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Decoded Fashion - Weekly Story - Ralph Lauren Polo Tech
Image source: Gizmag.com

With the hype over Apple Watch and Google Glass coming to define the wearables scene as 2014 draws to a close, it’s time to examine the industry’s trajectory and predict which trends are due to explode in the upcoming year (we’ll leave aside the inaugural selfie hat, for now). If beauty really is only skin-deep, it’s time to get up close and personal: commercially viable, truly technological materials are just around the corner. Sophisticated and scientific, here’s our pick of the most exciting developments in a material world.

Washable fabric circuit boards
With the most sure-fire way of identifying designer clothing still being those fatal three words, “Specialist-clean only”, one recent invention by engineers at Hong Kong Polytechnic university might be about to turn the standards of washability inside-out. The fabric circuit board (FCB), made of pre-stretched elastic yarn and polyurethane-coated copper fibre, has electrical wiring knitted in and can be worn, washed, folded and even shot with bullets. Stinky computer shirts, be gone!

Smart gloves
Need a helping hand? Awarded third place in Intel’s Make It Wearable competition on Monday, ProGlove is a smart glove more designed for industrial use than your below-freezing morning commute (hello, November). The glove can track the worker’s movements, heart rate, mood and productivity, as well as identify tools as the fingers touch them during the assembly process.

Under Armour
Founded in 1996 by former American football player Kevin Plank, Under Armour is the original game-changer in performance clothing. Trademarked technical fabrics for sports apparel might be fairly ubiquitous now, but UA are still making the news for their latest innovations – they timed last week’s launch of their latest running shoe, with soles made with the brand’s ‘Charged Foam’, just days before the NY marathon. Their Armour39 self-monitoring system combines a small Bluetooth LE-enabled pod in a distinctive chest strap, connected to an app, to track levels of exertion.

Ralph Lauren Polo at the US Open
Polo-branded wearable technology is here. A select few ball boys at this summer’s US Open wore tech “smartshirts” with biometric capabilities. In snug black compressed nylon, the polo shirts were developed by OMsignal and included conductive threads with a small snap-on module to relay health information to Bluetooth-connected iPhones or iPads.

Digital Skins?
The logical next step up from materials on the skin? Wearable tech that feels like skin. A new gen of start-ups are exploring wearable options that adhere to the skin like temporary tattoos or plasters – including MC10, a company based in Cambridge, Mass., who are currently testing ‘attachable computers’ that include wireless antennae, temperature and heart-rate sensors and a teeny-tiny battery. The infinite possibilities of the technology makes it equally exciting for health professionals as it is for style aficionados who are looking to combine fashion and tech through body art.

Our NY Summit will play host to material girls (and boys) in our panel discussion on Smart Manufacturing Transforming Fashion Today on November 18th: speakers will include; Bradley Quinn, Creative Director, Stylus Fashion; Sabine Seymour, CEO, Moondial; Dr. Amanda Parkes, Chief of Technology & Research, Manufacture NY and Francis Bitonti, Designer.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion New York will take place on November 18-19, 2014 at Metropolitan West. The full agenda can be found here.

This week brought news both encouraging and disheartening for women trying to break into the big business of retail. Better to have the bad news, first: Britain has fallen to 26th place in the Global Gender Gap Report rankings, the lowest score for equality since 2008. In more uplifting news, Management Today Magazine have named their top entrepreneur of the year – and she’s a she. Victoria Beckham, whose global fashion empire has seen a £30m turnover and sales growth of 2,900% in 2014, was praised for her “finely tuned business acumen” and lack of inhibition in an industry that, once, would have turned their nose up at the feminine half of brand Beckham. When it comes to the fashionable tech industry, a new gen of female CEOs are well on their way to emulating this high-profile success. With one eye to the growing wearable tech sector and one eye to e-tail, there’s never been a better time to be a woman at the top.

Our global summit on Wearables and Retail Innovation, ‘Interconnected’, comes to New York on November 18-19 – and, with it, a whole host of powerful female speakers who have either founded their own businesses, or head up teams at some of the most exciting fashion retail companies around. Ready to represent the wearables sector – currently experiencing an unprecedented growth – are speakers such as Francesca Rosella. Founding wearable tech company CuteCircuit in 2004 with partner Ryan Genz, Rosella’s designs show on schedule at New York Fashion Week and count Katy Perry amongst their fans. Proving that this wearables malarkey is as much about intellectual prowess as business acumen is Sabine Seymour, founder and CEO of consulting firm Moondial. With a doctorate and several publications on intelligent clothing under her (electronic) belt, Seymour’s academics have informed her working life: giving brands creative direction in the new, sometimes scary environment of truly networked retail.

Labels that have entered the wearable fold more recently include the socially driven Wearable Experiments, and electronic jewellery start-up Kovert Designs. It seems that behind every wearables company, there’s a great woman: Billie Whitehouse (Wearable Experiments) and Kate Unsworth (Kovert) are just some of the inspirational young CEOs on the scene that will be joining Francesca Rosella and Sabine Seymour at our NY summit.

On the retail side, Victoria Beckham has more company than ever at the upper rungs of the fashion industry-as-global business. Just look at Tory Burch – the designer, entrepreneur and self-professed “information gatherer” has built a global apparel and accessories brand in just nine years. The Tory Burch foundation has been fighting for female empowerment since 2009, supporting women entrepreneurs and their families through small business loans, mentoring and education. Burch has even applied her golden touch to the wearable-tech industry: her good-looking accessories collab with fitness tracker FitBit was launched earlier this year.

The lesson for young women starting out in design and retail? In the end, just like the wearable accessories that will have the most success, tech can only empower if it is truly functional.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion New York will take place on November 18-19, 2014 at Metropolitan West. The full agenda can be found here.

On November 18-19, New York will play host to our global summit on Wearables and Retail Innovation, ‘Interconnected’. Featuring 100 speakers, mentors and movers and shakers, the event is well positioned to take the pulse of the fashion world now. Indeed, as 2014’s horizon comes into view, with it has come a tangible sea change: a whole new wave of wearable devices that are actually pretty wearable.

Apart from talks from key players in the wearables world, the summit also marks an opportunity for start-ups everywhere to get involved. Our startup competition aims to find this year’s most beautiful wearable, full stop. But what, when it comes to fashion X tech, should the criteria for beauty be? “Custom alloys engineered for beauty and durability” – that’s the Apple Watch’s take. “Effective, simple and durable” – that’s from the founder of Kovert Designs, Kate Unsworth (you can catch her in NYC, too).

When it comes to wearable fashion, then, it would appear that sleek function is what makes for beauty. But surely such an attitude doesn’t poach its preference for the practical from the fashion world. Silvia Fendi probably sums it up best when describing her ‘Baguette’ bag: “The Baguette really started this kind of new life for the accessory. It was treated like a fashion item, like a garment more than a bag.” In other words, the best-selling accessory of the decade’s bright color-ways, varied textures, small interior and single strap make it one of the least “functional” on the market. Is it about time we valued wearables by the same, aesthetically pleasing criteria?

The key, here, is integration. Fashion items so technologically advanced, so to speak, that the technology itself starts to disappear. Speaking sense on the point of aesthetics is the man who, in an uncanny move, dubbed himself with a URL-ready name since before the Internet was a thing: Will.i.am. As announced at the Wired conference last week, he’s enlisted architect Zaha Hadid to design variations on his smart cuff, Puls. The Hadid-designed Puls transforms the original sleek cuff, instead adding neofuturistic curves and bold elongation. Pushing the boundaries of the “sleekness and light” that is fast becoming the “aesthetic” of the incoming generation of wearables, it’s a welcome reminder to us all that what constitutes “beauty” in fashion isn’t interchangeable with what’s expected of its function. It is multiple perspective points, not the Apple-led monopoly, that really makes the wearables scene exciting. That’s also why, as our official competition will hope to demonstrate during Decoded Fashion NY, there’s no time like the present to bring the next wearable gamechanger to the industry’s attention.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion New York will take place on November 18-19, 2014 at Metropolitan West. The full agenda can be found here.