How Fashion and Beauty Should Clock CES

Like fashion week, CES, tech’s showcase of consumer electronics in Las Vegas delights in spotlighting the newest products and trends that will fascinate people in the weeks and months to come.

Even so, the show has never been a regular stop on the fashion and beauty circuit — except perhaps for the most tech-driven brands and platforms. Look closely to spot companies like L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Fossil, Perfect Corp. and others that are eager to tell their innovation stories, identify intriguing new partnerships or show off their newest advancements, products and projects.

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L’Oréal Group’s fascination with hardware and beauty intelligence led the company to introduce two new makeup application devices at the show called Hapta and Brow Magic. Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oréal’s tech incubator, told WWD that they feed into a broader goal of using tech to ensure “our fingers and hands will no longer be the barrier to achieving our desired results.”

Unlike previous years, Procter & Gamble didn’t unveil new products or stage an exhibition this time. But it made its presence known by sending Kelly Anderson, director of research and development for data science and artificial intelligence, to talk about the company’s approach to data science and partnering with start-ups to keep the fresh ideas and innovations flowing.

“AI and data — high-quality, owned data — is part of our digital transformation strategy to disrupt how we innovate, bringing products to market faster and better and cheaper,” Anderson said in exclusive comments to WWD. “It’s helping to really understand the consumer behavior very deeply, what they are aspiring to achieve, and helping us to design the best products possible to achieve that for them.

“We are strategically partnering externally, both with academics, obviously, for basic sciences understanding, [and] with start-ups, especially as, in the AI world, technology moves from academia to start-ups to large business very, very quickly.”

Perfect Corp., the AI and augmented reality platform for beauty and increasingly accessories, has become a regular at CES as well. Just ahead of the show, the company announced a virtual try-on solution for eyewear, with a “streamlined automated modeling process simplifies 3D sku creation by introducing an easy-to-adopt self-service platform for brands to digitize their product range in a fraction of the time,” according to the company.

In essence, the 3D virtual eyewear creation process it devised was created to replace complicated, multidimensional scanning processes with automatic 3D renderings “using just three flat product images to create a unique live camera preview.”

Adam Gant, Perfect Corp.’s chief marketing officer, was also spotted at a CES panel on solving retail’s biggest challenges. The talk centered on the six particular tech trends the company identified, including sustainability, physical retail’s comeback, AI-based skin technology, the rise of AI and AR for fashion accessories, the intelligence of personalization and virtual commerce via Web 3.0 and other immersive experiences.

Naturally, the larger show punctuates some of those points, particularly the latter, as dozens of exhibitors kept mixed reality, NFT and blockchain, metaverse, Web 3.0 and related trends front of mind.

WWD caught up with one tech company whose wearable tech aims to bridge fashion and a virtual experience similar to augmented reality, but in a more practical way. Vuzix announced a new Ultralite reference device that extends smartphone notifications in a visual way to the eyes, but without the bulk and annoyingly short battery life.

As Paul Travers, president, chief executive officer and founder of Vuzix, explained to WWD, the company’s approach to waveguide technology allows for a slimmer form factor without skimping on resolution and quality. “It’s all about thin and sexy [and] fashion-forward,” he said. “The displays can be super tiny, up in the corner hidden in the frames. And the lenses are 0.6 millimeters thin. So you’ve got this form factor that you can put in glasses.”

The premise seems particularly interesting, given the buzz about Apple reportedly on the verge of releasing its own smart glasses or mixed reality headset. So it’s no surprise that major technology and fashion-related brands showed interest in the Ultralite. Travers didn’t name specific companies, but hinted at the feasibility of the Ultralite reference design arriving under the banner of a globally recognizable consumer brand as early as this fall.

Wearable tech and fashion has become so irresistible, even celebrities like Paula Abdul are getting into the act. The dancer/singer saw fit to bring her IdolEyes Fashion Audio Glasses to CES, while plenty of wrist gizmos were spotted, too, including Fossil’s latest sixth-generation, wellness-oriented hybrid watch.

Apparently fashion-focused technology has moved from the face and hands all the way down to the feet as well. Indeed, luxury footwear designer Enrico Cuini worked with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Taryn Rose to create a line of high-end men’s and women’s shoes that promise the ultimate in fit and comfort, thanks to the development of their ALIA, or Active Lift in Alignment, support technology.

The system uses computer vision and intelligence for personalized, made-to-measure fit. The shoes “dissipate pressure across a greater foot surface area to dynamically allow for pressure relief, stability and energy return, making even the highest, sexiest stilettos amazingly comfortable,” the announcement read.

For the attendees that made it out to CES this year — which, at some 112,000 or so in the final tally, amount to a little more than half of the usual crowd — they were rewarded with gonzo spectacles across an array of eye-grabbing technologies.

The most obvious to the casual onlooker were futuristic, bendable displays in televisions and automotive innovation for self-driving cars, electric vehicles, infotainment systems and more. If that didn’t snag attention, certainly the transportation options did. After all, how often does one shoot through the color-lit underground tunnels beneath the Las Vegas Convention Center in a free chauffeured Tesla?

But there was more going on under the surface of the show, and for fashion and beauty, it’s clear that innovation will continue lighting the way this year and beyond.

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