Tech Makeover

Special Gift Guide Feature
The days of tech being a mere practical application of science are over. Fashionistas, take note: Sartorial has turned cyber.

Fashion house Opening Ceremony’s MICA smart bracelets, engineered by Intel. (©Collier Shorr)

Imagine technology in the year 2050: cars that fly, robots that do the dishes and bite-size computers that project holographic emails. That land seems distantly possible and fantastic, a dream deferred. But the last 10 years alone have brought exponential leaps in the digital world that make the future not that far off. Mattel recently announced the imminent release of Hello Barbie, a doll with voice technology from ToyTalk. Hello Barbie responds to her playmate, tells stories and brings her plastic body to life with the power of a Wi-Fi connection. The release of the smartdoll this fall marks a milestone in mainstream technology. For years, technology focused on perfecting its own functionality. Now, it seeks to integrate itself further into the analog world, as it invisibly integrates handbags, jackets, wrist wear, gloves and more with state-of-the-art sensors, fibers, USB cables and Bluetooth capabilities. Software companies are teaming up with designers to create fashionable products in the forefront of both technology and design. We located which ones are changing our city.

The Siren rings hide a micro-alarm system, allowing you to voicelessly call for help if needed. (©Paul Alves, Oak and Fig Productions)


Jewelry Upgrade

Technology is finally finding an aesthetic home inside delicate bracelets and ring stones. New York-based fashion house Opening Ceremony designed the stylish My Intelligent Communication Accessory (MICA) from Intel, available at luxury retail institution Barneys New York (660 Madison Ave., 212.826.8900). This smartbracelet made from precious stones and Ayers snakeskin is available in two styles and delivers text messages and notifications to the wearer, with access to Yelp and a two-year AT&T data plan paid by Intel.

Designer Rebecca Minkoff (96 Greene St., 212.677.7883) joins Opening Ceremony in the handful of adventurous designers offering their talents to wearable technology. Partnering with Case-Mate, in early fall she will release the Lightning Cable Bracelet for on-the-go USB connectivity in studded leather and the Gold Chain Link Notification Bracelet, using Bluetooth capabilities to gently notify the wearer of a call or message.

The Machina Midi Controller Jacket acts as a synthesizer: Download Machina’s mobile app, and it sends a signal to the jacket to connect, creating music from your movements. (©Rodrigo Navarro)

New York-based companies Ringly and SIREN keep women subtle and safe. Ringly notifies the wearer of calls, messages, calendar and other updates with a slight vibration in the finger; and Siren ring hides a micro-alarm system.

Music

In 2015, tech is amplifying the music-listening experience through different landscapes. The Stellé Audio mini-clutch, a jewel-encrusted clutch that features Bluetooth speakers with an auxiliary plug-in, a USB charger, a mirror and a small pocket for daily essentials. Find the Diamond style at Gracious Home (1220 Third Ave., 212.517.6300) and additional styles on the Stellé Audio website (stelleaudio.com). For music listening on your own, look for Beats Studio Wireless headphones from Beats by Dr. Dre or Parrot’s Zik 2.0 headphones, both available through Apple. The Zik headphones are also available at the MoMA Design Store (44 W. 53rd St., 212.767.1050). Both feature Bluetooth technology for wireless audio playback and hands-free calling capabilities.

With the jewel-encrusted Stellé Audio clutch, you get Bluetooth speakers with an auxiliary plug-in, a USB charger, a mirror and a pocket for your daily essentials. (Courtesy Stellé Audio)

Machina will soon release its Midi Controller Jacket, which functions like a wearable synthesizer with augmented digital capabilities inside a waterproof jacket. The user can interact with the surrounding environment to organically create music through his or her movements. The jacket can upload programs, control and mix sounds so that you can experience music on a completely different platform. Machina’s products are available at AC Gears (69 E. 8th St., 212.375.1700).

Charge On-the-Go

From begging the bartender to plug in behind the bar to scanning for outlets at train stations, battery life poses a never-ending problem for New Yorkers and visitors. Jon Lou’s 314 Handbag, designed in New York City with technology from MIT, charges any USB-enabled device for up to one month. LEDs light up the bag’s interior so that a smartphone, spare tube of lipstick or escaped bobby pin at the bottom of the bag can be located quickly. VanDerWaals has a new line of fine leather handbags that charge smartphones, tablets or any other portable device. These handbags take personalization to the next level through an app that lets you change the color of your bag to match your outfit, mood or even a music playlist.

Beats By Dr. Dre Studio Wireless headphones offer spectacular sound quality, noise cancellation, Bluetooth capability to answer phone calls and volume controlled by touch. (Courtesy Beats by Dre)

For a smaller bag that charges on-the-go, H & Butler’s Mighty Purse charges your smartphone or tablet for up to two full charges. The Mighty Purse comes in an array of styles and colors, including a small leather backpack, an envelope clutch and a wristlet. Scroll through styles on the website (mighty-purse.com), or find it among other top-notch beauty products at New York apothecary Clyde’s (926 Madison Ave., 212.744.5050).

Rebecca Minkoff’s partnership with Case-Mate is also bringing her fashion ethos into the world of mobile devices.The two companies will soon launch a compact, on-the-go mobile charger, available in three styles to match smartphone cases.

Finally, New York-based start-up QDesigns extends fashionable phone-charger-wear with a sleek design for men and women. The QBracelet’s simple, modern black, silver and gold varieties boost battery by up to 60 percent to last through long meetings or a day of walking around the city.

Left: The QBracelet, pictured here in silver, charges your mobile device by up to 60 percent. (Courtesy QDesigns) Right: VanDerWaals handbags, designed in New York City, are programmable through an app that allows the bag to change colors, including flashing a selected color when you get a phone call. (Courtesy Vanderwaals)


Stay Fit

Monitor your health in style with fitness technology from New York’s luxury fashion designers. The Polo Tech Shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren (711 Fifth Ave., 646.774.3900) debuted on opening day of the 2014 US Open in Flushing, Queens. The shirt provides comprehensive biometric feedback for an assessment of each workout.

Designer Tory Burch (797 Madison Ave., 212.510.8371) also joins the wellness initiative with new products for Fitbit. The Fret Double-Wrap Bracelet hides the Fitbit in a long leather strap that wraps around the wrist and closes in the signature Tory Burch gold buckle. This follows her polished Metal-Hinged Bracelet and Metal Fret Pendant for Fitbit.

The Ralph Lauren Polo Tech Shirt tracks biometric data (heart rate, steps, calories and more). (Courtesy Ralph Lauren)


Smartwatches

The wearable technology industry stands to reap billions of dollars over the next three to four years, and smartwatches could change the entire market. With a focus on personalization from technology to design, the Apple iWatch, on view at the Apple Store (767 Fifth Ave., 212.336.1440), gives the wearer control. The watch can receive texts, emails and Facebook notifications, take calls, monitor fitness level, play music, facilitate payments and order an Uber. We love the elegant iWatch Edition, available in 18-karat rose gold or yellow gold with a polished sapphire crystal display and an interchangeable band in leather, chain link or stainless steel for a polished, sophisticated look.

For those who find it difficult to drop the classic analog design, the Guess Connect smartwatch, coming this fall from Guess Watches (575 Fifth Ave., 212.922.9792), fuses the past with the future in three different, wearable styles. The watch, powered by Martian technology, features an analog clock face with digital capabilities. The wearer can customize notifications through a free iOS- and Android-compatible smartphone app, use voice commands to send and receive messages, and access several applications.

Left: Tory Burch’s Fitbit bracelet hides the Fitbit device, which, among other things, can monitor your heart rate 24/7. Middle: This past spring, the company that started it all, Apple, came out with its iWatch, which virtually turns your wristwatch into a phone, computer, tablet and car service (yes, you can even order Uber). (Courtesy Apple Inc.) Right: The Guess Connect smartwatch, due out this coming fall, will offer voice commands, notifications, is Siri and Android compatible, and looks like an analog watch: Remember those? (©Frank Poole)