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future

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The App: A Consumerism Accelerator

When fashion is your business, it is easy to take for granted the ease of putting together an outfit and then where to find that missing piece you are looking for, or knowing what is appropriate for a given occasion, or what will compliment your figure. As this article from Forbes points out, it's not something that many women understand intuitively and thus it takes time to figure out, and we all know time is one thing we are short on. Then there's style envy: the item you see on the woman on the street and covet and have to have. But where can you find it?

All of these problems, which for brands are missed opportunities to make a sale, have spurred many apps and brand services to bridge that gap from mystery and coveting to identification and sale. It empowers the customer, but it also loosens up their purse strings. 

As fashion brands and marketers, we're all about streamlining the experience–removing as many barriers as possible so you don't lose the sale. Facilitate the purchase with as few clicks as possible in the checkout. Yes, this makes for a better, faster customer experience, but it also encourages impulse buying which is a habit of consumerism I wish more brands would actually try to discourage (Patagonia being one leader in Need based consumerism). 

As far as the technology of the apps though, the concept is pretty fascinating that a computer could recognize and organize 2D images, or enable brands to collect customer generated content. But as much as they serve the consumer or give them a feeling of connection to the brands they love, these apps are also consumerism accelerators. They are businesses with a goal of making money, so the goal is to get high conversion rates and high engagement. The more you spend, the better they do. It is their prerogative to get you to buy things. 

ASAP54-Starkweather-Blog.png

This list of apps will give you an idea of some of the most highly populated such as: ASAP54, Bib & tuck, Covet, and Pose (one that was, according to Mashable, about dressing for the weather, but is now a closet trading app).

Much like we discussed with the uprise of shoppable video, these apps tend to promote emulation and aspiration rather than individuality.

What about an app that provides greater information to the consumer? A CNET for fashion to compare and contrast products to make a thoughtful and informed decision about your purchase. An app that makes fashion feel less disposable. 

We have enough ways to make buying easier. Let's start to come up with ways to buy smarter.


Side notes–

The way we're going: One day we will be able to see a killer pair of shoes on a woman who walks by while we're sitting having coffee downtown and think in our minds "I want that" and our brainwaves would communicate with our smart glasses through vibrations and a distribution center somewhere would get a signal prompting a drone to take off, item in tow, and deliver it in to your GPS tracked location.  

Will computers eventually develop taste? Preferences? That aren't programmed?

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The Story of Wearables Through the Headlines

It's hard to keep up with the wearables market, especially when every other article on the subject has a headline that contradicts the one before it. Here are some examples from recent news articles that sensationalize, dramatize, celebrate, and forebode the future of wearables.

Is your wearable tech helping you -- or watching you?

Smart devices, wearables pose security risks for consumers

Are they threatening to our security, or could they save our lives? Or both?

Wearable tech: It could save your life

JWT Singapore's New Line of Wearables Will Keep You Safe

Image From  CNN

Image From CNN


Exclusive: Nike fires majority of FuelBand team, will stop making wearable hardware

Nike’s pull away from wearable tech might be good for field

Why an Apple/Nike Partnership Would Sell Wearables

If anything, this erratic approach to news keeps us active in finding those articles that actually add substance to the discussion, rather than playing on our anxieties and weakness to click on any provocative link.

Better yet, we can add to those substantive headlines by making informed, productive contributions of our own.

Challenge of Making Wearable Technologies Meet Real Needs in Our Lives

There's also a lot out there about wearables as data gathering tools for brands, and ways to have round the clock immediate access to users. But the day wearables are ubiquitous will be the day the user becomes the main benefactor, not the supplier. Brands will never maintain an audience through wearables until users see and experience real value in their wearables. This means answering real needs, which seems, so far, within all these spasmodic headlines, to be the one element that still eludes both engineers and designers.

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The Tech Stigma

I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about the development of fashion in an ethical way. Lamenting the stigma surrounding the idea of better business practices–like the idea that ‘eco’ fashion can’t be luxury–and considering mostly the idea of humanitarianism. How can businesses ensure their practices are causing no harm to the people involved? How can business actively play a role in improving conditions of people in the world? One way is more passive, one more active; both would improve the current state of things.

I’ve looked at businesses like TOMS and thought, how can I do that with a luxury product? Surely everyone needs a coat the same way everyone needs shoes. But the built in margin is not as generous as for footwear. But I’ll spend more time on this and the logistical obstacles another time.

What came to mind today was that all the time I have been spending thinking about the ‘eco’ stigma was distracting me from an issue that is directly in front of me and more relevant to my own business development. It is in fact, Starkweather’s raison d’être: The disconnect between fashion and technology.

The aesthetic categorization of anything referencing the future or technology has limited the exploration of fashion brands into the realm of science. The same way there is a subculture of Green fashion designers trying to make a difference in the world but aren’t taken seriously in the luxury mainstream, there is a fringe group of designers who explore technological practices to orient themselves towards the future. But they too alienate themselves into a niche that is largely considered un-wearable. The sculptural, electronic, color changing, fill-in-the-blank garments are often looked at as ‘art’ pieces- and even then, appeal only to a certain aesthetic. Which happens not to be mine, and thus not Starkweather.

And so to be positioned somewhere between Design and Technology poses two problems: one of communication and one of aesthetics. To fulfill the aesthetic demands of the brand’s positioning means being creative about the functional qualities so they are almost hidden. And to communicate about the intentions of the brand means balancing existing ideas of fashion, future, and technology, and the vision for Starkweather’s development.

This is a very fine line that I blame largely on conventional vocabulary. When I say “Outerwear” people’s minds create an image of down jackets and ski slopes or Gore-Tex and the forest. So I wanted to find another word. But found that it took several to say what I meant. Which, in the end, is outerwear. It is our association with the word that is the problem. The same way our association with the idea of future fashions is problematic.

There are some really smart people out there working on garments that can turn people superhuman. Garments that help you swim faster, sustain death-defying levels of heat, and allow us to walk in space! But you will never hear the word fashion associated with these accomplishments. Because their priority cannot be lookin’ good. Their priority has to be the function. Think about it. In some cases, someone’s life may depend on it.

Even concerning mass consumption, our athletic wear already boasts the qualities of sweat wicking, body temp regulation, and UV protection. Not to mention, it’s really comfortable. It’s designed for motion. The ergonomics leave much to be desired from what we are accustomed to wearing outside of the gym. I’ve even said if I had my way I’d live in my Under Armour gear. But for most of my activities that would be terribly inappropriate.

So why is it considered appropriate to wear the outerwear equivalent to the places you would never wear your gym clothes? Because you can take it off right away? What about the fact that your outerwear is the dominant element of your outfit. It is your first impression.

And so as fashion becomes more function oriented, how will designers keep at the forefront of technology?

This designer is asking the questions now, and working on the answers for tomorrow.

Another seed for thought: Will adaptation towards high function be necessary for designers to maintain their independence? Or is the future of fashion for designers to be hired away from major houses to become creative directors for the likes of Space X?  

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