Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

Wearables: Upping The Fashion Factor

Wearables have been around for quite some time now, be it in the form of the quintessential smartwatches, fitness tracking bands, or even some unorthodox wearables such as rings or bracelets. While the onus has been on improving the functionality for all this while, a growing trend is becoming obvious: manufacturers have got the functionality game right, and they’re now focusing on improving the overall aesthetics.

The last one year has seen a lot of wearables being launched from some big names in the business, and all of them have one thing in common: the focus on design language, aesthetics, form factor and overall fashion sense has improved dramatically. Bulky smartwatches have made way for sleeker designed watched which might almost be unrecognisable as a technology device at first glance.

In this article, I talk a little about the trend that has been making its presence felt in the wearable sector: Wearables for fitness, functionality, and more obviously, fashion.

TRENDS – IN NUMBERS

The wearable market has been constantly growing for the past few years. I’ve already covered wearables extensively in my previous articles, and it is worthy to note that wearables have been actually growing at rates more than that of smartphones in the last couple of months.

If one were to look at the trends in terms of market values, then the numbers speak for themselves. According to an estimate from Statista, the wearable device market value is expected to grow to about $8.86 billion in the next year, and will further grow to about $12.6 billion by 2018.

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(Data Source: Statista)

And that’s just the wearable market. Delve a little more into the details, and one would see that the wearable shipments for specific categories have also been on the rise, with the major contributor coming in the form of wrist wearables. The trends will continue growing, as is evident from the graph below.

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(Data Source: IDC)

Why are these statistics important? Well, they all hint at the wearable market gaining more ground and a larger consumer base in the time to come. This further strengthens the argument in favor of big corps doing all that they possibly can to bring the attention of the consumers towards wearables. And the sure shot way of doing this is to improve upon the fashion factor!

TRENDS – IN FASHION

Addressing the main issue of this topic now, wearables have certainly seen a lot of improvements in terms of their design languages. Classic smartwatch factors have evolved from bulky and heavy designs into sleek, inconspicuous and fashionable form factors. In fact, trackers are now becoming more popular as fashion accessories too, rather than just stand-along tracking gadgets.

Just recently, Polar announced the Polar Loop Crystal – the latest in its fashionable wearable catalogue which features thirty Swarovski crystals within stainless steel bands. And this isn’t the first time Swarovski was roped in to improve the design of a particular wearable – they’ve done it before with the Misfit Shine too, which is revealing a key trend: Wearables are eyeing the fashion accessory market as well.

Talking about smartwatches, 2015 has seen a lot of smartwatches being launched by some of the biggest names in the tech industry, and most – if not all – focus on improving the design aesthetics from their respective predecessors. Right from the LG G Watch Urbane – which focused on bringing in a classy design to a smartwatch, to the Huawei Watch, the Moto 360 v2.0, the Pebble Time Round and the Samsung Gear S2 – all of them are hoping to catch the eye of fashionistas and tech aficionados alike.

Bracelets are another growing form factor in the world of fashionable wearables, with devices such as Opening Ceremony MICA and Cuff bringing in fashion to technology.

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The Misfit Shine

Moving away from wrist wearables, we have pendants and rings – which not only track the key parameters of the wearer – such as heart rate, activity or sleep – but they also look great. Notable examples in this case include the Bellabeat Leaf, Ringly, Altruis and the Misfit Shine – which all come in non-wrist-wearable form factors.

BIG COLLABORATIONS

Tech corps are leaving no stone unturned in incorporating fashion within their wearables, and this is evident from the collaborations that we’re seeing. Swarovski, like I’ve mentioned before, has been associated with two wearable corps as of now. The leather straps of Moto 360 is from Horween – which incidentally is also building leather straps for the Apple Watch.

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Tony Burch’s Design Leak

Designers are also getting involved in the wearable sector. Tory Burch is one such designer, who made headlines in 2014 when it was rumoured that she would be designing exclusive wearables for Fitbit.

There’s also the Apple Watch with leather straps that have been designed and manufactured by Hermes. While obviously a tad bit more expensive than the regular Apple Watch, it offers more aesthetic appeal and a premium look as well.

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INEXPENSIVE PLAYERS

All this talk of design and fashion factors would suggest that companies are building wearables for the more affluent and stylish, however that isn’t exactly the case. We’ve seen inexpensive wearables from Xiaomi, and the Mi Band too has some dedicated leather strap editions which are harping on the fashion factor, while at the same time retaining the inexpensive chip that every first-time self tracker loves.

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The Mi Band with a leather strap.

Travel slightly north of the price bracket that the Mi band falls under, and we’ll see the Mira bracelet – a jewellery-ish wearable which provides motivating messages to the wearer through the day.

GROWTH FACTORS

Key growth factors for the popularisation of fashionable wearables can be envisioned in the form of:

1. Tendency of companies to woo their customers in a market where competition is increasing like never before.

2. Introduction of a cream level pricing strategy for more exclusive wearable products.

3. Kickstarter and other crowd funded campaigns which launch designers into the mainstream arena with the help of wearables.

All in all, we’re seeing wearables becoming more fashionable than ever. The trend was present for smartphones as well, where we saw a plethora of unique designs, and the future for wearables – in terms of design aesthetics – might be expected to be quite interesting!

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