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Can wearable tech go mainstream?

“Darling, who are you wearing?” they’ll shout in Paris, London and Milan.

But in 2014 it won’t be Givenchy or Armani in reply, but Google or Apple. Wearable tech is being touted as the trend of 2014 — but can wearables really go mainstream and even become fashionable?

In many ways the tech world is already starting to mirror its fashion cousin. This year’s Consumer Electronic Show could easily be part of a fashion week.

Key trends have emerged — like wearable technology and the internet of things — in the same way that fur or floral prints might in New York.

Rather than sitting key celebrities on the front row of the catwalk, tech houses send them out to packed auditoriums.

Although, as Transformers Director Michael Bay learnt to his misfortune, it doesn’t always go to plan. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon at the same time, instantly making certain styles in vogue.


In Las Vegas, Pebble have unveiled a new, streamlined and more luxe smartwatch. The Pebble Steel updates the Kickstarter company’s success with a metal strap and Gorilla Glass, showing a new attention to aesthetics.

Sony have debuted the Core: a wearable, life-logging chip that will monitor your health, music and friendships by connecting to your phone via bluetooth. The chip’s key attribute is that it can be attached to different wrist straps that come in a variety of patterns and colours.

Sony have tried to get ahead of the tech pack by offering fashion and style. Unfortunately, it fails, as you are still wearing a small chip on a rubber band. It’s hardly a Rolex.

The big players

Apple and Google, which keep major announcements for their own events, have the most anticipated wearable products of the near future (even though we aren’t entirely sure Apple has anything to offer). Google Glass is framed in plain sight: thousands already have the product, testing it and giving their feedback.

But the upgraded version has become perhaps even less attractive. A detachable, drop-down earphone is more security man than fashionista.

It’s more difficult to critique Apple’s iWatch, especially as the design only exists via the rumour mill. Of course, the company will have major expectations to live up to in terms of style. Apple are widely believed to create the beautifully designed products. Whether that reign will continue may hinge on a watch strap.

Geek chic

Recently these companies have been courting — and capturing — members of the fashion community.

In 2012 Google Glass teamed up with designer Diane Von Furstenberg to record the model’s eye view of her show. She’s called the technology amazing.

In 2013, Apple headhunted the CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts and the ex-President of Saint-Laurent, Paul Deneve. These two big hitters in the fashion world may not be destined for design jobs, but their appointments (as senior vice president for retail and online stores and head of ‘special projects’) show how far tech firms will go to win over the fashion set.

Clumsy and ugly

But the problem remains that whilst wearable tech might try to imitate fashion — it isn’t refined enough to become fashion quite yet. Early iterations of products will be clumsy and ugly — because the tech spec must come first.

But this won’t matter. People will clamber to own the latest must-have gadget, and if they have to wear it on their face or their wrist, then wear it they will. As Vogue’s Google Glass shoot shows, products don’t have to look good to meet the fashion pack’s approval. It is enough that they are coveted.

For now, wearable tech is our answer to the emperor’s new clothes. Except, unfortunately, when you wear it — it will be visible.

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