If you strip the Wareable Tech Awards shortlist for Fashion Tech of the Year down to its most basic parts, you get a leap in innovation (Levi's Jacquard-powered jacket); new features in slim, stylish form factors (Motiv Ring); a few designer smartwatches (the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45, Movado Group collection and Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon) and a collaboration between fashion and tech companies (Avery Dennison and EVRYTHNG's Janela).
So, of course, our winner had to be Fossil Group. Its range of designer smartwatches, and hybrids, is a collaboration between tech companies (Google and Fossil-owned Misfit) and fashion labels with innovation in slim and stylish form factors.
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Essentially, Fossil Group represents the best of everything we've been impressed by in connected fashion tech in 2017. Nailed it.
In fact, this is ol' FG's second Awards win in two years, as it also picked up our inaugural fashion tech prize. It's sometimes hard to keep track of how many connected watches for men and women its brands – including Fossil itself, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, Misfit, DKNY, Kate Spade and Skagen – are launching but frankly, they're everywhere.
We've been most impressed by how closely the brands are matching their existing, bestselling watches on style, materials and customisation – from straps to watch faces. And the latest watches, like the Skagen Signatur T-Bar and Fossil Q Jacqueline and Q Neely – are the smallest, slimmest, lightest watches we've seen since Pebble's Time Round. No mean feat.
I'm also not someone to toot marketing's horn all too often but with all these connected accessories displayed in brick and mortar stores alongside the 'dumb' stuff, plus fashion week parties and big campaigns with Shawn Mendes et al, Fossil Group is also helping to shift the perception of the entire wearable tech industry.
You might have noticed that despite this forward charge, Fossil's shortlisted devices in categories like Smartwatch and Hybrid Watch of the Year didn't win those individual awards.
Our Hybrid Watch pick was the perhaps surprising Garmin Vivomove HR, which adds a secret screen into the watch face and beat both the Skagen Connected range and the Kate Spade Metro Grand. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch Series 3 bagged the Smartwatch award over options including the Michael Kors Access Grayson and Sofie.
So our usual go-to line is that there is still work to be done when it comes to the tech features Fossil is offering and how these compare to rivals. We'd particularly like to see Android Pay rolled out across the lines.
But as if by magic, this week the Fossil Q Control Android Wear watch was announced, complete with new features like heart rate and connected GPS. (Not the most snazzy design but apparently influenced by '90s athletics apparel).
The Fashion Tech of the Year shortlist
- Levi's Trucker Commuter Jacket with JacquardWe put Google's first Jacquard wearable to the test
- Motiv Ring reviewA feather-light smart ring that favours simple fashion and function
- Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon reviewIs this luxury smartwatch experience worth it?
- Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 reviewTag's second smartwatch is a welcome addition to the Android Wear family
- Avery Dennison & EVRYTHNG JanelaDesigner collaborations a-go-go to get this project off the ground
So it looks like Fossil has been listening and knows that a few extra pusher functions are nice for now but if it's selling with the big players (with around 4.5 million sales expected for 2017), now is the time to innovate on the tech front as well as in design. And it gets more promising. A few weeks ago Fossil Group's EVP Greg McKelvey revealed that its connected range will expand to handbags, hearables and eyewear next year.
A quick word for the Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket, powered by Google's Jacquard connected yarn, which won our Highly Commended for Fashion Tech. Its functions are still quite niche – music controls, counting things – but for pure innovation and actually getting an item of high street clothing, with connected, haptic smarts, out into stores, it deserves the nod. We're also itching to see who will be the next Jacquard partner.
Do you agree with our decision? Let us know in the comments below.