Lessons That You Need To Learn From 7 Fashion Tech Startups That Failed

When a door closes, a window opens.

The startup life can be brutal. It is not something to enter lightly. Just because your idea sounds good on paper, does not mean that it will translate. It is no secret that trying to sell someone your idea is not easy. It is sometimes easier to convince someone that the Easter bunny exists even though they long stopped believing.

Having spoken to many startup founders, they all state that being a founder is one of their toughest roles. Which is why we have a lot of respect for those who have tried, tried and tried again before throwing in the towel. Of the many, there were 7 brands that taught us a few things about #StartupLife especially the fact that Rome was indeed not built in a day!

1. RINGLY

Wearables

A wearable tech darling of the fashion tech space, RINGLY was created with women in mind. Founded by CEO Christina Mercando d’Avignon believed the world would be a better place if technology blended seamlessly into our lives instead of being a distraction.  Founded on 1st August 2013 by Christina, who was neither a jewellery designer nor a hardware developer, RINGLY designed and developed wearable technology solutions that were compact in size. Powerful in functionality, the smart jewellery brand introduced us to smart rings and bracelets that pushed boundaries and solved big problems.

While this wearable tech jewellery was designed to empower women to lead a healthy and more balanced lifestyle, it came as shock, when in January 2018, Christina Mercando d’Avignon decided that after four years, they were not going to build or order new smart jewellery at this time. With their existing products continuing to work Christina shared, “This decision was not an easy one to make, but one we spent a lot of time thinking through”. 

With tomorrow’s fashion leaders more readily embracing today’s new technology, there are a lot more reasons now, than five years ago, to invest in the latest innovation, so why did RINGLY give up? Well, it’s a well-known fact that fashionable wearable technology is considered to be too expensive for the market and with very little proven customer demand, it is not an easy market to make money in. Although they had a team, investors, and partners on board, they still did not have staying power. “We’re still believers in wearable tech and its ability to make us healthier and happier” explained Christina.

In our humble opinion, Ringly was definitely among the most fashionable and therefore among the best wearable devices available lately. As the wearables space continues to grow and evolve, RINGLY bid farewell with a promise to provide support through January 2018 and offer warranty product exchanges through February 2018.

2. MEZZI

Quite tight-lipped, the smart bag company has admitted that they are currently making some changes at MEZZI. Since its launch in 2014, Mezzi, Italian for “having the means needed for a particular purpose,” introduced to the market products created on the principles of design, innovation and authenticity. Proving to be both beauty and brains, the collection of Mezzi bags successfully empowered women’s wardrobe with much needed smart technology.

Disrupting the accessories market all the way from Vancouver, Canada, I must admit that I instantly had a crush on their Nerina bag, a handbag with integrated technology. Mezzi was the idea of Venture Capitalist Keir Reynolds. Having witnessed many business women sacrificing style for technology, Reynolds was inspired to find a way of marrying design and function in stylish harmony. His goal was to give women access to beautiful handbags that would support their common technology without having to downgrade their wardrobe choices.

Thanking their “wonderful and loyal customers since 2014” the startup that played a role in changing and disrupting the fashion accessory industry not only bid farewell but also admitted that they “look forward to seeing what the next chapter brings”.

3. PLUMORA

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What went wrong with Plumora? This was one of the first fashion tech brands to make waves. A striking piece of jewellery that seemed to understand that a tech accessory needed to not only be innovative but also fashionably beautiful it was sad when the startup only managed to raise 7% off their initial $250,000 target on Indiegogo.

All about designing and creating the finest wearable technology for women who are all about adorning sophisticated jewellery, Plumora was a brand that convinced us that their device will be connecting us on our terms. Incorporated with technology in an elegant manner, the wearable tech device was supposed to make everyday life easier.

When worn, the Plumora bracelet subtly alerts you on the arrival of notifications on your smartphone by gently vibrating and glowing softly. The device offered amazing features such as Bluetooth, wireless charging and a rechargeable battery, so how come the upwardly mobile women were not tempted? One could argue that although stylish, it was not to everyone’s taste. For someone to spend $199 on a bracelet they would have to really love it.

Anyone with a keen fashion eye could appreciate that the functional bracelet made a seasonless addition to one’s jewellery box, but it certainly was not what you would call a trendsetter. Taking a closer look, Plumora could be considered too expensive to be an everyday throw on the bracelet and not expensive enough to be an investment piece. Also, we live in a world where our phone gives us all we need, so for us to deviate from our beloved device, Aakanksha Chhikara, the woman behind the campaign, modern twist on a classic design, unfortunately, was simply not enough.

4. WISEWEAR

WiseWear
WiseWear Socialite Smart Bracelet

We literally bowed our head in sadness when Jerry Wilmink confirmed that his San Antonio startup WiseWear Corp. had made plans to liquidate its assets. Blaming a change in Apple Inc.’s operating system on a failed round of financing that forced the maker of designer fitness jewellery into bankruptcy Wednesday. FashNerd has been fans of the smart jewellery brand for years.

Mysanantonio.com reported that the company, launched in 2013, primarily blamed its Chapter 11 filing on its inability to raise $2 million in Series A financing that it needed to continue operations.“Certainly (a) very promising company,” said Ron Smeberg, WiseWear’s bankruptcy lawyer. The lack of funding prevented WiseWear jewellery from achieving large-scale production that would have created economies of scale and lowered the price of its products, he added.

WiseWear corporation was a success story that many fashion tech startups looked up too. They managed to get their products into major retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Nordstrom. Wilmink was the man behind the antenna system that can transmit Bluetooth signals through metal. It was this new idea that brought about the WiseWear’s smart sensing technology embedded in the sleek metal jewellery. The brand even managed, in 2017, to get fashion icon, Iris Apfel, to collaborate with them on the “Socialite Collection”.

5. VINAYA

ALTRUIS by Vinaya

To say we were shocked to hear that one of our favourite wearable tech brands had entered bankruptcy is an understatement. Vinaya was a startup that had found a way to create tech accessories that were a great example of what a fashionable wearable tech gadget should look like. We, at FashNerd, loved their product because it seemed to do what it said on the tin, not an easy feat. In the announcement, the duo confirmed that they were going to be working together on a number of events in NYC Soho pop-up store which was set to run from November 2016 until 15 January 2017. So what went wrong?

Well, we first heard the whispers from various industry insiders that trouble was brewing at Vinaya at the beginning of December 2016, but we never imagined that it was this bad. According to Business Insider‘s report, the regulatory filings indicate that the company will become two separate entities, Vinaya and Vinaya Technologies. The news was announced little more than a year after Vinaya raised around $3 million in seed funding from backers!

6. Ear-O-SMART

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Do any of you remember Ear-O-Smart? Their campaign hit the headlines and was covered by the likes of Forbes.com, CBC News and the BBC. All this attention ensured that their Kickstarter campaign got off to a great start. They had been given a stage to perform, so why did the ‘world’s first fashionable smart earring’ make less than half of their initial $30,000 goal?

Made available in 4 different styles, Ear-O-Smart was all about combining fashion and electronics that monitor your heart rate, calories, and activity levels. Connecting to your smartphone with Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, the fashion-forward device was all about being a wearable electronic embedded into an everyday earring.

The device also came with the Ear-O-Smart app that instructed the user to switch exercises based on their heart rate zone and the voice instruction in the app notified the wearer when they should speed up or slow down based on their heart rate data in order to provide optimal results. All sounds great, so how come fashion insiders did not put down their ‘gratis’ AppleWatch and jump onto the Ear-O-Smart ship?

Starting at $125 pledge, the brand stood out because it embraced the fashion angle. This brought about attention because a lot of tech devices missed the fashion element, making them functional but not visually appealing. When you look at their pitch, Ear-O-Smart’s initial success was based on the fact that it was all about being a fashionable piece that you would like to wear. The problem with that assumption is that the fashion world is not the easiest crowd to please. Just because Ear-O-Smart says it is fashionable does not make it so. This was a route that Apple tried to go down with their Apple Watch. They pitched it as a fashion-conscious product made for a stylish individual but what they did not realise was that the Anna Wintour’s of Fashion might smile politely but that does not mean that they will let you into their sorority.

7. XYZE 

With only 10% off their initial 60,000 euro goal raised on Indiegogo,  XYZE brought us a digital measuring tape that promised to help us translate our real measurements so we would be able to purchase clothes that will fit our size perfectly. Sounds like dream huh? Well, it certainly sounded good on paper but for some reason, in reality, it somehow came across quite gimmicky.

The specifics of the product are the built-in revolutionary technology that offers up to 160 cm (63 inches) of circular tape and a removable 3V battery that can last up to 48 months. The soft compact design was developed in Italy and was created to be a user-friendly measuring tape that would be both compatible and portable, so the user could take it anywhere at any time.

So why did it fail? At first, it is hard to grasp how a product with enviable press coverage in publications such as Vogue, ElleUK and Mail Online could only manage to receive only a flutter of attention from its targeted consumers. What it all came down too was that the power of the press did not convince consumers that XYZE was worth their pledge. Which is a shame, because with contribution requests starting from $10, they were not asking for the world. Their highest pledge request was for $1189 which would have given the donor a total of 25 measuring tapes.

Having followed the brand’s campaign journey, I came to the conclusion that although women love the idea of clothes fitting their size perfectly, truly knowing our exact measurements might be something that could send some of us to the looney bin. Although every woman who likes to shop can usually be heard crying from the nearest changing room about how “this doesn’t fit because the brand doesn’t make it for a real woman’s size”, the smart XYZE tape had the potential to throw a bucket of hard cold reality in the direction of such a complaint. It would not allow the ‘real woman’ complaint to take flight, instead, it would simply have informed her that “hey the dress does not fit your size, no matter how much you like it”. Ouch! I am sure that this is a reality that we are not yet quite ready to face. That all being said, XYZE was a ‘good on paper’ label that we simply were not ready to let into our wardrobe then, but now a few years later, I think it would have found its market.

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Founding Editor in Chief at | editor@fashnerd.com

Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.