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Wearables: style and substance

Despite certain wearables in the past receiving a poor reception from the upper echelons of the fashion industry, fashion and tech brands continue to collaborate and wearables are getting a stylish recharge.

You only need to look at the latest offerings from the likes of WiseWear’s collaboration with Iris Apfel or the pairings of Topshop and bPay and Omate and Ungaro to see that wearables are evolving from ugly ducklings to swans.

There is no doubt that creating wearables that are fashionable and at the same time functional are a challenge to create and understanding your target market is key to your product’s success.  Gone are the days of bulky, gimmicky items; even USB sticks are getting an upgrade from Belkin with its stylish USB leather tassel which looks like a nod to Anya Hindmarch’s tassels. And this is why collaboration between tech and fashion companies in respect of wearables has the potential to be so successful:

  • the fashion brand can ensure that the aesthetic of the product fits with the target market, whether you’re looking to develop a high end luxury item or reflect new trends from the catwalk , while the tech company can focus creating a product which gives real value to the user, be it fitness and sleep tracking or keeping on top of emails; and
  • collaborating with a well know brand brings with it a certain level of credibility in a different market.

Despite the benefits, both fashion and tech companies need to be mindful of the challenges that come with collaborating. These could be practical issues such as:

  • how lead times in technology and manufacturing fit with the turnover of fashion trends;
  • how feasible it is to combine high-end materials such as gold or gemstones or a particular design with the technology you’re working with;
  • what the appropriate price point is; and
  • whether the product really enhances the consumer’s everyday life enough to make the item timeless.

Fashion and tech collaborators need to take into account reputational risks when considering collaborations and to mitigate such risks, fashion tech innovators and collaborators should, from the outset, be asking themselves:

  • Can my fashion or tech partner create something with anyone else in this field?Collaborators should be asking their partners whether they will be collaborating with anyone else. For products to gain traction in the market, it may be preferable to ensure that each party does not collaborate with any other competitor to obtain joint brand recognition and entrench the products in the market but also to give each party the ability to bring out new models or upgrades with the same aesthetic appeal and ethos.
  • How do we monetise our contribution to the project? The first thing that fashion and tech companies will need to do is identify what each party is bringing to the table – whether that is design, manufacturing, tech know-how, sales and marketing or PR and an after sales care team. As part of this, the parties should be asking how their respective inputs tie in to their respective financial compensation packages. Will one party be taking on the bulk of the process including manufacturing, advertising and sales? If so, should that party receive the bulk of the revenue from the sales and other party get a commission based on sales or will each party take an equal share but contribute equally to the inputs and costs?

Despite previous misgivings, consumers continue to gravitate towards wearables but getting consumers to adopt wearables as a fashion and lifestyle choice is the tough part. Collaboration is key to increasing consumer uptake, creating products that are seamlessly intuitive and which fit with consumer’s fashion choices will firmly entrench wearables in the minds of consumers as purchases that are simultaneously stylish and necessary.

Disclaimer: This article is produced for and on behalf of White & Black Limited, which is a limited liability company registered in England and Wales with registered number 06436665. It is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The contents of this article should be viewed as opinion and general guidance, and should not be treated as legal advice.

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