Stacey Burr is not just any Google recruit.
As a newly minted executive, she brings both fashion and tech cred to her role as vice president of product management for Wear OS and Google Fit.
Burr brings 18 years of experience in the wearables, fitness and apparel space to the tech company, and some well-known names dot her résumé. She ran Adidas’ digital sports and wearables initiatives, founded smart clothing start-up Textronics and led Dupont’s North American Ready to Wear Apparel business.
If anyone understands the junction of fashion and wearable technology, it would be her.
WWD caught up with Burr recently, and in her first interview with the press in her new role, she shared her thoughts on fashion’s influence on wearables and the consumer experience, the role of fitness and what she’s most excited about in her new gig.
Why Fashion Matters In Wearables
Stacey Burr: How fashion and more traditional industries think about some of the challenges in embracing innovation and technology — it’s been an interesting journey for wearables, smart fabrics and the integration of technology on the body. And I think much of it is because what we put on our body, what we put on a wrist, is such a cultural representation of who we are, how we identify ourselves and how we want people to see us.
It’s a very intimate choice and around what we wear and what we choose to put close to the skin. And I think that’s been one of the historic challenges in wearables — wrist devices in particular, because it is something that we put on us and wear for long periods of time. And it does have to meet all those consumer expectations of comfort, of fashion, of style as well as performance.
On Innovation and Supply Chain
S.B.: I was just doing some reading a while back and learned that this is the 150th anniversary of the first wristwatch. It was, I think, 1868 by Patek Philippe. And I was thinking that’s like the O.G. wearable right back there. And the platform has continued to evolve over 150 years. But the risk has always been a showcase of the latest and greatest in technology, and I think that’s still continuing today. One other aspect that is also a very interesting challenge for wearables as well as, as clothing for that matter, is around supply chain.
When you have traditional industries that have had a supply chain in place or a way of producing the product for a long period of time…when you bring innovation into that, it’s often a real challenge for the new sensors and new technology to fit into the supply chain in the way that it needs to, in order to be produced efficiently. And I think that has also been one of the stumbling blocks, but one that we’re now addressing. Now that infrastructure and vendor and supply chain are in place to bring these products forward with efficiency.
The Need for Brand Partnerships
S.B.: That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about being with Google and the way that they’ve approached wearables. The Wear OS partner ecosystem of, not only fashion brands, but consumer electronics brands, luxury brands, sports brands that have looked to Google on the Android platform to bring innovation into a space that has been evolving over the last 150 years. [I’m excited by] how we’re making room for that, for other brands that are focusing on consumers with different needs and different segmentations — you know, bringing them a product with their own unique brand flavor that lets us broaden the offering to reach more people.
The bottom line is you really can’t or shouldn’t compromise any of those consumer expectations around style, fashion, price point, comfort. You need to meet all those expectations and provide all the benefits on top. It could be the health and fitness benefits, it could be the connectivity benefit so that all of your technology nicely integrates.
What Google Brings To The Table
S.B.: In the case of Wear OS, we’re trying to bring that connection between you and glanceable information that you’re getting in convenient bite-size doses, at the right place and the right time. Bringing things like Google Assistant onto the watch platform, so that you are getting personalized assistive support through the watch is another way to bring convenience to your life.
The user interface changes have recently brought the Google Fit app and the fitness experience with move minutes and heart points to the forefront, so that it is also assisting you along your day.
I kind of think about these devices — traditionally we call watches “timing devices” — and in many ways that’s so appropriate, even as technology comes in. Because obviously we’re telling time with the device. But we are bringing features and capability and an assistive innovation onto the wrist to help you manage and make the most out of your day and time, with the information that you’re looking for in the moment.
We’re helping you use your time well, certainly with the health sensors running in the background, or helping you optimize your lifetime over the longitudinal direction of your years.
It’s kind of fun to think about saving seconds in the moment, and saving lives and years on the long-term horizon.