As I observe the emergence of smart clothing in multiple categories (from smart socks to smart jackets), I am trying to imagine the implications for the buyer as more and more pieces of his/her wardrobe blend with technology.
Today smart clothing is mainly perceived as a nice-to-have by tech enthusiasts (both men and women), and as a gimmick by the larger mainstream audience. In the future, as the technology matures and starts providing significant benefits, smart clothing might become preferred rather than optional. What happens at that point?
Will the buyer continue to mix and match smart clothing pieces from different fashion brands as he/she does today with traditional clothing? Will he /she accept to deal with each app that comes with each garment? Socks, jackets, bras, gloves, pants, etc. Or there will be a company that centralizes the ecosystem around its technology hub, in the same way Apple is centralizing the smart home ecosystem around its HomeKit? Just one app to monitor all garments and understand our health status, mood, performance.
Apple’s Angela Ahrendts comes from Burberry. At the time, the consensus was that she was hired to drive the sales of upper scale products like the premium Apple Watch Edition. Maybe there’s a longer-term reason?
What if technology becomes a primary driver for fashion purchasing decisions and such centralizing company doesn’t emerge to save customers?
What if the buyer really cares about the technology benefits of smart clothing but doesn’t like the style or the colour of the few brands that offer the specific garment he/she wants?
I think that eventually some fashion brands will have to embrace smart clothing end to end, offering an entire collection of smart clothes. Not just to differentiate. But to retain the customer loyalty, in the same way most collections today include all the trendiest pieces. And at that point, controlling a whole collection of smart clothes will be an opportunity to innovate, to make customers feel better about their inner self, not just their external appearance.
In the IT industry, today we say that every company is becoming a tech company. Tomorrow it might well be that every fashion brand becomes a tech brand.