Smart, Chic, and Strategic

The fall season has seen a flurry of activity in the wearables sector, focusing on both fashion and fitness and encompassing not only watches and bands but also eyewear, belts, and apparel.

Some of the deals have centered on upping the fashion quotient. Hermès partnered with Apple for a Hermès edition of the Apple Watch, pairing the luxury label’s look with the device’s form and functionality. And designer Hussein Chalayan collaborated with Intel for smart glasses and belts intended to manage stress; the products will be displayed at London’s Design Museum in November after their debut at Paris Fashion Week.

These types of agreements address a key need in the wearables category, where clunkiness and lack of attractiveness on the part of many devices has been one factor dampening sales.

Other partnerships announced this fall are meant to add sophistication to fitness wearables. Luxottica-owned sunglasses brand Oakley introduced a line of smart eyewear with Intel called Radar Pace. The devices serve as a real-time, voice-activated training coach, bringing up running routes, distances, and other workout data. The glasses also, like most wearables, can facilitate phone calls, send texts, and connect to music.

Earlier this year, Levi’s and Google tested a smart jacket targeted, at first, toward bicycle commuters. Bluetooth connectivity allows users to find directions, listen to music, and receive calls, controlling the functions by touching the cuff, button, or arm. The jacket is washable once the chip, contained in a detachable loop on the sleeve, is removed.

These examples illustrate how licensing deals, joint ventures, and other partnerships are becoming more strategic in the wearables sector as it matures. Rather than pairing with a fashion label or brand primarily to generate awareness and attract consumers, accessories makers and technology companies are seeking properties that fill specific needs. These alliances will help further commercialize this still-developing category.

For more on the evolution of licensing in the wearables sector, read our previous posts here, here, here, and here.

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