Nina Garcia:  Wearable Tech’s Most Fashionable Advocate
Creative Director of Marie Claire US, Nina Garcia is the fashion industry’s foremost champion of wearable technology.
by Jessica DeFino

 

Nina Garcia breezes into the room, her outfit a study in minimalist chic.  A curve-hugging black sweater and graphic snakeskin midi skirt are complemented only by a simple, leather-banded analog watch.  It’s nearly impossible to tell, but her elegant timekeeper is actually on the cutting-edge of technology: it is a Writhings Activité, a Swiss-made smartwatch that blends a timeless aesthetic with of-the-moment tech.

For the current Creative Director of Marie Claire US (after 13 years at ELLE) and judge on the television series Project Runway (now in its 13th season), any piece Garcia wears has to have style and substance in spades in order to fit into her highly-visible and hectic lifestyle.  Her go-to wearables- Google Glass and Activité- boast that winning combination, which Garcia insists is the key to a truly wearable piece of wearable technology.  

We caught up with her at the Marie Claire offices in New York City to see how she incorporates wearable tech into her daily office routine, hear her thoughts on the greatly-anticipated Apple iWatch, and get a feel for the future of wearables in fashion.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship with wearable tech. When did you start using Google Glass and other wearables? How frequently do you use Google Glass?

I started using Google Glass in September of 2013 during Fashion Week. It was a really interesting experience because it was the first time that fashion week was being covered from the front row with them. Usually I have lots of devices during fashion week, so having a hands-free experience was very liberating. I could go to a show and not be looking down at my phone the entire time.

Tell us a bit about your overall approach to wearable tech in the office. How does Google Glass facilitate your daily duties, and what features are most important to your work?

My general approach to wearable tech is that it should work to make your life easier, and allow you to be more in the moment. It needs to work with your lifestyle and look––it shouldn’t interfere.

From your point of view, how has the fashion industry embraced Google Glass and wearable tech?

I think the fashion industry has greatly embraced it. It’s interesting now because I think in order to make these amazing wearable tech devices something people want to actually use, you have to consider fashion. I think now more than ever the tech industry is knocking on fashion’s door to try and make wearable tech not just something that’s cool, but something that’s stylish. Now you have Diane Von Furstenberg’s “Made for Glass” collection she designed for Google Glass, and Intel creating a bracelet with Opening Ceremony. Lately we’ve seen so many designers start to incorporate wearable tech into their collections, such as Diesel, Rebecca Minkoff, and Tory Burch. And at the US Open Ralph Lauren’s biometric t-shirts were already being worn. Marc Jacobs’ show at Fashion Week also incorporated tech in that all the attendees wore Beats headphones for an audio and visual sensory experience combined into one.

Do you have any other wearable devices besides Google Glass? How did you discover them, and how do you use them in your daily life?

I have the Activité watch by Withings, which combines time and activity tracking. I wore it during Fashion Week to track my fitness and health, things like steps and sleep. It also corresponds to a scale, which I keep at home.

Most wearable technology is often considered unwearable from a fashion perspective. Is there a way for people to look for a device that is on the cutting edge of fashion?  What companies, brands, and websites are your go-to places for wearable tech that is trendy and fashion-forward?

My go-to places for wearable tech are places like Wanelo, Google, Samsung, and Apple––just to name a few. As I mentioned earlier, I think all wearable tech is moving in a very fashionable direction.

In your opinion, does “wearable” mean concealing the tech aspects of a gadget (Ringly, Everpurse), or do you think there is a place in the fashion industry for wearables that actually appear to be high-tech?

I think the meaning of “wearable” really evolves with each season. It’s sort of an umbrella term. We’ve seen wearables move all around, from wrist to neck to even in the fabric of our clothes. So I would say it’s becoming more integrated and probably less obvious as “high-tech” as opposed to high fashion. I think some people like the high-tech look, but for wearables to become ubiquitous I think you do have to consider whether they work with current fashion.

What’s your opinion on the Apple iWatch? How do you see the future of smart watches progressing in the fashion industry?

From what I’ve seen it looks beautiful, and I think what’s nice about it is that it gives you so many choices. You can switch out the bands and customize as you like. I think we will see smart watches move more towards customization in the future.

You are one of the most vocal advocates for wearables in the fashion industry.  Would you ever consider designing or collaborating with tech designers in the future?

I don’t see why not!

How do you see wearables evolving over the next few seasons?

I think we will see them become much more integrated with clothing and accessories, so that they are not as obvious as high tech items but instead blend into things we’re already wearing. Things like perhaps a smartwatch face on a leather strap. Again, I think customization will be big. I think offering people lots of options, price points, and the ability  to infuse wearables with their personal style is important.