British designer Henry Holland, in partnership with Visa Europe, just bowed wearable pay technology to a select group of front-row guests at London Fashion Week.
Put together in just 100 days, the Cashless on the Catwalk event enabled 10 VIPs to make real-time purchases from pieces of the collection using near-field communication (NFC) payment rings and smart brooches. The smart jewelry contains a payment receiver tag that links via Bluetooth Smart to a virtualized terminal and Visa’s payment network.
“Our goal in this partnership was to also push the boundaries of payments and the retail experience—to produce something beautiful and desirable yet also with a very practical and functional purpose—and try it out in a spectacular setting,” said Steve Perry, founder and co-creator of Visa Europe Collab, according to The Drum.
“The same bold, bright, tropical motifs were used on the insect jewellery as on the models’ earrings, zip-pulls and handbag charms to avoid the tech sticking out like a sore thumb,” reports Wareable. “It wasn’t just a retailer’s dream, the whole process took the concept of an impulse buy to the next level. It was a fashion lover’s dream, too.”
“I was very clear that I didn’t want to create something that looked like wearable tech,” Holland told Wareable. ”If you are a vain, fashion-conscious customer you wouldn’t necessarily want to wear some of the mass market pieces of wearable tech that have come out. People have been turned off by it. So this was about creating a piece of covetable, desirable jewellery and saying—by the way, that’s a credit card.”
Niamh de Niese, Visa Europe Collab’s director of innovation delivery, added, “Hypothetically, what’s next is that we’d love to test this out in a small, controlled in-store environment because it’s hard to see how people react to using it in a catwalk show.”
The NFC devices were designed to aesthetically fit the overall “Urban Safari” theme, featuring patchwork safari jackets, leopard prints and feathered shoes, as well as bug and leaf accessories.
The idea is a proof-of-concept for new retail experiences in the future, Jon Downing, Visa Europe Collab’s innovation partner for emerging payments, told the Telegraph. “What we’re demonstrating here is this real-time experience of seeing an item you love, going up and connecting with that item.”
The concept of “see now, buy now,” first launched in 2010 with Burberry’s shoppable runway, was adopted by other fashion brands including Versus Versace and Hill & Friends.
Downing sums up the progress made to date. “The idea was to take all of the obstacles in the way of buying goods consumers love, like having to queue up, and moving them out of the way,” as reported by Forbes. “It’s about taking the current friction out of the payment experience. We did it with a bit of theatre and magic for tonight to illustrate what could happen in the future.”