If you like horoscopes, you're probably busy studying which planets will affect your life by aligning with your sign next year. But if you're a fashionista who loves following trends you will know that high tech, high fashion and high luxury will align in 2015 like planets in an ominous apocalypse.
But to understand what will happen next year let's go back to a few months ago. In June 2014 Google and the queen of the wrap dress Diane von Furstenberg came together in a "collaboration" that resulted into five new frames and eight new shades of Google Glass, the eye wear that allows wearers to search/navigate/share and send messages while also guaranteeing a fast detachment from reality and a wide range of pedestrian collisions.
What followed could be considered as a plethora of sleek looking but essentially useless adornments: Fitbit/Tory Burch's pendant necklace and bracelets hide inside health and fitness tracking devices; Case-Mate/Rebecca Minkoff's notification bracelet can instead connect with a mobile phone and alert the wearer of calls and texts from chosen contacts, while the lightning cable bracelet can be connected to a USB cable to sync and charge a mobile device on the go.
Intel teamed up with Opening Ceremony and came up with (another) bracelet (well, it looks more solid, almost like a bangle) with an extremely long name. "My Intelligent Communications Accessory" (MICA) in black snakeskin, pearls and lapis or white snakeskin, tiger eye and obsidian (retailing at $495) as sported in the advertising campaign by models Kirsten Owen and Ajak Deng, allows to view messages on its curved sapphire glass touchscreen display, acts as a calendar and also sends event vibration-based notifications from saved contacts.
The most coveted of all remains the Apple Watch. Due to be released next year, but unveiled in September during a convention of fashion editors that looked more like the casting for the Star Wars villains, the watch reappeared in a pop-up event (including Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld) at the Colette concept store during Paris Fashion Week and then materialised in its 38mm 18-carat yellow gold with a bright red modern buckle on the wrist of model Liu Wen (matched with a striped ensemble by Céline and photographed by David Sims) on the November 2014 issue of Vogue China.
According to the descriptions, the watch is a marvel of technology: it will be available in six metals including stainless steel and 18-karat yellow or rose gold; it comes with a sapphire glass screen (not available on the entry-level Apple Watch) and with six different interchangeable straps and three different styles; plus you will be able to choose between two sizes (38mm and 42mm) and 11 face designs (from a clock face with standard Roman or Arabic numerals to interactive Solar and Astronomy faces with 3D models of the sun, earth, moon and planets).
It features lots of iPhone apps like Maps, Messages and Siri and a myriad of functions: from using it to control the music playing through your iPhone or iPad speakers to sending and receiving messages; from tracking activity (heart and blood pressure) to accessing photos and sending the sound of your heartbeat to other wearers and, if you tap a friend's face in your contacts, you can send them a pulsing sensation to prove you're thinking of them. It will also be possible to use Apple Pay via the watch which means you can pay for goods and services using it like a contactless credit card. Unfortunately, the watch doesn't clean the bathroom, and doesn't do the dishes/laundry, nor it feeds the cat, but, luckily, it doesn't contain any free album by U2 (well, not yet...).
While other tech firms are entering into the smartwatch business (even though Apple doesn't like the term "smartwatch"...), the tech rush is not just about accessories, but also about developing new fibres and fabrics, even though the garments developed so far do not seem so entirely new.
In August Ralph Lauren unveiled the Polo Tech (with proprietary technology from Canadian-based OMsignal, a company that has developed bio-sensing clothing platforms with a line of clothing products that connect seamlessly with mobile devices) that features sensors knitted into the core of the product to read biological and physiological information. Though the shirt seems ideal for athletes during training and competitions, it would still be possible to use a portable device with the same functions and avoid buying more than one shirt (to make sure you always have a clean one...).
Tommy Hilfiger released instead the Solar Powered Jacket in collaboration with the company Pvilion. The garment features two USB ports that can charge two devices at once, such as a smartphone and tablet, harvesting energy from solar panels on the back of the garment. Yet this is actually not a new idea, considering that a few young designers such as Pauline Van Dongen already worked along these lines.
As highlighted by many fashion experts, the biggest revolution about all these products that combine fashion and technology is the fact that these accessories fall into the "wearable" category: the first experimental garments or accessories integrating technological devices, including LED dresses and signalling necklaces, were indeed received with mixed reactions by skeptical critics. But, being developed in collaboration with established fashion designers and brands, these pieces are now considered cool and sleek and therefore desirable (mind you, Google's Glass still look more Steve Mann than Alain Mikli and do not manage to have the aesthetic appeal of something as futuristic as André Courrèges's 1965 slit glasses).
Besides, the obscene price of most of these gadgets (and the language and semantic fields employed to describe/sell them with emphasis on elegant details and design processes) pigeonholes them into the luxury category. And this is where the not so secret love affair between fashion and technology turns into a two headed boa constrictor ready to suffocate the consumer in a deadly embrace.
The truth is that the fashion industry is definitely not geeking out on technology but sees jumping on its bandwagon as a new way to gain another slice of consumers who may not be so keen in investing on clothes and accessories, but who love gadgets. Tech companies on the other side are instead hoping to branch out into luxury. Apple is firmly believing they are aligning with the traditional world of mechanical watches and jewellery: after all, collectors of mechanical wristwatches love them because they are luxurious objects and status symbols and not because they want to keep the time on them and the same may be said about the very few people who will be able to afford the most luxurious and exclusive version of the Apple Watch.
There is something, though, that Apple hasn't understood in its rush to join the luxury market - the difference between them and the luxury industry. A producer and designer of technological products will always have to be up to date and constantly come up with something extremely innovative.
Luxury houses have instead established themselves mainly on traditional techniques and heritage products, that's why you can still buy a bottle of champagne or a set of suitcases maufactured by the same houses/brands people would buy into in the early 1900s. In a nutshell, the vampire Apple will find itself among two other vampires with rather sharp fangs - the fashion and luxury industries.
So it will be extremely interesting to see where this fashion-luxury-technology love triangle will take us in 2015: after embracing techniques such as digital and 3D printing will we accept high tech luxurious gadgets into our wardrobes and go around like cyborgs?
Will we all be vibrating, buzzing or lighting up like Christmas trees when we get a text message or when somebody is thinking about us and develop strange and new mutant illnesses (the "Tech Trendsetter/Fashionista Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?") that will turn the dream of Steve Mann, early pioneer of wearable technology, into the nightmare of the new year?
Besides, what kind of impacts will this love triangle have on the stock exchange - will we see for example fashion and technology companies teaming up and combining their forces to launch themselves on the financial markets? We'll discover it in 2015. In the meantime, while I love technology, I hate jumping on bandwagons, so I'll make a point of keeping a ridiculous watch - my Donald Duck one (yes, the one with pointing arms for hands) - firmly on my wrist. It may not be that trendy, but I will still be able to tell the time when the battery on all the other people's watches will have run out.
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