Wearables key message at CES, Intel leads fashion charge

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If there’s one key theme at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, it’s wearables. Smart watches, fitness wristbands, earbuds, the works. Functionality is being heavily discussed, but even more so is design. The tech industry, it seems, has finally figured out that aesthetics are what’s going to make the difference when it comes to something people actually want to wear if we want to move this sector forward. An obvious statement to those of us in the fashion industry, but arguably not something anyone has yet done something about.

Enter Intel, who is aiming to change all of that, and with any luck in a beautiful way. It’s launching a smart bracelet later this year in partnership with Opening Ceremony and carried by Barneys New York.

Rather than “fashion” being an afterthought, as is more common with technology partnerships – a bit of branding slapped on, or some neat product placement during fashion week – Opening Ceremony will play an integral part in what the item looks like as well as how it functions using Intel’s tech.

“Our shared vision is to accelerate wearable technology innovation and create products that both enhance peoples’ lives and are desirable to wear,” said Ayse Ildeniz, vice president of business development and strategy at Intel’s New Devices Group. Speaking at the press conference today, she added: “The smart wearables we see on the market today are very much led by technology companies. But what we wear are personal things, reflections of ourselves and we often get emotionally connected to them. The fashion industry must therefore be in the driving seat. Without the aesthetics and the design, wearables are not going to become a big thing.”

Daniella Vitale, COO of Barneys New York agrees: “One of the greatest opportunities for wearable technology as a concept to be successful is fairly simple – to design a beautiful accessory that our customers would desire.”

Intel’s initiative will not be exclusive with Opening Ceremony and Barneys, suggesting further brands are being approached. The CFDA is accordingly also involved, having entered into a strategic collaboration with Intel to create a community for technology developers and fashion designers to network, match-make, cultivate and exchange ideas on wearable technology.

Interestingly Ildeniz said the most important thing for all those involved was to be humble. Once the egos go out the room, there’s a good chance technology and fashion can work pretty well together, she suggested.