In brokering the partnership between Google Glass and Diane von Furstenberg, Leslie Muller learned a lot about the experiment that she saw as “tech crashing into fashion” — namely, that a manmade object that sits on the face has to be beautiful and compliment the face. As colead of The Shop at VSP Global, Muller isn’t done working on tech-enabled glasses, and she credits Google Glass with “punching a hole in the wall.”
Muller was speaking on a panel at the Shoptalk conference devoted to wearables that included Ringly chief executive officer Christina d’Avignon, OMsignal chief marketing officer Shaz Kahng and Intel vice president Sandra Lopez.
The all-female panel discussed the current and future climate of tech-enabled clothing and accessories, and shared challenges they faced, along with advice for retailers.
The design, unsurprisingly, is often a sticking point, said d’Avignon, who shared that she started with a “smart” ring because she knew that something that small would be the hardest to create — not the least of which was because it forced the jewelry and electronics manufacturing worlds to meet in the middle, and because as Ringly was designed to look like jewelry, it abandoned any buttons or screens that are typical of electronics.
Ringly isn’t the only example of a departure from the wrist in the wearables world (although the company did recently expand with bracelets). Muller discussed more eyewear projects with sensors built into the frame, and OMsignal’s Kahng discussed the usability of the smart bra. (The jock strap, she said, was yet to come.)
“When you put things on your body, it means you should be partnering with the fashion industry,” Intel’s Lopez said. “It’s not about creating wearables, but wantables.”
As wearables continue to diverge from the aesthetics of tech devices, women continue to drive the surge. OMsignal is jumping on that trend, Kahng said, with a smart bra that measures activity, breathing and cardio. Women, it’s worth noting, have been driving the growth in activewear for the past decade.
The panelists agreed that when creating a wearable tech-enabled apparel or accessories item, brands are advised to shy away from gimmicky effects — or pink and glittery designs — in favor of the opportunity to make the wearer’s life easier with simplicity and sophistication.
“Wearables are such a shiny object right now, but what problem are you solving?” Muller said. “People will try them, but three months later, it goes in the drawer. Once you solve that, it’s not just the object you are selling. You are selling the commitment, the relationship.”
D’Avignon added that retailers should better explain the products. “For a lot of us,” she said, “they look like clothing and accessories, but they do something different. You aren’t just buying jewelry, you’re buying the experience.”