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With the anticipated Apple Watch launch announcement on March 9th, I sought a fashion-insider's perspective on wearable devices and the Apple Watch in particular. With an eye to style, aesthetics and fashion, I spoke with Christine Campbell, President of Crimson Mim, an independent women's boutique located in the heart of Silicon Valley. I have known Christine for a few years and serve on the advisory board of Crimson Mim. In general, fashion industry insiders are not happy with how the Apple Watch looks. Since, Apple is trying to sell Apple Watch as a jewelry item, I thought it would be insightful to talk to someone from the fashion industry.
Following is our conversation:
Chander: What's your take on the state of wearable devices?
Christine: The fall of 2013 seemed to be the peek of fitness wearable devices at least among women in Silicon Valley. Almost every customer who came in was wearing one. Now, I'd say, it's one in ten, if that. A lot of women are using hiking or running apps on their phones, which obviates the need for a device on their wrist. Even when Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike Fuel Band were popular, women would complain about how downright ugly they are.
Chander: What did you think of Google Glass?
Christine: I never saw a woman wear Google Glass.
Chander: Would you wear one?
Christine: No. Absolutely not.
Chander: Would you wear an Apple Watch?
Christine: Not as it looks now. I like my traditional Cartier watch a lot better. However, in order to further burnish its fashion credibility, Apple has taken out a 12 page advertisement in VOGUE Magazine's March 2015 issue.
Chander: What specifically do you not like about Apple Watch?
Christine: It's too big. It looks like a computer on your wrist. It reminds me a little of digital Casio watches from the 80s. It's just not pretty.
Chander: What about all the cool features it has like heartbeat sharing?
Christine: That's sweet, but we're focusing here on aesthetics, not functionality.
Chander: Why do you think that despite the best efforts of the tech industry wearables are not taking off?
Christine: I can't speak from a technology or habitual perspective, but from a fashion point of view, the problem with wearables is that they're not the same as fashion. It's not that wearables can't be fashionable, but the nature of fashion is change. There are few things you wear for a lifetime and every day - perhaps a watch or your wedding band. Everything else from shoes to jeans to coats to sweaters to earrings to handbags, one changes. Is it possible to create a wearable device that changes with fashion (and technology)? Can technology and "timeless classic" co-exist?
Chander: Will we ever see an iconic wearable brand like Hermes, or Cartier, or Burberry?
Christine: Perhaps, but in order to create an iconic fashion brand there needs to be heritage, which cannot be created overnight.
Chander: What else is happening in fashion and technology?
Christine: The up and coming area of wearables is smart textiles and fiber science. This includes technology that can be incorporated into fabric (temperature regulation, monitoring breathing and stress, and self-cleaning fabrics are examples). While very early, this market will be exponentially larger than wearable gadgets.
With Apple Watch, Apple is moving from a tech company that is good at design to making jewelry. However, marrying technology that changes every year with jewelry that lasts forever is quite a challenge. Will they succeed? It remains to be seen.
This post was originally published on Forbes.com on March 1st, 2015.