Wearable Technology

Guest Post by Stylus Fashion

Decoded Fashion - Weekly stories

Could fashion brands learn from the Makers movement and its open-source approach to design? Becky Stern, directory of NYC-based wearable electronics firm Adafruit, thinks so. “Makers share their experiments, their methods of building and their successes and failures,” says Stern of this brand of DIY crafters who incorporate tech into objects in unexpected ways and reveal the results online and at Maker Faires around the globe.

By pooling information, fashion companies “could start making their own tech in-house instead of partnering with a big firm or established brand,” Stern adds, retaining control and cutting R&D costs.

As the director of wearable electronics at Adafruit, a New York-based hardware manufacturer and online learning hub, she has been combining textiles with electronics for the past decade. But though Stern is a designer, her passion lies in education, with her online guides, YouTube talk show and weekly projects aiming to teach all, regardless of age or technical ability, how to create their own wearable technologies.

Microcontrollers, Arduino boards and conductive threads are her tools of choice. A footstep is enough to trigger a rainbow of colours along the edges of the Firewalker LED sneakers, the effect created by weight on the pressure-sensitive Velostat sensors in each shoe’s heel. In the same spirit the VU Meter Baseball Cap features a NeoPixel strip of LEDs that flash according to sound volume. Whilst, a mike fixed to the side of the hat registers the noise levels, communicating them to a FLORA microcontroller that adjusts the light’s speed.

Both projects require the ability to solder metal parts and write code. However, with the rise of washable connectors and longer-lasting batteries, Stern anticipates a day soon when tech will be routinely incorporated into everyday wear. “I think we’ll see modules that snap in and out of garments to control embedded LEDs and fabric sensors,” she says. “For example, take a look at CuteCircuit‘s Twirkle Shirt,” a motion-activated T-shirt. “It features a ‘brain’ that can be removed prior to washing and then replaced afterwards.” Further developments in harvesting power from body movements, a still-emerging science, could also boost the use of electronics in clothing.

Aside from demystifying technology, these experiments demonstrate numerous opportunities for womenswear brands. On a simple level they offer new visual embellishments that could easily be added to clothing and footwear. On a larger scale, though, these projects hint at new levels of clothing customisation and interactivity. Most of Stern’s – and other Makers’ – projects run off Arduino, an open-source hardware platform that supports various types of sensors, including those for sound, pressure, light and temperature. Include them in a garment or accessory, and it could change colour from day to night, when music is played, or when the temperature soars or plunges.

The possibilities of wearables and interactive fashion are great, and brands thinking of designing their own hardware should not go it alone- the key to success is collaboration.

Reported by Julie Taraska, Senior Editor of Wearables & Interactive at Stylus Fashion

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Beautiful Function Wearables Competition Finalists

Tomorrow, on November 18, the worlds of fashion, retail, and tech will join forces for the kick off of Decoded Fashion’s two-day New York Summit. Rebecca Minkoff, Nordstrom, Barneys, kate spade, Google, Style.com, and more will meet to discuss wearable tech challenges and the latest ideas around retail innovation.

One of the highlights of the summit will be the finals of the Beautiful Function wearables competition, which aims to identify the most consumer-friendly and beautiful wearable device launched this year. Five finalist startups, chosen because of the striking design and functionality of their wearable, will pitch live on stage to a panel of industry leaders on November 18. All finalists’ wearables cater to the U.S. market, are ready to market today and are currently available for pre-order. The winning team will be featured on Style.com.

The finalists are:

Cuff: Cuff serves as an alert system, with the ability to track your fitness and send notifications. The interchangeable modules, called CuffLincs, connect directly to an iPhone or Android application.

Jon Lou: The 314 handbag charges your smartphone and lights up to help you find your interior items. With powerful off-the-grid energy developed at MIT, you can keep an iPhone 6 charged for one month. Made in Italy.

Kovert Designs: Kovert’s modular collection of smart designer jewellery allows customers to insert the Altruis Stone into different ring, bracelet and necklace designs. Using their app, the user can set the smart stone to vibrate for particular notifications (filtered by key contact or keyword). Kovert will be announcing a small handful of collaboration collections with brands/designers in 2015.

Machina: A hoodie with speakers integrated into it. It allows its wearer to hear music without having to insert headphones into their ear. Music can be controlled via Bluetooth, using an iPhone, iPod or Android device.

Viawear: Tyia, Viawear’s smart bracelet, sends notifications using gentle vibrations and color. Tyia is designed to make things easier, richer, more beautiful and more focused, helping you connect with real life instead of just your digital one.

The competition judges are:

Myf Ryan, Marketing, Director UK & Europe, Westfield
Dirk Standen, Editor-in-Chief, Style.com
Olivia Kim, Director of Creative Projects, Nordstrom
Simon Collins, Dean, Parsons The New School for Design

“There is a lot of excitement, but also confusion about the possibilities for wearables and fashion today. During next week’s summit, we will reveal big players outside of everyone’s radar. We will discuss what matters in the immediate future and expose the technology that will help get us there,” said Liz Bacelar, founder and president of Decoded Fashion. “The Decoded Fashion Summit is about being ahead of the story, discarding pre-conceived notions and learning new possibilities emerging around the world.”

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


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