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Desirable Wearables: Retailers Are Turning Tech Trendy

Now that consumers crave the ease technology provides for their devices applied to their duds, the next iterations of wearables can’t afford to be bulky or unsightly, they’ll have to mirror the style trends savvy shoppers seek.

And that’s what retailers are working to offer.

Accessible luxury line Rebecca Minkoff, which has been a retail technology trendsetter with an eye on marketing to the connected consumer, will reveal an extended range of fashionable wearables at the brand’s spring runway show Saturday, and each piece has a style that speaks to the line’s edgy look.

Minkoff’s collection of wearable accessories—which already includes so named “genius accessories” like a gold chain link bracelet that uses Bluetooth to sync with smartphones and vibrates when one of the wearer’s 25 favorite people call or text—will now feature wristlets and crossbody bags that do triple duty as wallets, purses and smartphone chargers.

Danish Diffus Design developed a climate dress with soft circuitry that powers the garment to light up when there’s too much CO2 in the air, and the circuitry embroidered into the up-to-date asymmetrical dress looks like no more than a chic embellishment.

The there’s Hovding’s airbag for cyclists that looks like a sporty scarf until it morphs into an air-filled helmet of sorts when it senses the wearer is gearing for a fall.

“This is the future,” Syuzi Pakchyan, founder of and user experience lead at Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures, said during a Sourcing at MAGIC conference in August. “Tech is hidden unless you really need to use it.”

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The growth in wearables has flourished considerably in recent years because the smartphone’s capabilities have given rise to the tech hype. Sensors for use in wearables have also become cheaper and computers smaller, so it’s now possible to embed these things into almost anything.

“Everything around us will eventually be embedded with some kind of communicative feature,” Pakchyan said. “And we’ll see more with actually embedding circuitry into textiles.”

Ralph Lauren already launched a biometrics Polo Tech shirt that with sensors knitted into the fabric that can then read the wearer’s heartbeat and stress levels, and DuPont created a line of stretchable electronic inks that appear as standard inks and can make products that hardly feel or appear different than their traditional counterparts.

“Eventually we’ll be able to download patterns on our garments, our textiles will become programmable,” Pakchyan said.

For textiles, technology will fuel the trend toward personalization, according to Pakchyan, but there has to be a synergy between the hardware and the software. In other words, the wearer has to want to wear the wearable.