Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The ‘wear’ in wearable tech


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The year is 1923. A man named Charles “Chuck” Taylor, laced up the Converse All-Stars for the first time and played on the hardwood floor. This was the first time we saw the All-Star, who had its centennial birthday last year, be produced as a sports shoe aimed for the great athletes of that time.

Fast forward to today, you wouldn’t dare see any player in the NBA wearing these in a regular season game. They’re tough, constricting, and hard to move in—but remember that they were the shoe of choice more than 90 years ago. Today, everyone’s vying for the best possible material for comfort, stability, breathability, and aesthetic when choosing their first pair of NBA kicks.

And all of this happened because of innovations made in design and functionality.

Not just for show
I’d like to think of technology and fashion as being a married pair. As innovations push forward, the bond between fashion and technology strengthen, bridging the gap of possibilities of what we can do with age-old necessities. It’s funny how people say that hi-tech clothing feels “futuristic”, but can now be considered a commodity (nay, a necessity) for a lot of people.

Take, for example, yourself. As of today, your phone is your most trusted companion—mainly because it functions to support your day-to-day activities. But have you ever thought about how you don’t sweat as much because of your UNIQLO Airism T-shirt? Or how you’re comfortable walking two kilometers to work in your Nike React shoes?


If I had asked you to replace digital communication with telefax and dial-up, I’m sure you’d react to it violently. But if I asked you to wear a basic cotton shirt and a pair of shoes whose design elements haven’t changed in 10 years, would you react the same way? Will you even feel the difference?

Fashion technology has made a small but meaningful impact in our lives. It has transitioned into our day-to-day activities so effortlessly that we take it for granted.

But beyond the subtleties of our clothes and shoes, there is also much to be said about the convenience other wearable technologies provide us. From athletes wanting to keep track of their personal record or patients struggling to recover from terminal illnesses, technology has kept both parties actively updated—both in information and in aesthetic.

Everybody wants to wear one
Take a Fitbit for example.

Light, inconspicuous—albeit a bit expensive. A doctor tells you that your obesity is getting worse and requires you to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Manually, you’ll have to measure a track oval, or a regular route to work and calculate the distance you’ll have to traverse to do your duty, give-or-take. But with the advent of wearables allowing you to see step counts, heart rate, calories burned, distance traveled—all synced to your phone—having a Fitbit is now considered a necessity based on its uses.

But what about the more fashionable approaches? Frederique Constant is a good example. Presenting itself as a lovable timepiece with automatic date. However, it’s more than meets the eye. Smartphone connectible, it also boasts activity tracking, sleep monitoring, and dynamic coaching, with world time and battery indication to support its mechanical make.

It goes to show that some of today’s most fashionable wearables can compete to be one of the most sought after (technologically) functional items on the market.

Checking it out
More than the advancements made in the clothes that we wear and the wristbands that we sport, the advent of technological innovations has also made fashion incredibly accessible for the mass market.

Forerunners like Zalora and Lazada have made their marks, while newcomers Beebeelee, Carousell, and Shopee are moving up the ladder as competitions rise up for the e-commerce website that gets the best deals and the most fashionable gear. From long lines on each cashier when a mall goes on a “mega 3-day sale” to checkout counters that finish after a few clicks, online shopping has made the fashion industry open its doors like a giant farm whose crops are ripe for the picking.

Back to the future?
Since technology advancement is a continuous development, fashion doesn’t allow itself to be left behind. Sure, we are all a little bit disappointed that we still don’t have self-drying windbreakers, or that the Nike Air Mag is (a.k.a. Marty McFly’s self-lacing sneakers) an unattainable item if you’re looking at the shelves, but science is giving us unimaginable fashion pieces that the 1985 Back to the Future directors didn’t think of as possibilities during their time.

Berlin-based VOJD studios is now incorporating 3D printing into their craftsmanship—making pieces for big brands like Alexander McQueen and Loewe. Fashion startup Trainwear is also making waves this year as it plans to release its Smart Fitness-Shirt, which uses built-in sensors that can further advance personal fitness by providing more detailed regimens on your training habits, posture, and form—all coming from the shirt hitting your skin.

There is so much to expect in the marriage of fashion and technology, and we customers wait with baited breath to see the limits of their potential.



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