Euro 2016 provided the ideal backdrop for Wearable Experiments’ founder Billie Whitehouse to debut her Football Fan Shirt in Europe.
Her European tour also included an Adobe-sponsored discussion about melding design and data with Stefan Sagmeister at the Cannes Lions Festival. Still in the midst of business meetings, Whitehouse said Wednesday that she will soon be off to Manchester, England, to meet for some “interesting conversations about football” with teams and brands she declined to name. Whether Wayne Rooney and his Manchester United teammates will soon be collaborating with We:eX (and subsequently pitching in with their 75 million social media fans) remains to be seen.
Sensory technology embedded in the sports apparel transmits real-time game action to the fan by sending haptic vibrations as tackles, saves and other key plays occurring on the field. Adobe hooked up We:eX with a booth at Cannes Lions from June 20 to 25. Whitehouse’s smart sports apparel may have provided the impetus for her trip, but the experience is leading to all sorts of insights about branding. Her talk at Cannes with Sagmeister centered on “the experiential and design, and going forward what does that mean in terms of what kind of data do you use and how does that impact somebody’s environment,” she said. “For Adobe, it’s not necessarily directly about their brand. It’s about having their brand involved and how designers use their brand. I do use their products on a daily basis, but we don’t particularly partner with them just yet.”
Sagmeister, cofounder of Sagmeister & Walsh, said Thursday he has done projects with Adobe in the past and hopes to do so again, perhaps in the beauty sector, which is being discussed in general terms.
While Adobe does not have formal sponsorships with any fashion designers, the company aligns itself with creatives who are using Adobe products in interesting ways on a case-by-case basis, according Bryan O’Neil Hughes, head of outreach & collaboration across the creative cloud ecosystem.
“We work very closely with the folks who educate other people. We’ll look at how our tools are used in all these different ways and who are the experts in these various fields. In meeting with the experts, we will look at how we can make our products better and how to help people use them better.” he said.
In France, the wearables designer also did Periscope talks for Twitter Fashion, LinkedIn and P&G’s Always. “It was interesting that less of the really big media brands were overtly present other than The Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal or News Corp. But Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube are now the big players in this space of user-generated content. That was really fascinating. It’s not a dictated voice by any particular person. It’s really a democratization of information, which is an interesting switch. Partnering with brands who care about how the people think and feel, and putting the data in the power of the people is always really interesting to me.”
While many apparel companies might balk at the offer to collaborate with a P&G personal-care product, Whitehouse gained from the decision. “That P&G brand is really supportive of young women. The questions they asked were interesting. ‘How do you think you are forging your own rules?’ ‘What sort of messages do you want to leave for young women who aren’t necessarily starting businesses but who are in this space?’ That was fun,” Whitehouse said.
Willingness is now a business-building tool from her point of view. Referring to this week’s excursion to Manchester, Whitehouse said, “There’s not one really set way to work in this industry at this point. There are so many different ways. We meet with many people and then we select who we think is actually interesting to work with after that.”
In “a deep dive” for the next few months to launch the Fan Shirt at retail, Whitehouse said she has been putting the finishing touches on iOS and Android apps, electronics and embedding everything in the apparel. In addition, developments about We:eX’s Nadi yoga pants will be revealed during this fall’s New York Fashion Week.
Some of this momentum is due to We:ex’s new Sri Lanka-based strategic partner. Whitehouse declined to identify the group, which has also invested in other wearable companies.
“There is a huge value in them having watched other wearable tech companies scale and/or change. There is a huge data play for a lot of these wearable tech companies,” she said. “It’s really interesting how the health and wellness space is being shaped by a range of these data companies, and then who is being acquired by pharmaceutical companies. That sort of information they have deep access to whereas we have sort of surface level. Their relationships are 10- to 15-year ones. They’ve been managing start-up brands for years.”