In a recent presentation Label Networks delivered in Washington D.C. last month one of the presentation slides that created a great deal of conversation was when we talked about the mash-up culture of youth markets of 13-25-year-olds and how important technology is to them -going so far as key technology devices that also act as an important accessory component when developing one’s overall fashion style.
We started tracking what we call “wearable technologies” when working on our first Snowboarding Profile Report two years ago because many outerwear brands were starting to use technology pieces as key features in their garments. Today such brands include Burton’s iPod-enabled jackets O’Neill’s Navjacket with a built-in GPS and very cool “friend-finder ” plus the others such as Sessions Bonfire and The North Face who all have GPS or avalanche-transceiver devices embedded into their garments.
We’ve also written about wearable technologies in other industries such as Nike’s USB-enabled Sportsband and their iPod Nano compatible running shoes.
Wearable technologies were taken another step further at ISPO Sports & Style trade show in Munich, July, 2007 with the SolarShopper which was one of several winners of the show’s wearable technologies competition called the Brand New Awards. SolarShopper bags are very stylish coming in colors and textures such as paten leather pink (like the material of a BAPE sneaker), grey and black and it has pockets on the side for an iPod or cell phone. The only way you could tell it was something unique technology-wise were the fashionable 3 stripes down the front of the bags which actually are the working solar panels that charge up whatever you have inside.
Designer Andreas Weber from Germany explained that he came up with the concept when a friend suggested creating something that’s fashionable, yet green and useful. As Andreas put it, “Often those in technology are off working in a corner somewhere and rarely interact with the fashion designers. But now with this case of our SolarShopper, the bags are just the first step of what’s possible. We are creating many more ideas.” Andreas, who is actually an architecture designer by trade, is also creating a solar-powered screen for car windows that can re-charge gaming systems such as a Nintendo handset for back-seat players, i.e. kids on a road trip.
Like Weber however many fashion designers and technology experts are pairing up, creating a whole new genre of accessories aimed for today’s youth culture marketplace. Yet it remains the people in the market itself that continue to push trends of some of the most evolutionary and artistic creations of wearable technologies as indicated in various images we captured in Tokyo, New York City, Barcelona, and Las Vegas. For example, creating masterpieces with crystals to personalize mobile phones are a full-on business in Tokyo as one’s mobile phone not only acts as a connector, but a symbol of cool. The nu rave kid from New York City is actually wearing a Nintendo game controller as a necklace, indicating his retro yet new-school flair for gaming and accessorizing; while the guy from Vegas with his iced-out iPod is wearing his music device as a necklace and overall key accessory.
This also taps into the increase in fascination for SkullCandy headsets available in an array of colors to match one’s outfit and how their presence in the middle of the South Hall at MAGIC Fashion Trade Show continues to attract fashion industry buyers. Just as iPod earbuds became a symbol of cool (kids in Barcelona, for example, often wear iPod earbuds or devices that look like earbuds as part of their ensemble), so too are wearing colorful headphones from SkullCandy or from clothing brands such as WeSC and their collaboration with street artist Stash and their new blue and yellow headphones designed to match the blue denim stitching of the denim collaboration.
Wearable technologies are just beginning to take root, but the more you look at the streets and what’s going on in youth culture, the more you see the importance of the technology-fashion mash-up coming into play and the opportunities that exist.