The technology deployed within everyday life now shows itself as a subsidiary of personal style. Wearable technology, also mentioned as wearables, fashionable technology, wearable devices, tech togs or fashion electronics, is the clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies, the designs of which combine practical functions and features, within a recent concern of aesthetics. Of those from accessories to clothes and footwear to be worn in any moment of a day, the pieces coming in different forms, colours and patterns provide smarter functionality in order to make life easier.
Becoming more personal day-by-day, wearables are also representing a significant market. In 2014, 33 million units of wearables were shipped worldwide. By 2018, the number of shipped units is expected to increase to around 112 million. $16 billion of estimated market value at the end of 2015 will reach around $25 billion by 2018. The statistics also show that women-oriented wearables are accounting for around half of the market.
Key players grouped are, firstly, mentioned with technology giants like Apple, Google, Intel, etc. whereas Nike+ shows itself as the leader amongst sportswear brands. FitBit and Misfit are making the major contribution thanks to the significant collaborations with leader companies in the market. Various tech or fashion-tech startups realising the concerns and needs of the mobile addicted customers are also trying to keep pace with the changes. Lechal, Sensum, Tinitell, Ampy, Nynmi, Noov, etc. are aiming to ease customers' lives with their smart designs.
Fashion and luxury companies, on the other hand, have entered into the market by co-branding with the technology companies. Tag Heuer with Google, Luxottica with Intel, Swarovski with Misfit have been working on fashionable and luxurious wearables. Besides, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Tory Burch, Michael Kors as well as fashion designers like Amy Winters, Rebecca Minkoff, Carol Lim and Humberto Lion, are a few more bringing new breaths into the area.
Wearables in Different Segments
Amongst product segments in the market, smartwatch is predicted to account for 59 percent of the total shipments in 2015, and reach 70 percent by 2019 whilst Apple, not surprisingly, will occupy most of the shares. Letting alone iWatch and the discussions regarding if is a luxury product or not, Tag Heuer, in partnership with technology giants Intel and Google, announced the preparation of the world's first "luxury smartwatch" which will not have Swiss Made label as the engine of the device will come from Silicon Valley, yet assembled in Switzerland. On the other hand, it is possible to see contrast example, Withings Activé Pop, decreasing the price by more than half due to the manufacture plan of which was switched from Switzerland to China.
Mostly designed for the health tracking purposes, wristbands were targeting North America market. Even though the market expansion now reached Western Europe and expected to penetrate Asia-Pacific in the long term, fitness bands will witness a decrease in their market share; from 36 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2019. While Nike+ is the dominant in the market, its peers like Adidas with miCoach, Fitbit with Surge, Jawbone with the upgraded UP3 and others, will be trying to catch more from the market.
Jewelry - especially with product categories of necklace, bracelet and earrings - is amongst the most involved segments in the wearables market. In addition to health tracking and mobile device notification purposes, the jewelries are designed to help women in uncomfortable or dangerous situations, as well. Guardian Angel, for instance, is a necklace which creates fake calls on request of the wearer, whereas the jewelry lines by Artemis and Cuff brands can send urgent calls or notifications to the pre-set contacts during a dangerous situation the wearer is in. Beside many startups in the market, it is possible to see big fashion and premium brands like Tory Burch and Swarovski, as well as fashion designers collaborating with or establishing new companies, such as Rebecca Minkoff with Case Mate, Kenzo's creative directors, Carol Lim and Humberto Lion, with their own company Opening Ceremony, launching MICA bracelets, etc.
The developments for the smart eyewear is fast enough to catch the functionality of many smartphones together with activity tracking or GPS applications. The segment, which became a very known smart wearable after the launch of Google Glass in 2013, is now on focus of the optics companies as well. Luxottica's collaborations with Google and Intel are now in progress, to create smart glasses for fashion industry. The first product by Intel and Luxottica will be launched late this year.
According to the trend forecasters, the breakout wearable technology hit in the next few years will be the "smart clothing." Going from almost no sales to more than 10 million in 2015, the units sold are expected to increase to 26 million by next year. Big fashion brands realising the opportunity have already started preparations to offer stylish yet smart clothes. In addition to tech-shirt by Ralph Lauren and solar powered jacket by Tommy Hilfiger already known from last years, there are also Levi's and many startups like WE:EX Navigate Paris, etc. working in the same direction.
Footwear segment, the indivisible products of daily life, is unfortunately far away from the fashionability purposes, as the segment is mainly driven by tech startups like Ducere, Digitsole, Moticon, etc. focusing on the technical side. The worldwide known technology institutes such as Fraunhofer and Biomechanics Institute of Valencia, are also working on the segment. The sportwear brands, Nike+, Adidas, etc., however, prefer to stay in wristband segment even though they tried to penetrate Footwear segment years ago but with very little gain. The Intelligent Running Shoe by Adidas was in 2004, Bluetooth sensored Nike+ sneakers were launched in 2012.
Last but not the least, Handbags are showing themselves as another smart wearable category. From fashion and tech startups like Everpurse, Leoht, Mezzi, 314, etc., to premium brands such as Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Aspinal of London are providing customers with smart clutches, totes, shoulder bags and luggage bags. Amongst those, Ricky Bag by Ralph Lauren is shown as the most expensive 'charger purse'.
The Future of Wearable Technology
Trend forecasts claim that consumers will look for more easy-to-use devices in the future. Autonomous wearables will gain importance due to the complexity of the passive wearables which requires additional devices to monitor the data gathered. Price, which has been a barrier affecting the purchasing intent in a negative direction, will decrease following a similar trend with smartphones and tablets due to the high demand in the market. In terms of fashionability, it is for sure that the aesthetics will become the main concern for not only big brands but also the new entrants, together with the exclusivity for a luxurious positioning. Functionality, however, will not have that much credit in the agenda of fashion and luxury companies.
For more knowledge and inspiration on this fast-growing sector of smart-Fashion-tech, read Fashionbi's Marketing Research, Wearable Technology: How Fashion, Luxury and Activewear Brands Monetize Innovations.
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