Wearable Tech: Innovation or Gimmick?

Think of the term wearable technology, smart watches are probably the first thing to spring to mind. But is there more to wearable tech than just a mini phone or fitness tracker on your wrist?

Here we explore how high fashion is merging with high tech in some exciting new brand collaborations, and also question the desirability of wearable tech in the fashion industry, and whether these products are truly innovative, or just an unnecessary gimmick.

Smart watches have come a long way since the bulky 1980's 'TV watch' days. Luxury brands like Gucci, Tag Heuer, Fossil and even Swarovski are producing wristwear that envies the innovative Apple Watch but in a more fashion-forward way. However, the most exciting and press worthy new development in wearable technology is the Levi's Commuter Jacket.

This jacket was produced in collaboration with Jacquard, a new project by Google that allows touch and gesture sensitivity technology to be woven into a garment at the textile stage. The Commuter is a classic Levi's trucker jacket but specially adapted for the modern urban cyclist, so instead of reaching for your mobile phone, you can navigate and communicate straight from your sleeve. This certainly takes hands-free technology to the next level, and Levi's effortlessly cool aesthetic and casual comfort makes this wearable actually wearable.

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Another high-tech development in the fashion world is Nike's new self-lacing sneakers. Remember the space age trainers Michael J Fox wore in Back to the Future II? Well, sadly, they didn't actually work, someone was actually pulling a lever behind the scenes. But 20 years later, Nike's innovation department have made the self-lacing shoe dream come true with the new Nike Mags, which adapt to the wearer's foot throughout the day, creating extreme comfort and better athletic performance, but could set you back around $100k at auction if you want to get your own pair!

Google Glass is often cited as the key example of the marriage of high-end eyewear with mixed reality. Augmented meets virtual reality technology was basically a total failure. However brands like Topshop and Ralph Lauren are continuing to develop products that integrate fashion with technology, but for more everyday purposes, including contactless payment and fitness tracking.

Back in February, Fashion Fix Daily writer Grace Howard investigated 'smart bags', in particular, the new Rebecca Minkoff handbag that has in-built QR codes to connect to an app to enhance your shopping experience. You can read all about smart bags here and let us know what you think.

Aesthetic versus function has long been a delicate balance in fashion, from killer heels and super mini handbags to cut-away jackets and oversized fringing. We desire beautiful things, that usually serve no practical purpose. Perhaps the concept of wearable technology helps to bridge this gap. But will consumers ever truly covet a GPS jacket or wifi watch as much as a hand-crafted leather clutch or little black dress?

Let us know your thoughts!

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Ruth MacGilp, 20, UK. Fashion Communication Student and Fashion Blogger.
Edinburgh Website