Wearable technology, sex toys emerge in San Francisco's Fashion Tech Week

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MARCH 03, 2015

Would you wear a nipple vibrator as a necklace? Apparently, somebody will.

The wearable device from adult toy company Crave appeared among a collage of wearable technology companies at San Francisco’s Fashion Tech Week, or FTW, the city’s only event that considers the fusion of fashion and technology, which took place from Feb. 23 to Sunday.

The necklace-cum-vibrator appeared at #WEARTECHCON, one of several events during FTW. The weeklong event series featured three-hour panels with topics ranging from innovations in the retail-tech sphere to the future of men’s fashion. Panel speakers at the event, now in its third year, hailed heavily from tech companies, each with some experience in wearable technology.

Owen Geronimo, principal of FashionTechPR, which provided publicity for the event, seems to have his hand in every fashion-related entity in San Francisco. He also founded the San Francisco Fashion and Merchants Alliance, Inc., a sort of chamber of commerce for the Bay Area’s fashion industry, which hosted FTW.

“The slogan of this year’s Fashion Tech Week is ‘Internet of Fashionable Things,’ ” Geronimo said in an email. “It really summarizes Fashion Tech Week in the sense that we’re focused on touching all the categories of the future of fashion.”

The Retail Tech Summit, one of the week’s events, discussed “Innovation in Personalization,” the notion of tailoring products to customers based on trends in their purchase and/or search histories. A major plot point was the use of data to predict a customer’s shopping trends. The advice also included a warning of “creepy personalization,” where curating information about customers takes a too personal turn.

Tamara Samoylova, head of research at Deloitte Center for the Edge, which helps business and tech companies profit from opportunities, said she can imagine a day when people will pay to enter stores.

“If you look at brick-and-mortar sales, they are declining, and online sales are increasing,” Samoylova said, adding that retailers will have to start creating new store experiences to draw in clients. She believes future customers will pay for the right interactive retail experience.

Zach Vorhies, CEO and founder of Zackees Wearables, the company behind bicycle gloves featuring LED lights that point in the direction of travel, discussed the technology’s relationship with the fashion industry and vice versa during the #WEARTECHCON event Thursday night.

“What we’re seeing now is luxury coming (into wearable technology),” he said during the panel. The panel focused on manufacturing, knowing the demographics of your company and aesthetics — does a product need to look good to sell?

“With fashion technology, you see fashion first and tech second. With wearable tech, you see the inverse,” Vorhies said.

Other industry figures on the panel were Crave’s co-founder and vice president of design, Ti Chang, and Rick Sheridan, a principal at Flextronics, which provides companies with the hardware to manufacture products.

Several wearable technology companies displayed their gadgets and gizmos before the event. Crave products on display included the vibrator that doubled as a (very pretty) “tear drop” necklace.

At the next table, a company called SkinSampler seeks to safeguard against sexual predators through the means of a DNA-capturing device attached via Velcro onto clothing.

Geronimo calls Fashion Tech Week a “separator” from other fashion events across the globe. “(It’s) an identifier that San Francisco is the next world destination of fashion,” he said during the public talk. “But most importantly, I believe technology will only become more central to fashion going forward. We’re not aspiring to be a ‘me too’ product. We’re different because in my opinion, we’re poised to be the next big thing of fashion weeks. I know this is a lofty goal, but it takes time for the world to grasp the idea that San Francisco actually has a robust and growing fashion scene.”

It’s dubious whether or not San Francisco will ever see a full-blown, seasonal fashion week, or carry the kind of clout that fashion capitals such as New York and Milan possess. But with the Bay Area at the center of technology and fashion retailers producing their own wearable tech, an event like this is more relevant than ever.

Contact Elizabeth Moss at [email protected]

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MARCH 06, 2015

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