At London Fashion Week, the merging of fashion and tech has been more palpable than ever before and, with top fashion designers now embracing the trend, wearable technology looks set to finally achieve mainstream success.
The tech giants of California and East Asia have of course been playing a dominant role in developing wearables and, amidst such competition, you might not think London would have the capacity to compete. In fact, you’d be wrong.
London has the perfect mix to become a global hub for wearable tech, capable of competing with the likes of Silicon Valley. The city is already the digital and technology capital of Europe with a wealth of tech start-ups – East London alone is home to more than 3000, making it Europe’s fastest-growing tech cluster.
Completing the mix is the city’s equally important fashion industries. Whilst Paris is the undisputed capital of high fashion, London’s world-leading fashion designers have a reputation for young, edgy and experimental style. It’s this that makes the city the ideal incubation ground for fashion tech to thrive.
Pioneering examples are already beginning to emerge. North London-based fashion and technology start-up Studio XO, caused a stir at London Fashion Week with a glowing slip dress, created in collaboration with London designer Richard Nicoll. The garment is made of fibre optic-based fabric and activated with high intensity LEDs, allowing the dress to light up and change colour.
Some are calling it the first example of truly beautiful wearable tech.
Another London-based fashion and technology start-up CuteCircuit creates ‘ready to wear’ outfits that can be controlled by a mobile phone app, allowing users to change the colour or design at the touch of a screen. The company’s other work includes the world’s first haute couture dress to feature tweets, which was worn by Nicole Scherzinger, and a number of micro-technology infused fashion creations for Katy Perry.
Shoreditch-based Kovert Designs is merging technology with fashionable and unobtrusive jewelry. Dreamt up by former model and mathematician Kate Unsworth, each piece is embedded with electronic sensors and wireless technology. Using an app, the jewelry can be set to vibrate and alert the user of important notifications on their smartphone.
It’s the ability to monitor and provide useful data on our bodies that could make wearable technology a game changer for not just fashion but multiple industries. Sophisticated sensors are already allowing us to track everything from our heartbeat and fitness levels, to our sleeping patterns and body temperature. The next wave will see wearables emerge that allow us to detect the presence of major illnesses, with huge implications for health services around the world.
If wearables turn out to be anything like the smartphone, as many are predicting, the opportunities could be immense. With the right investment and greater collaboration between the city’s fashion and tech start-ups, London stands a good chance of taking an early lead in this burgeoning new market.