Imagine not just watching a football game, but also feeling the impact athletes feel as they tackle each other. Sound far off? It’s not. The Alert Shirt, a combined effort of FOXTEL and We:eX, is “a fan jersey that uses wearable technology to take the experience into the physical world, allowing fans to feel what the players feel live as it happens during the game.”
Gartner forecasts that wearable devices will deliver $15.8 billion in worldwide revenue by 2020. Such devices have quickly become ingrained in our day-to-day lexicon, and wearable technologies are now transcending smart watches and fitness devices. While many manufacturers are focused on analyzing and delivering personal data as the value exchange for consumers, other companies are taking it a step further with a more experiential and intimate approach.
We:eX (Wearable Experiments), founded by fashion innovator and creator of the Alert Shirt, Billie Whitehouse, seeks to uphold the human experience and how it can work in concert with technology. “Too often have I seen another big, chunky watch. I call that the arm party.” She opted to produce products with a more personal, less obtrusive approach. Her first was Fundawear for Durex Australia, intimate apparel “that transfers touch for long distance couples….” The campaign won a Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
When looking at the intersection of fashion and technology, Whitehouse saw a gap in the wearables landscape. “Statistics show we’re starting to forget to use touch as a form of communication in our daily lives because we’re so dependent on technology.” Whitehouse and her team design items to tap into the feeling of touch to create an emotional bridge between the digital and the physical space.
At Columbia Business School’s BRITE ’15 conference, Whitehouse elaborated on her wearables mission—to merge fashion and technology with a functional design aesthetic to elevate quality of life. Her products are compelling and entertaining with a practical twist, not only easing pain-points, but making life… well, fun.
A self-described “body architect,” Whitehouse explained that she dives into “the nooks and crannies, the softness and the movement of the body and how we integrate technology into that space.”
The 20-something entrepreneur has fashion and innovation in her DNA. Her mother founded the Whitehouse Institute of Design in New South Wales, Australia, which hosts Project Runway Australia. Together, they designed a curriculum notable for incorporating new innovations. In taking a deep look at the future of fashion early on, Whitehouse explained, “I was having the right conversations at the right time… and [looked at] how we use fabrics and fibers and technologies to invigorate fashion, to give it intelligence, to make sure everything you put on your back has a purpose.”
One of her newer creations is “Navigate,” a location-enabled jacket that does exactly as the name implies—helps people to navigate through the streets of cities like New York, Sydney and most recently Paris. As Whitehouse explains, “Wearable technology must be intuitive and seamless within our daily lives, enhancing our life experience while connecting us to other people and the world at large. Our new product is a major first step in the right direction.”
BY ALLIE ABODEELY