By most accounts, wearable technology will be the next "it girl" in the fashion world. Investors are sinking millions into gadgets—from Google Glass to medical apparel—with built-in sensory devices. A report by Credit Suisse predicts that the market will increase to $50 billion over the next three to five years.
But wearable tech has a fashion problem. Until recently, most technology hasn't been designed with women in mind. Most wearables on the market are more fashion neutral than fashion forward. "I feel like we're going to see some exciting design partnerships across tech and fashion companies," said Elana Fishman, senior digital director of Luckymag.com.
It's already happening. In October, Apple made its own fashion statement when it hired former Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts.
Consumer demand is driving the trend. Intel researcher Genevieve Bell found that women are the heaviest users of today's most vital technologies. Another study finds that women (58 percent) outnumber men among prospective buyers of wearable technology devices.
Here's a look at some innovative companies already rushing to fill the lucrative void in this market niche.
By Nia Hamm, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 16 March 2014
This is a handbag practically any woman with a smartphone can use. These stylish purses double as phone chargers. Even better, the purses do not require wires or cables. Founder Liz Salcedo said she was inspired to create a handbag that both looks chic and enhances women's lifestyles.
The product's creators plan on introducing similar products later this year that will provide other real-world benefits, such as helping women locate accessories if they go missing and making sure they have all of their essentials (like their favorite lipstick and keys) before heading out the door.
Fitbit has partnered with luxury fashion brand Tory Burch to design a custom accessory designs that hold the Fitbit Flex tracker. The slim, feminine device tracks your steps, distance traveled and calories burned during the day. At night it tracks your sleep quality and even acts as an alarm clock.
"It gives users another way to stay active and show off their style at the same time," said Melanie Chase, product marketing manager at Fitbit.
The Tory Burch tracker will be one of the first collaborations between a high-end fashion designer and wearable-device manufacturer.
Chipmaker CSR has teamed up with boutique jeweler Cellini to design a range of connected Bluetooth jewelry that uses a light to alert the customer when they have a notification. These pendants connect to smartphones using a fraction of the power of standard Bluetooth.
As an added bonus, the jewelry allows the user to customize the color and brightness to suit their mood or coordinate with a certain outfit. The pendants can also be programmed to release perfume for those looking to freshen up throughout the day.
MEMI's iPhone-compatible smart bracelets use wireless technology to communicate with your iPhone. The products' app allows users to customize who "breaks through" to your bracelet—it can be set to vibrate for all calls or just for select callers that users deem important. It also allows you to set notifications for calendar events.
The product's creators—both moms—said they had busy-women-on-the-go in mind when they designed the product. "Having two women drive the concept and development of our product has been integral to MEMI's success thus far," said Margaux Guerard, MEMI co-founder and president. "With MEMI, you can unplug just enough and still have peace of mind that those who need you can still get through."
This San Francisco-based start-up has designed its jewelry collection with an emphasis on security for women. "As for our first function—security—I am a mom of three, so protecting my kids is always on my mind," said the company's founder, Deepa Sood.
The jewelry, which includes bracelets and necklaces that are made of leather and metal, act a bit like remote controls for the smartphones to which they connect wirelessly. They allow wearers to send an electronic distress signal through the Cuff app to an authorized individual.
The Navigate Jacket by Wearable Experiments is unlike any GPS product on the market. This hands-free travel application is designed for the retail explorer in search of a functional device and allows users to travel wherever they are without looking at their mobile device or a GPS screen. The product's founders, Billie Whitehouse and Ben Moir, said they wanted to integrate technology invisibly and aesthetically.
"This product appeals to women because the technology is as invisible as possible," Whitehouse and Moir said. "It is comfortable and similar to their day-to-day products—just smarter than their normal garments.
Wearable Experiments also partnered with marketing communications agency Havas Worldwide and Durex to create their other brainchild—Fundwear—which fuses the appeal of technology, fashion and touch. According to Wearable Experiments, these handmade undergarments are the world's first wearable technology that allows the personal touch to be transferred from a smartphone app to a partner … anywhere in the world.
Made of bamboo fabric to conceal the technology, Fundwear allows physical touch to be transferred wirelessly between couples and recreated on their skin. The creators said it's great for couples who spend time apart. "We want to give couples the opportunity to connect through physical touch in a new and exciting way," said Whitehouse and Moir.
Italian-based fashion brand EZIO has teamed up with Swiss-born designer Christian Stammbach to create a collection of Bluetooth watches and jewelry—many of which are designed for women—that pair with a smartphone and also uses lights to alert users of calls or other notifications. The products focus as much on style as they do function.
For on-the-go women tired of losing battery power, emPOWERED makes universally compatible purses that charge various smartphones, including iPhone and Androids, and other devices, such as Kindles and even digital cameras. Founded by Loni Edwards, the company makes handbags that come with removable and adjustable straps that allow the bags to be worn various ways. They come in luxe leather and canvas models.
"We designed the product for the fashionable girl on the go who spends a lot of time on her phone," said Edwards, adding, "Phones have limited battery life, usually not enough to last the full day. We're helping them get through the day without having to worry about battery life or sacrificing style."