A new era in fashion and accessories is emerging which will create super human clothing and more connected and emotional experiences through our technology. We can see this with products like Cute Circuit's Easyjet uniforms, Everpurse's charging pocket with Kate Spade, and MISFIT being acquired by FOSSIL. It's a great start, but there are still a lot of challenges for a wearable technology start-up to get into the fashion industry.
To be a wearable tech brand going into this, you'll have to be prepared. To help, I've put together a two part series of tips from my own experience working fashion technology in NYC and Silicon Valley to ease the transition.
In Part 1, it's all about getting started and prepping for your first meeting and aligning your intentions and expectations.
1) Know where you want to start
Fashion and Clothing is a huge $2.1 Trillion industry, so the first thing you need to know is where to start and what companies you are targeting. Having someone with work experience with brands is important in helping ensure you have the right product market fit.
I found that my personal network and working with the New York Fashion Technology Lab were very helpful in this area. While deciding where to put our energy on the next product, we met a number of industry professionals who gave us insight on what kinds of brands and associations to look for.
2) Make yourself visible
Fashion companies will come to you, so be prepared with materials they can share internally quickly. They set a vision for the next season or year, and everyone follows on that vision. If it has tech involved, they will reach out.
Make can yourself and your wearables visible in markets and events the fashion brands frequent, like Decoded Fashion and Third Wave Fashion. Brands interested in wearable tech go to all the wearable events they can. I've found that there are a few events in San Francisco, but be prepared to fly to more fashionable areas like NYC, Berlin, London, or Paris.
3) Brand is life!
Brands have an intimate and emotional relationship with their customers from design, pricing, quality, and message. This may seem obvious, but I often find tech companies ignoring this crucial fact. Fashion sells identity, emotion, beauty, and more. It has risen above practical functionality and is centuries ahead of us as a wearable tech industry. When working with fashion brands, do your research and know the history and current trends for the brand. Show your product visually with their visual material. If you are unsure, ask your point of contact for input on the subject and check news outlets like the Business of Fashion and WWD.
4) Know how your tech affects the retail price point
Price point has come up at every first-time meeting we've had. The cost of the electronics directly affects the price point, which, by the way, also affects which companies you can work with.
When you talk to companies, be sure that you are able to speak to how your component affects their bottom line and fits within their price point. For example: when you add a $30 electronic part to a $7 fashion item you've increased the retail cost from $25 to $150. Not every brand can or wants to handle that.
5) Know how you will engage the customer
Variety is the spice of life in fashion. Ask yourself, "How will we resell to the same customer?" This can be a difficult question for most wearable technology brands as the timeline to create a new product is long and not seasonal like clothing.
Like recurring revenue models of software, fashion companies need to sell to the same person over and over. Your product needs to continuously engage the customer over time and provide revenue over time. Be able to speak to this point and build this into your product vision from day one.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I'll talk about some tips for once you get your foot in the door.
Alison Lewis is a designer, author, speaker, and inventor. She is the founder of the fashion technology lab, Switch Embassy, where she does technology strategy and consulting for brands and builds innovative wearable experiences.