Last month’s WEAR 2016 conference in Boston was full of interesting insights by a variety of experts in the wearables field. The highlights for us included, of course, our founder Liza Kindred’s talk about the values we should use to build wearables, as well as the women in wearables panel that she moderated. She had a wonderful group of women in the panel that included Monisha Perkash, CEO and Co-Founder of Lumo Bodytech; Stacey Burr, VP General Manager at Adidas; Francesca Rosella, Creative Director at CuteCircuit; and Jesse Asjes, Assistant Professor of Textiles with Rhode Island School of Design.
Here are some specific insights we heard from experts in the wearable tech field.
Stéphane Marcue // OMsignal
Stéphane Marcue, Co-Founder and CEO of OMsignal, discussed how the notion of smart apparel is not new, but he posed the question, “Why are there not more of us wearing smart clothes?” Roughly one in five Americans are using a wearable tracking device–and women were the first to adapt to Fitbit and the Nike Fuel Band. Stéphane mentioned when it comes to apparel, “the number one secret about the wearable consumer: She buys fashion first.” He believes things need to be re-designed for women from the ground up. Getting the right product is the challenge for smart apparel and OMsignal is tackling that problem head on by creating the Om Bra. (Trivia: it took 1,683 prototypes to get to the bra that they have now!) OMsignal hopes to change the way people use and wear smart apparel.
Francesca Rosella // CuteCircuit
Francesca Rosella of CuteCircuit spoke about how Haute Couture can translate into ready-to-wear fashion, sportswear and workwear. One of the first products they developed was the hug shirt. If someone has a hug shirt, a friend could send them a hug from anywhere in the world.
CuteCircuit followed the hug shirt project with an exclusive collection for Selfridges with hand embroidered LEDs in 2007–nicknamed “magic fabric.” The LEDs change color based on a person’s mood. Their first collection for New York Fashion Week was for AW 14/15, and they presented the collection with an accompanying app on a user’s phone that could control the garments. Currently CuteCircuit is focusing on making a quality fashion product that incorporates technology (which we are excited to see!)
CuteCircuit’s hope with their venture into ready-to-wear is to change the ecosystem of how a garment is created. In addition to clothing they have developed handbags and shoes with software that can activate both the accessories and other clothing pieces a customer may own. The next project they have on the horizon is a partnership with EasyJet. They are redesigning the uniforms for the cabin and ground crew using light, microphones and sensors to help build a communication system. These features also allow the crew to work hands free without an external light source with air quality sensors. [Editor’s note: check out our blog post on CuteCircuit here.]
Dr. Amanda J. Parkes // Manufacture NY
Dr. Amanda J. Parkes is the Chief of Technology and Research of Manufacture New York. She shared some difficulties that fashion is facing when incorporating wearables. One of the biggest obstacles is that fashion designers aren’t trained engineers and engineers aren’t practiced designers. There are different expectations coming from each side of the equation and finding a cohesive way to design a garment can prove to be challenging. Amanda said the next biggest problem is trying to fix “21st century problems with a 20th century industry.” She notes: “We can’t just keep trying cheaper and cheaper places to manufacture.” We need to focus on creating the infrastructure needed to build quality products that are usable, relevant and fashion forward. She closed with her expectation that in the future “fast fashion should work like Snapchat.”
Hugh Herr // MIT Lab
Bionic Design professor Hugh Herr from MIT Lab spoke about the science of extreme interface. A major problem in the bionic world is the discomforted experienced by most people using wearables. His research focuses on eliminating that pain with body imaging, soft tissue modeling, and functional Cad/Cam.
He closed his talk with a provocative video by Viktoria Modesta. She was born with a birth defect that left her right leg barely usable. She spent much of her early childhood hobbling and being made fun of at school. In response to this torment she tried to convince doctors to amputate her leg. Viktoria began a lobbying campaign and five years later she was able to celebrate when she finally found a doctor that agreed to the surgery. She has since flourished into a pop artist exploring bionics and multimedia.
All in all it was some amazing content that spanned far beyond your basic wearable bracelet. Consumers have a lot to look forward to in the next few years!
Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables. Photos from WEAR 2016 flickr photo stream.