuitton, Puma, Diesel and many more. These brands are leveraging the availability of
technology to find new ways to innovate their product range. Advancements in 3D printing and
social awareness about environment issues has led to sportswear brand adidas introducing
their first ever mass market 3D printed shoes, which was never thought of years ago.
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6. Limitations
Fashion brands are trying to find the right balance between fashion and functionality but so far
significant progress has been made relatively only in wrist based wearable accessories. Other
product categories like textile based clothing have found very little success so far. And as for
wrist based wearables, most of the market is dominated by products which focus on health
and fitness. In fact the progress in textile based wearable tech is also based around athletics
and fitness. Fashion houses including luxury houses despite having vast plethora of resources
don’t venture into this.
Technological know-how
The primary problem faced by fashion brands today is lack of technological know-how.
Sportswear brands excel in product research and hence are able to develop ground up
solutions to innovate in products. As we observed previously that fashion houses turn to tech
companies to incorporate technology in their products. Often brands manage to develop
conceptual prototypes for runways or PR but fail to get it past the prototype phase because
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they also require a whole new production line and infrastructure which is adapted to the
purposes of manufacturing the specific product. The brand’s existing workforce also needs to
be trained and updated in order to adapt the new wearable tech products into their production
lines. All of the above factors are often too much for designers and independent brands,
especially when they follow a strict seasonal fashion cycle. These technological enhancements
cause a setback in terms of finances which can only be implemented by majorly established
fashion houses.
Hardware limitations
The present day technology in terms of hardware is possibly not enough to achieve the
desirable results which often leads to brands compromising on aesthetics in order to achieve
functionality. Hardware refers to physical elements of equipment which are integral part of the
product.
- Power Source
Powering the wearables requires energy which could be from a direct source or could be
harvested from external sources, which again requires a place to store energy inside the
wearable. A major challenge posed by brands here is batteries of powering units. The
limitations here can be size of the battery, the capacity of the battery or the power output
provided by the battery. For example, if we were to design a jacket such as the Ralph Lauren
Polo 11 which has heating functionality, there has be a portable power source which powers
up the jackets functions. Additionally the power source should have enough capacity to power
the jackets functions for a desirable or sufficient period of time. Powering it with a heavy battery
would compromise on the ergonomics and comfort criteria of the jacket which is a core factor
for many consumers when they buy and fashion product. For these purposes smart energy
management solutions are needed to be developed within a practical budget. This is often a
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big challenge for fashion brands since their core business doesn’t involve innovation in
technology pertaining to products. When Tommy Hilfiger launched their solar panel jacket, they
incorporated flexible panels on the jacket shoulders. Though it was a good concept, it was
received to be aesthetically unpleasant due to the solar panels, since they could not develop
an energy harvesting technology from ground up, they were compelled to integrate existing
options in the market, which led to compromise on the fashion factor.
- Flexibility and bulk
Flexibility in hardware components such as sensors or circuitry is also a limitation. Even in
sportwear the components need to embedded discreetly and at the same time should have
enough flexibility that they don’t interfere or hinder the athletes body moments. This is one of
the reasons why health monitoring is very limited in apparels.
Product costing
While innovation and technology infrastructure is important, when it comes to retail, the final
product costing plays a major role. When Nike first launched its Hyperadapt 1.0 sneakers in
2017, they were priced at $720 which is a really high price for a sneaker. However after 2 years
they managed to make a second version of the sneakers in improved functionality which is
priced less than half of first version. Developing an infrastructure for fashion tech products
requires changes in existing chain and innovation in materials. There are so many
stakeholders involved that the final price of the product is often not viable. This is also one of
the reasons why brands struggle to push the products past the prototyping phase. The
economies of scale only work if the products are produced in really large numbers but
experimenting with large quantities for a wearable tech product can only be confirmed after
assessing its initial market success. Taking such risks are often not possible for designers or
small fashion brands which limits them into experimenting.
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Brand heritage
Brand heritage and DNA also have an impact on innovation and product development. Luxury
houses who have steadily built their legacy and identity over decades have fixed principles
and introducing new methods of complexity to make wearable tech is often opposed. New
alternative methods in production lines and prototyping phases require altering the existing
design blueprints which have been carried on from decades. Attempts to radically innovate or
change is stopped by the long standing brand heritage.
Market readiness
Market readiness is a factor which stands as a common factor for every fashion brand even if
they don’t venture into fashion tech wearables. This has been true since the early 2000’s when
Levi’s launched their ICD jacket which was not well received by customers and was abruptly
stopped. The product was for tech savvy people who were comfortable with hardware
technology being part of their everyday fashion choices. We saw similar case with Google
Glass a few years ago. The spectacles which were trying to be pushed for everyday use, but
ended up being a failure and was eventually shifted to exclusively B2B sales. The aesthetics
of Google Glass was very unconventional, which was a major factor which opposed customer
acceptance. Along with that the thought of having a computer which sees everything that the
customer sees raised a lot of privacy concerns and created a stigma in their minds. What we
can acknowledge from this is that consumers want technology in their everyday fashion but
not at a cost of compromise on aesthetics. They want products which look like ‘normal’ without
any ‘scary’ technology. Fashion tech jewelry startups like Ringly managed to accomplish this
with their products but were not able to find success because of their dependency on other
factors in the ecosystem.
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General Data Compliance Rights (GDPR)
General Data Compliance Rights (GDPR) also come into play when we have technology in
sync with fashion. Current generation of wearables are dependent on external ecosystem such
as mobile applications and data inputs etc. in order or function. In recent years there have
been issues with data collection regulations on major social media platforms such as
Facebook. These issues have increased consumer awareness about the data which they
share with brands. Consumers, themselves want to choose what they want to share with
brands. In this scenario, wearables which record audio, visuals or location cause a stigma to
users about the extent to which their data is safe and private. When Snap Inc. , the parent
company of the popular social media application Snapchat, released their eyewear which could
capture, video and photos, the consumers were not sure about the product because of already
ongoing GDPR issues with application. Only 0.08% of the total Snapchat users purchased the
Spectacles, of which only 50% used it after the first month. The limitations in data collection
also impacts the brands in marketing their products because a lot of free business rely on data
collection in order to function and tightening of GDPR laws has seen death of many free
services.
The fashion and technology ecosystem which is essential for development of wearable fashion
tech has made the products dependent on external factors. The ability of wearables to function
without dependency on applications IoT and hardware like power sources is unprecedented.
The brands also have to work on systems and applications to support their products. This is a
limitation for both brands and consumers. ConsumerLab report published by Ericsson in 2016
highlights that users want wearables which are independent of connectivity to smartphone and
other devices.
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Fashion cycle and offering
Wearable tech has track record for successfully failing because most of the time they fail to be
part of the fashion cycle. Project Leader at Google ATAP Jacquard, Ivan Pouprev stated that
it’s very rare that fashion, technology and innovation come together under same roof to work
together towards a common goal. The wearable fashion tech products are designed with
specific intentions and functions which highly effects it aesthetics and is often not appealing to
the mass market. The design process of wearable fashion tech is much more extensive as it
requires collaborations between multiple exoerties like fashion designers and technology
experts who have a different work process. Further these products require additional phases
like testing materials, fits, hardware durability, software compatibility and efficient assembly.
All of this takes more time than creating a standard fashion products which brands create every
season. So the rate at which such products are introduced in the mass market is much lower
than the standard seasonal collections which brands manage to do every season. And when
the products are successfully developed, they are often very limited in terms of fashion offering.
While normal fashion products have multiple options in terms of colors and fits, the wearable
tech product don’t offer similar freedom in terms of fits and colors.
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Lack of clear use case
With a cluster of products today focused on fitness and health, there is no such clear use of
wearable technology in fashion. While interviewing a consumer who wanted to buy a new
watch for himself, I suggested buying a smartwatch. The consumer opposed to the idea of
buying a smartwatch stating that he doesn’t understand any clear use of a smart watch apart
from fitness and health perspective. The products also cannot counter complex use-cases like
people with disabilities. Keiran Kern a user who is uses wheelchair reported that even a proven
wearable like Fitbit failed to capture moments for her.
UK based shirt maker DressCode launched a utility cuffed shirts called Cash Cuff which lets
users make payments via the cuff of the shirt. But in order to activate or de-activate the cuff,
the user has to make changes in a partner app. Which is essentially same efforts as using a
debit card. CashCuff defines a clear use but requires extra efforts to use the product itself like
activating, washing and ironing cautions and security issues. This makes the product less user-
friendly and does not incentivize consumer enough to make a purchase.
Because of multitude of these reasons, the brands fail to create viable products which are
relevant to consumers today. Some factors limit them from venturing into the concept of
wearable technology, while other factors become a limitation when it comes to acceptance of
the product in the mainstream market. And eventually wearable tech struggles to find its place
in the mainstream fashion industry.
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7. Enablers
Though wearables have a consistent history of failing, reports published by various institutions
suggest that, the wearable sector is still growing every day and will continue to do so in the
coming years. According to forecasts by GlobalData based in UK, the wearable tech industry
is set to grow at a CAGR of 19% in next 3 years and will reach the market value of $54 billion.
Reports by MarketsandMarkets INC. also suggest that the market value of wearable fashion
technology is set to expand to $56.8 billion in next 5 years. Similar claims were published by
other sources such as Global Market Insights Inc. who also emphasized that the wearable
fashion technology market is set to double between 2017 and 2024. The developments in
technology and fashion industry point towards and enormous growth in wearable fashion
technology which beyond wrist based devices.
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Raw materials - Value Chain
To understand the growth of wearable fashion technology and smart clothing it’s important to
understand the value chain of the whole process. For smart clothing which is set to achieve
the highest growth, we can divide the value chain into 3 stages mainly :
1. Raw materials
2. Integrators
3. End consumers.
Looking at the raw materials stage, there have been major leaps in the development of raw
materials mainly in the domain of fibers and fabrics, sensors, conductor and actuators. These
developments have enabled designers and brands to explore further in wearable tech and
create products at either prototype phase or market ready.
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- Textiles
Emerging smart textiles will play a key role in the future of wearable fashion tech, particularly
textile based clothing. Smart textiles or smart fabrics are fabrics which are engineered with
embedded technology and are able to perform certain functions and do more things as
compared to traditional fabrics. These functions can be gathering data or taking command and
inputs to reacting as per given actions and environment. These fabrics provide additional value
to the wearer and the product. These textiles can be further be segregated into two categories
which are :
(a) Based on performance
(b) Focus on aesthetics.
(a). Based on aesthetics
Smart textiles which are focus on aesthetics can perform function such as changing color or
form factor as per inputs provided. Canadian designer Ying Gao created dresses using
photoluminescent threads with gaze activation sensors. The dress has can follow a viewer’s
eye and change patterns on the surface according. This is a good example of how
advancements in raw materials and integrators come together to make fashion. SKIN research
project by Phillips is also another example of how fabrics can produce visual effects on the
surface. Their series of experiments from 2006 has resulted in them creating a commercially
viable luminous textiles which are capable of changing colors as per commands given remotely
by the user. These textiles have found successful integration in interior design segment and
will soon find their way to mainstream fashion. Similar attempts were made by the designer
Zac Posen when he revealed an illuminated dress at MET Gala 2016. The fabric of the dress
had luminescent fibers woven into it. There were limitations in terms of weight and comfort
since the dress was powered by 30 battery packs, thus not making it a commercially viable
product. There hasn’t been much exploration in smart textiles or materials which are focused
on aesthetics, which is something brands should consider more while keeping the practical
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use case factor in mind. The use of these wearable are currently limited to red carpet events
or shows and haven’t been incentivized enough to be part of the mainstream consumer market.
(b). Based on performance
In terms of performance or function based textiles and materials, there have been more
developments when we compare it to textiles based on aesthetics. Because this performance
based clothing and accessories have found more success in consumer market. These fabrics
can perform various functions like body mapping, monitoring body vitals to producing sound
or regulate body temperature. Though these fabrics have not found their place in mainstream
fashion market but they can be extensively used for sports, military and athletic performance
clothing. Another range of performance textiles are which can release chemicals such have
anti-bacterial properties or fabrics which an moisturize wearers skin. These functions have a
more chances of finding a place in the mainstream fashion and have been adopted up to an
extent by some brands previously. More practical use of these smart textiles can be seen in
fabrics which shield RFID or electromagnetic waves. These have been used in mass market
to create products and accessories which can add incentives to any fashion product. For
example brands have used these fabrics to make pockets which block RFID and EMF waves,
which reduces chances of personal data theft from cards through RFID skimming. Though
these made their way to commercial fashion, the practical use of these is still gimmicky and
have been claimed by experts as solutions to problems which don’t exist. Truly innovative
solutions are can be seen in athletics and performance sports which brands like Adidas and
AIQ making breakthroughs. AIQ Smart Clothing makes clothing solutions for athletes and
sportwear fusing stretchable conductive textiles which can receive bio-signals, which can help
monitor athletes vitals and performance. There has been no commercial availability of these
products but they are a successful proof of concept for future brands who will venture into this.
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Levi’s and Google have been able to successfully collaborate for Jacquard project which uses
smart fabric with built in touchscreen like sensibility. This has been successfully implemented
on Levi’s jackets to perform everyday smartphone functions through sleeve of the jacket which
acts as input interface. Due to its efficiency in cost, aesthetics and non-invasive design, the
concept can be translated to other fashion products like shirts, handbags or dresses.
- Hardware and parts
Other raw materials or core materials which have seen rapid development in last 10 years are:
(a). Sensors,
(b). Conductors
(c). Actuators
Technological developments in these segments have directly contributed to the development
of new forms of wearable tech specially accessories and textile based clothing.
(a). Sensors
Sensors are devices which can measure or detect physical indicators in clothes or accessories.
Fitness trackers have made good use of sensors in past 7 years with introduction of Pebble
and Fitbit. Brands like Adidas started developing monitoring system for athletes which uses
embedded sensors in a training vest to monitor athletes performance and they have
successfully implemented the system for football teams across the world.
(b). Conductors
Technological developments like advanced conductors which are embedded in the fabrics aid
sensors to work and communicate efficiently. Advances in conduction and sensors will
eventually make wearable fashion tech look more acceptable. Conductors, actuators and
sensors are shirking in size as technology progresses and this enables them to be imbedded
in a more discreet way which is aesthetically acceptable to consumers from a fashion point of
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view. Conductors in textiles have evolved over time and have shifted away from traditional
wires. These conductors can be in form of textiles or fabrics made by conductive yarns.
Alternatively they can be in form of conductive ink which be used to conduct or regulate heat
or inputs from sensors and many other functions. Alternatively it could be a mix of conductive
yarn and ink. These allow manufacturers to create printed electronic circuits which eliminates
all bulk and can be applied to work with sensors, touch screens or practically any electronic
which needs to be embedded. Companies like DuPont have further introduced stretchable
electronic ink printing which can be integrated into standard manufacturing process. Brands
like Wearable X have made optimum use of these technologies to produce technical yoga
wear which provides yoga guidance to the wearer though it’s embedded sensors.
(c). Actuators
And the final element at the root of the product value chain is the actuators. They can perform
mechanical functions using any form of energy given. Designer Hussein Chalayan used
actuators to mechanically morph his garments which he showcased in shows in early 2000’s.
Actuators can be used for by designers in couture shows of even by retail brands. Use of
actuators in retail can be illustrated by looking at the self-lacing shoes by Nike. Their product
development in self-lacing shoe series was also synonymous with advancement in actuators
over the years. The first version of the self-lacing shoe was very bulky and was launched in
limited quantity. The 2nd version dubbed Hyperadapt 1.0 was in a regular sports show form
factor because of a compressed actuator mechanism which was used to bind the laces
automatically. While the 3rd version is set to launch next year (2020) is slimmer as compared
to the current version.
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Integrators
The second stage of the value chain which contributes to enabling the growth of wearable
fashion technology today is the system integrators which mainly consists of manufacturers and
assemblers. The fashion brands today excessively rely on their manufacturers to an extent
that their products are based on the technology available currently in the market. And rightly
so, it’s not possible for every brand to create their own systems, assembly and technology as
it requires large sum of monetary investment and time. Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, Associate
Professor at Pratt Institute quoted that good brands first design their product and then build
systems and manufacturing process around it. A good example of this is Apple and Project
Jacquard. Fortunately in last 20 years we have seen fashion brands and technology giants
working together to achieve this by creating processes for manufacturing and assembly
processes tailored for their products. In November 2019 we saw consumer electronics
company Huawei launching eyewear by collaborating with eyewear brand Gentle Monster.
This is yet another example of successfully sharing resources to venture into wearable fashion
tech domain. Collaborations and partnerships between fashion and technology agents is a key
factor which brands should look out for while developing products.
End consumers
And finally at end consumer stage, presently the consumption is beyond the retail consumer.
The product penetration can be both for business and commercial purposes. This gives more
potential to the development of products which can cater to consumers. Companies are now
rethinking products and services which were once purely for B2B uses. DuPont Intexar Heat
was developed as a heating technology for enterprises which require heated clothing such
armed forces. In 2019 we saw the use of same technology entering mainstream fashion with
Ralph Lauren Polo 11 heated jackets. The technology is marketed to transform existing
clothes into smart clothes and can be seamlessly integrated into standard manufacturing
process. The consumers are also starting to demand more from their clothes and
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accessories which has led to more brands exploring this domain. In a survey conducted with
over 200 people across France, Malaysia, Singapore, U.S, India & Australia, over 50%
participants responded that they are likely to purchase wearable tech fashion in the coming 5
years. There is a significant rise in the demand and acceptability of wearable fashion tech
which is key factor in enabling growth of this business.
Tagging and connectivity
Outside the product value chain, the increased use of Bluetooth, NFC and RFID for everyday
purposes has enabled brands to integrate these in fashion products. These technologies are
relatively easy to use and are seamlessly integrated into our everyday devices like
smartphones, TV’s, Home Automation to Automobiles. This enables the brands to rethink
everyday products by integrating these technologies to perform certain functions. Increasing
use of smartphone is a fueling factor for the wearable fashion tech industry. All the fashion
tech products in the market are supported by smartphone applications and practically useless
without them. A study conducted by Deloitte in 2019 indicated that there has been significant
increase and growing interest about use of smartphones and applications for everyday
purposes by Generation X, Y and Z. The consumers also expressed interests in voice assisted
technologies and use of Internet of Things (IoT). These technologies and consumers interests
open a broader spectrum for brands to experiment in and create products which fit into this
ecosystems.
Internet of Things (IOT)
Internet of Things or IoT is a massive enabler for brands venturing into connected clothing.
The idea of IoT has been around for 20 years but has gained awareness in last 10 years and
is rising in terms if use every day in the industry. The IoT ecosystem consists of Internet,
Sensors and Output devices. These could be practically be linked with anything around us.
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With IoT consumers can be granted extended control over their clothing and products. IoT acts
as a mediator in blending physical world and the digital world. IoT greatly impacts fashion and
lifestyle industry with two aspects again focused on function and fashion. Athletics and fitness
products have the highest rate of penetration by IoT and will continue to do so my consumer
demand. On the other hand accessories and fashion good such as clothing, bags , eyewear
etc. are just entering into this field with designers using IoT to create runways attractions. IoT
is a considerable factor for both tech companies and fashion brands. From a technological
perspective, wearable tech is the evolution of everyday technological devices. And from a
fashion perspective, wearable fashion tech is the evolution of clothes into something which
can do more. IoT enables digital fashion and is also revolutionizing the way brands do retail
business. From production to retail, IoT has managed to find seamless integration the fashion
industry. Companies like Neue Labs based in Sweden help brands by providing a proprietary
technology hardware and software which are linked by IoT. This enables brands to prototype
products using IoT based sensors and devices.
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital fashion
Rise of digital fashion and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is leading to fashion beyond physical
objects. 2019 saw debut of digital fashion with a digital dress selling online. Which leads us to
new possibilities of consumer behavior in fashion industry as it’s slowly moving away from
‘fashion’ in traditional sense. Along with this, artificial Intelligence is being used to create
fashion which will replace the job of a traditional fashion designer in the future.
Incubators & Accelerators
Incubators and accelerators along with tech labs today are playing a major role today in
reshaping fashion. They are growing in number and are often breeding ground for a perfect
combination of fashion and technology. These places provide resources and expertise in terms
of equipment, expert industry insights, finance and even work stations. These support systems
encourage ideas to turn into viable business models or products. They are also good places
to collaborate or share resources between fashion and tech entities. These places are open to
experts and students both, giving them an opportunity to immerse into the possibility of
venturing in wearable tech. It’s also equally interesting to see fashion schools educating their
students about the possibility of venturing in wearable fashion technology. Microsoft teamed
up with London College of Fashion to work with students to develop scalable ideas. Sensitizing
students about possibilities of fashion and technology working together will lead to more
creators in this domain.
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8. Why Do Brands Venture Into Wearables?
Despite all the factors illustrated above from both enablers and limitations perspective, the
wearable fashion technology is still at a nascent stage. Brands still showcase and release
products every now and then even when they are not exactly commercially viable or user
friendly. There are several reasons why brands do this.
Publicity and buzz
Launching a wearable fashion tech product breaks the cycle of the traditional product and so
it gathers a lot of media attention. Products like smartwatches from luxury brands in past years
have received a lot of attention and have led other brands to follow. Even if the products are
not commercially ready they still stand as a proof of concept and garner lot of media and public
attention. This generates more awareness about the brand which directly contributes to more
chances of their products being discovered and making more sales. Tech fashion has always
proven to be a successful runway spectacle with designer like Hussein Chalayan & Iris Van
Herpen leading the way as forward thinking creators of fashion which transcends boundaries
of fashion and technology. Even though their couture masterpieces cannot be worn by
consumers, they still stand as an idea of fashion for future and surely generates enough buzz
to drive their business successfully.
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Market testing
The fashion tech products launched by the brands today are also a way to test the consumer
market in order to develop more precise products in the future. These initial launches help the
brand reshape the products for future and stand as a proof of concept. Through these products
they also understand the possible success of launching a fully serviceable wearable fashion
tech product in the market. Most importantly, these products give them a new strata of clientele
to cater to. It’s no mystery that generation Y and Z are obsessed with technology and internet.
Brands today understand the value these consumers can bring to their business and so they
launch products which may get attention from these specific customer segments. In past 2
years luxury brands like Saint Laurent, Armani and Louis Vuitton have launched products
ranging from connected backpacks to portable chargers. These products don’t showcase their
craftmanship or their identity but it makes them part of the group of brands which are moving
into the future and are catering to the technological needs of the consumers today.
Reinventing the brand
Luxury houses today want reinvent themselves radically and stay in the race of being original
and innovative. Technology is the core of innovation and luxury houses use it to rethink their
products and services. Wearable fashion technology is their way of staying relevant in the
modern world while maintaining their heritage values and so we see luxury houses
experimenting with products fused with technology to send a message about them being
synonymous with innovation.
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9. Vision for the Future
What would wearable fashion technology or fashion altogether look like in the future when the
boundaries of fashion and technology are merging every passing day and fashion is moving
beyond fabrics and convention materials? This can be imagined predicted by observing the
current trends in fashion on micro and macro scale.
The vision of future for wearable technology in the mainstream fashion industry is much simpler
yet more functional than devices which monitor vitals or reactor to the wearers surrounding. It
will be a combination of several elements of the technological and the fashion ecosystem
ranging from IoT, hardware, integrated production techniques, advanced materials and a
consumer community which enables all of this.
Technology for sustainability
According to reports by Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the consumers lose over $460 billion in
value worth of clothes every year because of the clothes that are discarded but could have
been worn more. And 87% of these end up in landfills. This raises a lot of sustainability issues
and also gives us an insight on the consumer mindset. They want specific things tailored to
them which they will continue to wear. And if discarded they would have minimal impact on the
environment. Fortunately presently we have technologies like 3D printing and body scanning
to create precise products which can cater directly to needs of the customers. Adidas and
Carbon Inc. identified this and introduced 3D printed shoes to masses which can be disposed
at end of life without any consequences on the environment. This technology can also be easily
be used to produce custom printed shoes on demand in the future. And it will cater to
consumers in mass market. One can imagine the importance of these technologies and
concepts in wearable fashion tech as it makes the consumer more comfortable in purchasing
the products which at the moment don’t seem inviting to them because of lack of options in the
market.
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Use of AR. VR and MR
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) will change the way
consumer shop. There is a possibility that the fashion in the future will be consumer led rather
than designed by professional fashion designers. We already see examples of this when mass
market companies offer customization in their products. Potential customers who are not
convinced by the aesthetics of the wearables which exist today will be able to customize their
wearables and see what they look like in real time through AR and VR before actually
purchasing them. This will make the wearable fashion technology more inviting.
Digital fashion
2019 has seen rise of digital clothes being sold online, this leads us forward to possibility of
seeing digital clothing and collections in the future which are free from limitations of technology
and fashion. The video game industry, which is the largest entertainment industry today
already consists of concept of digital clothing where players spend millions every year on
character skins and clothing. It won’t be surprising to see fashion brands capitalizing through
this for digital fashion. This would be a new take on blending the elements of physical world
with online content and has already been a proven success through AR and VR which are
finding more uses in fashion industry.
Bio-mimickery in fashion
The merger of fashion, biotechnology, IoT and artificial intelligence can lead to reshaping the
boundaries of fashion. The fashion can develop functions which we see in nature such as
changing colors, self-healing of fabric surfaces or reacting to the environment around with help
of IoT sensors. Athletic wear can go beyond just monitoring vitals and can develop properties
such as protecting the athlete. Clothes will become an extension of the wearer with ability to
think on their own and perform cognitive functions. The proof of concept for these functions
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has already been explored by designers along with computing giants like IBM and Intel. At the
moment there is no scope of these concepts going beyond the prototype phase and so are
only limited to red carpets and runway shows. But as technology progresses the possibility of
these coming to mainstream market will increase.
Transparency
Greenwashing and sustainability are issues that have been on the rise and have been actively
preached in reports by Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Co. in the past 2 years. Infusing
physical products with blockchain technology which will leverage use of IoT can lead to more
transparency in these issues. It’s certain that the requirement of wearing clothes is never going
to change but as the science materials and technology progresses, the composition of clothes
is going to change. IoT connectivity of clothes can be a key factor in educating and reassuring
the consumers more about the clothes they wear and their authenticity. Blockchain and IoT
together can be a leading factor is digitizing the fashion of tomorrow and can the solve the
problem of counterfeiting and give more control to the both brands and consumers.
End of ownership
The rental model is becoming increasingly popular and will eventually dominantly reduce the
ownership of clothes. Digitizing fashion with technological elements can again play a major
role here. Digitized fashion can convey details such as ownership history and subscription
details. This adds an ‘ease of use’ factor to the fashion products without having effects on the
aesthetics or being invasive.
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Big data and e-commerce
Data and analytics is reshaping the fashion industry and is a factor of consideration in every
decision a brand makes. Consumer data is helping brands predict shopping patterns, sales
numbers and the way consumer think. Big data and e-commerce are changing the way
consumers shop online. With the digitization of clothes and their connectivity with internet,
clothing and fashion accessories is going to become yet another way to harness consumer
data and use it for further research. The extent to which the data will be collected is going to
be limited by GDPR issues but it’ll be really beneficial for brands in understanding their
consumers and even possibly use the fashion products as mediums of advertising. Until now
data was harvested from applications and websites but with wearable tech the brands can
generate a constant feedback loop as the clothes are always worn by the users. This will help
also help in creating better designs and improve the existing functionality.
Community building
Addition of technology to fashion products can change the way we interact with clothes and
lead to development of newer business models utilizing these clothes with embedded
technology. Smart clothing can be used to build communities around the brand with the
products as an objective to keep them together. Smart clothing can be used to connect like-
minded people to do similar things which they believe in. This is possible with clothing which
people wear every day and not with fashion products which have occasional use.
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10. Market Opportunities
Rise in wearable technology opens new opportunities for in the fashion industry, which are
more than just the product itself. These opportunities can affect the way products are designed
in terms of functionality.
Customer experiences
With new forms of wearable fashion tech products flooding the market every day, the brands
now have an opportunity to use those products to create new customer experiences which can
keep the customers attached to the brand after sales or for services.
Revenue models
The brands now have an opportunity to develop new revenue models around their product
which can be advertising third parties or partners in some ways or having subscription based
functionality through their products. The product itself can act as a medium to avail the services
which the consumers can use as per the subscription models set by the brands. This also
gives freedom to the consumer to adjust the level of functionality they require which creates a
clear use of the product for them.
Media and community
Wearable fashion technology products paired with social media can be great tools for brand
advocacy where consumers can feel they are part of a connected community. This offers more
visibility to the brands online which could be a significant factor in boosting both awareness
and sales.
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Brands which have direct access to consumer usage data like health and fitness brands at the
moment can use the data to synthesize data based story telling. Recently Spotify created
custom stories for its users which consisted of a short recap of their music choices and history
of the whole year. This was further shared by the users on social media which was a great way
for Spotify to be in the buzz. Fashion brands now have opportunities to create similar statistics
based stories or campaigns for consumers and the brand itself.
Customer services
Wearables could also become an extension of the brand to provide customer services. The
customers who will buy wearable fashion tech products will invest time, money and personal
data into the product. This should help the brand to develop better services for the customers.
For example British Airways introduced ‘Happiness Blankets’ in 2014 in their flights which have
neuro sensors and fiber optics embedded in them. The blanket monitored the mood and
psychological state of the passengers on the flight which helped the cabin crew provide tailored
services and assistance.
Fashion products infused with technology can increase efficiency, productivity and
engagement for B2B businesses as well as B2C customers. This stands true across several
industries and not just fashion. In health and fitness there is scope to achieve more accurate
diagnosis and medical information. Smart clothes can provide seamless engagement with
media and devices which we interact with every day to provide better experiences. Even in
retail wearable fashion technology products can provide a more integrated shopping
experience by combining things such as faster payment methods and precise targeted
advertising.
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11. Customer Segmentation
When wearable fashion technology was initially launched, it was only adopted by researchers
and early adopters who liked experimenting with technology, and had no association with the
fashion factor. After that it was accepted by consumer segment who was concerned about
health and fitness. Jutta Fortmann, a human-computer interaction expert (2015) says that
these segments are no longer true but has become acceptable by the mass market today.
According to a study conducted in 2016 by Accenture in United States, the adoption rate of
wearable fashion technology is similar in both men and women, which can possibly indicate to
the fact that gender is not relevant segmentation criteria when it comes to wearable fashion
technology products. They also found out that the higher rate of adoption was amongst parents
as compared to the rest of the population.
There have been very few instances in literature which have talked about consumer
segmentation in wearable fashion technology. What can be derived from the existing literature
is that the customers can be classified according to :
1. Their use cases:
The classification as per use cases can be segmented into : health and fitness,
productivity and entertainment, safety and security and fashion factor.
2. Their age:
The customer segmentation targeted as per the age groups, can dominantly divided
into two categories, one which is 16 34 and other is 35 and above.
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The principal use cases can be linked to age groups where the age group between 16-34
mainly prefer wearable technology for health, fitness, entertainment and fashion factor.
And the age group of 35 and above link use cases to productivity, safety and fashion factor.
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12. Understanding consumer needs
To infuse fashion and technology in the right balance in such a way that neither of them over
powers each other, we must first acknowledge the consumer needs and the extent of
acceptability for goods with technology hardware infused.
To understand the consumers acceptance and requirement’s better, a survey was conducted
across France, Malaysia, Singapore, U.S, India & Australia with over 200 participants. The
survey aimed to understand the perception mainstream consumers have towards fashion
technology products and what do they expect from a fashion technology product.
Perception
Over 50% of the participants relate wearable technology with clothing and accessories which
make their life easier while over 40% participants think of smartwatches and activity trackers
when it comes to wearable technology. This is possibly because of the fact the current market
predominantly consists of mainly smartwatches and activity trackers which are marketed
extensively. We also see that the consumers want the products to be an extension of
themselves and products which they utilize every day.
Awareness
Around 37% of the participants were not aware of any wearable technology products available
in the market from fashion brands. A major portion of these participants were also fashion
designers and people who worked in the fashion industry. Apart from this almost 28% of the
participants were unsure if the product they know could be classified as a wearable fashion
technology products. This data shows that there is not a clear communication and indication
by the brands when it comes to marketing their products infused with technology. Participants
who follow specific fashion brands up close were also unaware of wearable technology
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launches from the respective brands. The fact that around 28% of the participants are also
unsure of what could be wearable technology product point’s to the fact that, the consumer
perception of fashion and technology together is still not very clear and needs to be simplified.
Ownership
In terms of ownership, 44% participant’s said that they owned a wearable fashion tech product.
Out of these over 90% of the products owned were smartwatches or fitness trackers. This
again hint’s at the popularity of these products and are widely accepted even though they were
termed as an industry failure.
27% of the participants claimed that they are very likely to purchase a wearable fashion
technology product in next 5 years followed by 24% more participants who claimed that there
are chances that might make purchases. That makes over 50% of the participant’s expressing
their interest in purchasing wearable fashion technology products. This data also shows the
rise in potential business for wearable fashion technology in next 5 years and also increase in
acceptance of such products which are more than just clothing or accessories. Less that 11%
of the participants were reluctant to make purchases in the next 5 years which a good indicator
that the acceptance for fashion products with technology will significant rise. It’s also interesting
to see that 25% of the participants were neutral about their decision, which could be possibility
for brands to introduce more interesting products based on the current market availability.
Purchase interests
Majority of the participants (around 59%) expressed their interest in purchasing wrist based
wearable technology products which was followed by 45% of the participants also expressing
to purchase textile based clothing. The interest in purchasing wearable technology products in
the domains of eyewear and footwear was also expressed by over 40% of the participants.
This points to the fact that consumers are interested in purchasing and trying fashion
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technology products which are not just wrist based. Textile based clothing, eyewear and
footwear are closely appealing to the consumers and brands can leverage this fact to explore
more in these areas, rather than just wrist based devices.
Limitations
The major factor which stops the participants from purchasing wearable fashion technology is
the pricing, which time and again has proven to be very high. High pricing along with an
experimental product reduces the consumer interest. Second most dominant concern which
was expressed by 31% of the participants was lack of clear use. This points to the fact that the
functionality of majority of the products in the market today is a gimmick of some sort and does
not connect with the consumers wanting to purchase the products. Privacy concerns like data
collection was the third most dominant concern followed by safety and hardware issues with
battery and sensors embedded in fashion products. From the product development aspect,
the consumers don’t want to see sensors or batteries and other hardware which control the
functions. These aspects should be absolutely embedded in a non-invasive way to make the
product look seamless with technology.
The participants, on basis of just aesthetics were asked to choose what they are likely to
purchase amongst eyewear from Bose (Frames Alto), Snap Inc. (Spectacles) and Alphabet
(Google Glass). The result was that 64% of the participants opted of Bose potentially because
of the fact that they look like regular wayfarer design. While Spectacles from Snap Inc. and
Google Glass were equally opted for at just around 16%. This means that consumers don’t
want the aesthetics of their products to be too flashy or futuristic. Close to 5% participants were
open to all three ideas, which points to the amount of experimental and fashion forward
consumers we have in the consumer base.
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Sustainability
Only 20% of the participants believe that the issues of sustainability can be solved with
wearable fashion technology and over 51% of the participants believe there is a possibility in
the future.
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Expectations
Specifically focusing on clothing, majority of consumers want their clothing to have fitness and
health monitoring functions which currently operate through wrist based devices. This suggests
a good shift of functionality from wrist to clothes. Closely up next over 55% participants
expressed interest in seeing clothing which caters to their comfort and every day uses like size
and temperature regulation. Consumers want wearable fashion technology which they can
actually use every day and not something which they can opt for occasionally. Closely 46.5%
want safety and security features in their clothes which is again an indicator of expectations of
practical functionality. The overall results illustrate the fact that consumers today want
wearable fashion technology products which are practically functional with a limited focus on
aesthetics, up to an extent that the product looks ‘inviting’ and does not attract excessive
attention.
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13. What can brands do to expand into this domain?
Focusing on the problematic, which is, what can brands do to successfully expand into
wearable fashion technology in this scenario to create a product which is true fashionable?
It’s important for brands to understand the right balance between aesthetics and technology
integration in such a way that it does not disrupt the usability of the product or makes the
product look less inviting.
Moving away from wrist based devices, the brands should start focusing on making clothing
smart. This does not essentially mean that the brands should make clothing with embedded
bulky hardware and sensors which use battery packs to function.
The brands should focus on digitizing their existing products to make them ‘smart’ or
‘connected’. While transitioning into wearable fashion technology, developing a completely
new assembly line which caters to those products can be very expensive, time consuming and
requires expertise which is only possible for brands which are established.
Brands which are don’t have a heritage backed history or are not owned by conglomerates
should focus on creating right partnerships.
Pricing is the primary factor which stops consumers from purchasing wearable fashion
technology. Extensive research based product development along with bespoke assembly
lines for products results in high price points.
The brands need to define clear goals of what product can do:
1. To reduce steps or ease everyday tasks.
or
2. To provide additional functionality which can be accessed without compromising on the
usage of the original product.
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By taking this ‘use case’ based approach, the brands can cater to the consumer needs more
precisely. This encourages the brands to design the product first and then build assembly
systems and look for partners. Leveraging the existing developments in IoT and hardware,
brands can make existing products do more for the wearer.
Looking at the market scope outside health and fitness, majority consumers today don’t want
a complex product which they can’t understand. It’s important for brands to integrate
technology into products which consumers use every day rather than something which one
uses occasionally.
The evolution of everyday clothing with integrated technology can give brands and opportunity
to create a community around the product rather than just monitoring health and fitness vitals.
The brand can bring it’s consumers together through the product, by using the product itself
as a medium of communication.
Experiences are something which go beyond sales and products. Consumers today want to
experience things rather than just ownership. It’s no longer sufficient for brands to offer just a
product. Consumers need extensive services which enrich the experience of owning the
product of even being associated with the brand.
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14. Evolution of clothing Connected Clothing
Denim is a product which represents democracy in the world of fashion. How can one make
something like evolve through technology while maintaining its original use?
Practical idea of a connected fashion product development illustrated through industry case:
Mud Jeans based in Netherlands is a sustainable and fair trade denim brand who is certified
by B Lab, Cradle2Cradle, Peta Vegan, Nordic Swan and many other certifications. They focus
on creating circular denim from post-consumer denim waste and organic materials. Apart from
this, their main business focus is to end the ownership of denims, which is why they encourage
leasing denims to their consumers through their ‘Lease A Jeans’ program. They are the world’s
first and the only company to do this. Their consumer strata is focused on a sustainable and
cruelty free lifestyle and are engaged in activities which focus on similar things.
How can a brand like Mud Jeans can use modern technologies in their product to enrich their
customer experience to a new level without altering their perfected design?
The brand needs to re-think the existing products to be connected products which enables the
brand to do more with its products and manage a two-way communication with the brands
customers which keeps them engaged even after the sales have been made. The main
stakeholders in this ecosystem will be :
1. Tagging technologies NFC, QR, RFID
2. Ethereum a ledger protocol for blockchain
3. Cloud platform for back end development and updates
4. Mobile application for users/community
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During the production, the jeans will be tagged with NFC tokens which are made of
polyphenylene sulfide (PPS). This ensures wash resistance after sales. The brand should
prefer using NFC over RFID or QR codes because NFC cannot be duplicated which also gives
more authenticity to the brands unique products. Alternatively, they can also print a QR code
on the product which is a more sustainable option and can be scanned by phones which don’t
have NFC feature. Note that these hardware injections do not affect the aesthetics of the
product and add more functionality at same time.
Using open source blockchain developer platforms such as Quorum, the brands products are
linked to a Ethereum based distributed ledger giving each product a unique identity. All the
products are linked to authentication certificates which are uploaded on the brands cloud
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platform. The brand has control over what it wants to show to the customer when the products
are scanned.
The products will be scanned through exclusive Mud Jeans app. Upon scanning the user gets
an access to the certificate on the platform which can convey the authenticity details product
scanned. Since Mud Jeans has a system of leasing jeans, the scan also provides user with a
complete history of ownership along with an option to manage the current subscription.
The brand is the only one who can modify the content on the back end, they can send exclusive
offers and invites to their closed community of consumers who lease their jeans. The
consumers only get access to certain offers and invites by scanning their products. This
essentially makes their product a ticket or pass to enter exclusive events or invites organized
by Mud Jeans.
This also allows the brand to use its products to communicate with its customers by sharing
details about the production process through media which is only accessible upon scanning
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the product. This is very essential for the brand because their brand philosophy and product is
very much connected to the way they produce. Additionally they will also be able to share
product care instructions and product compositions without use of extra tags.
Mud Jeans can also offer exclusive loyalty programs through their products, where the
consumers are given tasks to perform every week, upon completion of these tasks the
consumers get certain perks from the brand like small discounts, offers or event invites. The
tasks can be distributed through the product which is accessible by scanning the product. For
example the tasks can be related to creating content for social media which features their
jeans.
On the back end, the brand has the access to analytics which they receive from the consumers
phone, which gives the brand opportunity to push tailored ads from third party partners or
suggesting other brand products.
In 2014, Nintendo launched the ‘amiibo’ system, consisting of physical toy figures which when
scanned with their console devices gave the gamers additional items and benefits in the games
they played. The scans were limited to 1 time per day. A case study conducted earlier in 2019
on cross media play with amiibo figurines suggested that, these perks engaged the gamers
more the in game and over 64% of the gamers who owned these figures scanned them every
day with compatible games. (The Internet of Toys: Practices, Affordances and the Political
Economy, 2019)
This new ecosystem of connected clothing uses technology to transform the brands products
without losing the brand philosophy or compromise on their aesthetics. The jeans are a
communication link and a potential reward system, which makes the customer more attached
to the brand and also makes them return to the product again. This also increases the potential
of brand advocacy for a brand like Mud Jeans who does not advertise anywhere at the moment
and is solely reliable on social media and word of mouth.
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15. Further implications
The idea of connected clothing illustrated in the previous section can be easily to adopted by
the consumers with a clear use indication and balances the functionality without altering the
fashion factor or the original product usage.
By moving towards connected clothing, we also benefit from economies of scale and have
minimum impact on the existing assembly line of production.
The product is transformed into more than just an article of clothing which the consumer will
wear ; it’s an exclusive access to a community of people and lifestyle. The illustrated system
essentially blurs the lines between physical product and it’s connection with the digital world
with cross media practices.
To further advance on the idea of practical connected jeans, I will be joining the team at Mud
Jeans in 2020, where I will have an opportunity to develop the idea to a prototype phase and
eventually contemplate the possibilities of implementing it commercially.
It would interesting to see more brands progress into making clothing connected with their
selection of products. Ultimately, we will have an opportunity to change how a consumer will
interact with their jeans in or any other article of clothing in the future and offer brands new
growth and development opportunities in the future.
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16. Conclusion
It’s no longer sufficient for brands to offer products which are just fashionable. In order to truly
innovate and breakthrough, the brands need to adopt use of functional technology along with
their products, which is essentially wearable technology. So far wearable tech or tech infused
clothing has failed to catch on to the mainstream fashion industry because of constraints which
are beyond the fashion industry alone. It’s now crucial for fashion brands to expand their
horizons and collaborations outside fashion industry in order to understand practical
technology implementation which can overcome the limitations of costing and bulk. The brands
must understand that consumers don’t necessarily want complex products which are limited
to wrists or accessories. It’s time the brands move away from wrist based devices and sports
focused smart clothing. The wearable technology of the future needs to be part of the products
which the consumers can use every day rather than just occasionally. The new avenues in
wearable technology and connected clothing do not have to be complex products which are
embedded with sensors and are input methods. The new generation of wearables can be
connected clothes which function as a medium of communication between brands and
consumers. The clothing of the future can be a way to build communities and be the new
medium for brand advocation. Along the way, it’s essential for brands to take into account the
issues of sustainability and consider use of technology for solutions.
The right balance between fashion and technology can be answered by making fashion
connected rather than making fashion ‘smart’. In order to balance the acceptance of the
functionality introduced in the fashionable products, the brands should shift their attention to
something which majority of consumers can relate to along with ease of use, rather than
something which is focused only on a niche consumer group.
The question which still prevails is that, clothing will always find a way to be fashionable, but
will technology keep up with it and be fashionable along the way?
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Reference images
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18. Appendices
Survey results
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Questionnaire
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Ayush Singh
IFA Paris
MBA Fashion Business
2018 2020
ayush.singh@ifaparis.com
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We report on a study of fashionable people"s expressions of opinions on mobile phones in online fashion media, such as blogs and magazines. First, the study contributes to our understanding of the role of pragmatic philosophy, which is now dominating HCI both as a guide for design and as a guide when looking at social practices, in outlining the role of aesthetics in experience design. Fashion practices diverge from this theory, since here aesthetic appearances can be visual, ambiguous and incomplete although it still provides a lot of meanings for people. We argue that our findings should influence the discussion in HCI to consider a less theoretically oriented aesthetic approach, where instead empirical studies get at the forefront. Second, the study provides valuable insight on how we should design mobile experiences to attract more attention from people interested in fashion. Mobile phones, and their services, can for example be designed to relate to the visual appearance of the dressed outfit, or ensemble of a person.
Article
Many wearable devices provide public visual surfaces with possibilities for endless variation of aesthetic expression. Fashion designers should be included in the making of software and services to leverage these new expressive possibilities. Fashionable wearable services and software could interact with people's clothing ensembles in the future. The physical proximity of mobile and wearable devices to other artifacts needs to be recognized as a new context.
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