Silicon Valley’s Fashion Dilemma

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With the movement toward wearable technology already in full swing, Silicon Valley faces one major problem: fashion. Companies like Google and Apple who are hoping to capitalize on wearable tech are struggling with the line between practical and fashionable.  “Silicon Valley has this misconception that if the technical feature is well-built enough, consumers will lap it up, no matter what it looks like. This is not the case”, said founder and CEO of London-based Kovert Designs in an interview last month. For example, Google glass is a revolutionary technology, but many find it foolish looking or cumbersome. To address these issues, a growing number of tech companies are beginning to collaborate with fashion houses to focus on design first.  Ayse Ildeniz, the vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices group, said in an interview with Entrepeneur.com that, “Wearables are arguably the most personal technology we’ve seen. As such, we believe the fashion and design industry should be in the driver’s seat.”  Intel has already partnered with retailer Opening Ceremony on smart bracelets and with Fossil for another upcoming project.  Tory Burch has also joined in on wearable technology, introducing bracelets for the Fitbit Flex sleep and activity tracker in her signature prints.  Google has turned to fashion as well (somewhat unsuccessfully), partnering with Diana von Furstenberg for “Made for Glass”, an attempt to make Google glass more appealing.  Apple, it seems, is not far behind, as reports this week suggest that Apple will hire new fashion-focues staff with luxury fashion backgrounds to launch their new Apple watch, which is scheduled to be released this spring.  The gold version of the watch is rumored to cost $5,000, while the regular watch will start at $349.  Apple’s PR department has already placed the watch on the cover of Vogue China, and reportedly they are taking it around the world to give fashion designers a closer look at it for potential deals.

2 thoughts on “Silicon Valley’s Fashion Dilemma

  1. Apple pays attention to fashion with its laptops and (less distinctive) phones. Since part of the value of (say) a smart watch is as a status symbol, then must it not stand out visually? So fashion, yes, but if it’s too much in line with other things then no one will notice. The challenge is to be edgy and be noticed without being seriously ugly. That I suspect will be quite hard to do.
     
    One example is the Prius. Among hybrids, it stands out visually. Most (virtually all) others are different only under the hood so unless you can spot the model logo on the trunk, you’d never know it was a hybrid. Yet one of the functions of buying a hybrid is to make a statement about your social & environmental conscious. So while it may have been unintentional, the ugly proportions of the Prius [chosen for aerodynamic reaasons] do make it stand out, yet it’s not so seriously ugly as to be a non-seller. And among hybrids, the Prius is the only one that has sold in reasonable numbers.

  2. I’m sure the brand recognition with some of these designers won’t hurt either. People over pay for logos all the time, and justify it with, “It’s higher quality.” But can technology have the same appeal of mechanical purity? A watch that functions spectacularly on strictly mechanical means seems to be a real inflection variable between expensive and unreasonably expensive watches. And there’s something classy about watches that technology seems to lose. It would be cool to see these things take off, but they appear only less cumbersome than phones with no additional functions. Further, they don’t have the same allure that I think all men (half the market) look for when purchasing their first watch.

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