When the iPhone launched in 2007, chic tech accessories were few and far between; today, nearly every fashion brand imaginable produces smartphone and tablet cases. Now, a handful of savvy designers are going beyond just protecting consumers' favorite devices to launching "smart" accessories of their own—just in time for the holiday season. Hermès
"These designers are capitalizing on a hot spending trend," explained Kantar Retail svp Mary Brett Whitfield. "As digital technology becomes more ingrained in everyday routines, spending on technology often takes precedence over other discretionary purchases such as apparel and fashion accessories, so the fashion technology products are a way to preserve share of shoppers' spending."
Rebecca Minkoff, who has produced a line of smartphone accessories with Case-Mate since 2014, recently expanded her tech offerings to include smart jewelry, Apple Watch bands and leather wristlets with built-in iPhone chargers.
"We felt that, in this [tech] space, there wasn't anything with fashion first," said Minkoff, who debuted her new tech collection at New York Fashion Week. "There's always a risk being one of the first people in, but I think the message is loud and clear that our girl wants fashion with technology that actually serves a purpose."
Kate Spade also teamed up with an outside company, Chicago-based startup Everpurse, on a line of phone-charging bags that will be merchandised alongside the brand's regular offerings when they launch this month.
"The fact that the technology is so seamlessly integrated into our existing design is what really sold us on the partnership," said Kate Spade CMO Mary Beech. "It's practical and powerful as well as pretty."
The number of consumers sporting wearables is growing at a rapid clip. By year-end, 39.5 million U.S. adults will use wearables, which include smart watches and fitness trackers, according to eMarketer. That's up 58 percent over last year. Retailers like Nordstrom, which has an exclusive deal to carry Minkoff's new goods, and Macy's, whose new millennial-focused One Below department includes a dedicated wearables section, are equally bullish about the trend.
"Newness always gets a lot of attention at the holidays—both from retailers wanting to highlight the products and from shoppers on the search for something to 'wow' gift recipients," said Whitfield. "'Smart' fashion will definitely be on their radar this holiday season."
This story first appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.