Growing interest in wearable devices means that the tech sector and fashion industry must start working together. The big challenge is the tech sector’s well-known lack of interest in fashion.
To work more effectively with their fashion partners, Techies need to take a more studied approach to fashion. They need to change the way they dress. Stop picking clothes like hoodies, employer-logo T-shirts and Adidas sports sandals based on comfort, convenience and unnecessary features. Otherwise fashion industry partners will continue to be as horrified as techies would be if fashionistas still used a Palm Treo, kept up with friends on MySpace or accessed the Internet via dial-up.
Since the concept of techie stylist has not yet become a thing, here are some steps techies can follow to upgrade their fashion choices.
1. Conduct market research. Remember: you are what you wear. So whether you want to get a job, raise funds for a new business or find a roommate or girlfriend–or all three–know your audience. Check out their clothing choices on Pinterest or use what they wear to meetings as a template. But there are limits. Even if you were to work with Pharrell Williams, you don’t have to wear his Dudley Do-Right hat and blue shorty tuxedo pants. The goal is to find something you’re comfortable wearing, only more polished, professional, sophisticated and contemporary. In other words: The difference between Windows Vista and Windows 8.1. (And if your new look makes you touchable, even better.)
2. Identify the look-and-feel that will appeal to your target audience. Determine the look you’re after, including whether it needs to differentiate you from your competition. You don’t have to ditch your Warby Parker glasses just because others wear them, and you don’t have to wear a suit. (Even IBM got rid of suits years ago.) Shift from ad-supported or freemium clothes (corporate freebees like T-shirts and baseball caps) and buy premium clothes (those that, if they have a logo, are from fashion brands, not tech companies).
3. Consider iterative improvements to test your prototype. Complete overhauls–whether a website, the Big Dig or a wardrobe–can take years and go way over budget. Even minor upgrades can cause problems. Instead, buy a few new items as part of a beta program. Wear the clothes only at home to ensure they meet your new requirements. You might want to focus group your wardrobe before going out in public, to spare yourself negative Facebook, Twitter and Instagram postings. (That’s when you find out how un-social social media can be.)
4. Establish metrics and learn from your analytics. Are prospective employers calling you back? Are women giving you their phone numbers? Keep track of the reactions you generate, stop wearing what doesn’t work, and buy more of what does. That said, your wardrobe shouldn’t consist only of multiple versions of the same items. Black turtlenecks and jeans worked for Steve Jobs, but you are no Steve Jobs.
5. Get ready to upgrade to 2.0. By design, fashion has a short shelf life. What’s “in” today is likely to be “out” in 18 months. So you’ll have to buy new clothes to replace the perfectly serviceable clothes you just bought. Go ahead, complain–but that’s the same business model as Apple and most other tech companies. At least some of the clothes will be backward compatible.
By following these steps, techies stand a better chance to work successfully with the fashion industry. If not, if they can’t work together to make wearable tech both stylish and functional, then wearable devices will follow netbooks and the Microsoft Zune into the digital scrapheap, known only as Jeopardy! answers.
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