How Can Wearables Win Over the Fashion Industry?

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Topshop Wearables
Image source: Digital Trends

With Apple seemingly determined to push the Apple Watch into fashion territory by collaborating with the likes of Hermès, it would be easy to think that wearables are only set to rise in the ranks of the fashion world. Thus far, however, most attempts at ‘stylish’ wearables have fallen flat, with common complaints being that they’re too gimmicky, impractical or simply unattractive. But in a new partnership with Barclaycard’s bPay, Topshop has created a line of accessories that utilise contactless payment technology and – most crucially to the style-savvy consumer – look current, fun and unassuming all at the same time.

The collection of small accessories, which includes smartphone cases, key rings and wristbands, each contain a bPay contactless chip. This is linked to the owner’s bPay digital wallet, meaning they can securely pay for items by just tapping their accessory on a contactless payment system.

It’s the design values that make this fashion-tech collaboration so appealing: instead of overcomplicating the tech elements (which seems to be a one-way route to gimmickry), Topshop and bPay have focused on creating a product that appears markedly non-tech-like. Those who consider items like the Apple Watch to be unattractive or out of their price range could easily be swayed by the unobtrusive nature of a colourful Topshop x bPay phone case, sticker or key ring. Perhaps the best way to lure the aesthetically minded into the world of wearables is to make them a bit less wearable.

In an industry that tends to see high-end brands dictating trends to the high street – the lower end of the fashion food chain – it’s interesting to see Topshop approaching the relatively unchartered territory of wearables, demonstrating more savvy than many luxury labels. Perhaps the high-street giant’s main demographic, the younger generation, is the main reason Topshop has got it so right.

However, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen wearables designed for the fashion-oriented. Topshop’s gimmick-free accessories are in a similar vein to the NFC-enabled jewellery showcased on Henry Holland’s S/S 16 runway, which he reportedly designed with a “vain, fashion-conscious customer” in mind. “We’re at the stage where [wearables have their] own kind of recognisable look,” he told Wareable.com. “People have been turned off by it.”

Taking non-recognisable wearables to a whole new level, though, is Project Jacquard. Set to release its first lines in spring 2016, this brainchild of Levi’s and Google uses smart textiles – but not as we know them. The products are created with conductive yarns, which, once interwoven with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton and polyester, make for decidedly ‘normal’-looking fabrics.

Meanwhile, Kovert Designs’ jewellery pieces are wearables with a difference, designed to give users a digital detox. Kovert’s founder Kate Unsworth describes the smart jewellery as a “modern-day pager”, devised to eliminate the urge to check one’s phone notifications constantly, and instead just be notified about the incoming messages, calls and updates that actually matter. Kovert’s pieces resemble costume jewellery but are far from gaudy – these are beautifully designed items that could easily be worn from day-to-day without losing their appeal.

Reported by Grace Howard