Staying au courant with the latest fashions means not only being in touch but also being up on the latest tech. Wearable gadgets have recently made cameo appearances nearly everywhere, from virtual dressing rooms to GoPro camera-enabled runway shows to wired sports jerseys and jackets that help wearers navigate local directions.
Among the many fashion brands leading the charge are Wearable Experiments (We:eX), an Australian tech company that now has a U.S. presence, and Rebecca Minkoff, an American brand with a New York flagship store aimed at a digitally active female target audience. Executives from both brands presented at Brite ’15 Conference, a 2-day event in New York this week hosted by Columbia Business School’s Center on Global Brand Leadership.
The two women agreed: it’s about being in contact with end-users — both literally and figuratively. Emily Culp, Rebecca Minkoff’s SVP ecommerce and omni-channel marketing, said, “It’s touching all the senses; blending online and real worlds. But we don’t want to do tech just for tech’s sake.”
Billie Whitehouse, co-founder of We:eX, said, “Technology should be integrated and invisible. It’s digital to physical thinking and vice-versa, and we design for emotions in the digital age. Yet we don’t put tech before the human experience.”
Both brands detailed their recent innovative offerings and pending projects during the event.
“We design for movements and focus on a limited number of data points. As Australians, we also tend to take ourselves less seriously”, Whitehouse said.
- Navigate jackets: “Our Navigate jacket line (image above) helps wearers find their way”, said Whitehouse. The city-specific, location-enabled jackets have been introduced in Sydney and Paris, and We:eX partnered with Unlimited Magazine for the New York version, which will be available this fall. The wearer programs destinations into the jacket using a companion app, which then stores and uploads relevant directions. The jacket’s LED lighting and haptic vibrations will tell users where to turn by tapping their shoulders.
- Alert shirts: Whitehouse said “We needed to pull all the right strings” in reference to We:eX’s Alert Shirt. We:ex designed the tops in partnership with cable provider Foxtel Sports for fans to make them feel like they’re part of the game. Real-time sports data is transmitted using a smartphone app to the jersey’s wiring, and the shirt turns the data into sensations similar to those that players feel during games so fans can experience the anxiety before making a shot or the pain of a tackle (ouch!).
Culp said, “Our flagship SoHo store is wired by lots of smart technology. Our customers want to buy at any channel, and now they can even see what items look like at different times of day.”
- Interactive video walls and virtual fitting rooms: “We have connected walls in our SoHo location (above). Consumers can tap the looks they like and go into a virtual fitting room. Our mobile app stores the fitting room sessions to help users recall items they tried on. We also collect data and can determine the dressing room abandonment rates.” (It’s all optional, and some customers may opt for offline try-ons.)
- GoPro camera-enabled and virtual runway shows: “Recently we partnered with GoPro to do live screenings of our fashion shows”, Culp said. “Rebecca wore the camera, which followed her behind-the-scenes. A front-row attendee helped stream the runway show. This allowed the viewers to see the chaos backstage and all the quick outfit changes.” The brand also partnered with Jaunt, using special cameras to do 3D virtual reality runway shows, and those videos will be available within a couple months.
(First image courtesy of Wearable Experiments)
(Second image courtesy of Rebecca Minkoff)