How MasterCard Will Make Wearables Fashionable

“There’s so much opportunity for innovation when fashion and technology meet.”

That was said by Sherri Haymond, Senior Vice President of Digital Payments & Labs at MasterCard, who recently spoke with MPD CEO Karen Webster about MasterCard’s partnership with the Parsons School of Design on a Fashion and Design Hack.

In the contest, teams of students will compete to develop solutions and build prototypes for connected commerce by embedding payments functionality into more than just traditional “wearables,” instead branching out to clothes and accessories that look good doing it.

As Haymond explains to Webster, it’s all part of MasterCard’s Commerce for Every Device program, introduced last year, which aims to enable commerce on a wide array of consumer products.

With the focus of the first challenge (with more to come, down the line) being on contactless payment functionality, MasterCard is putting together students from multiple disciplines — fashion, design and media — and asking them to innovate around that theme. The prototypes that the teams create will be assessed by a panel of esteemed judges that includes fashion designer Adam Selman.

One of the main reasons that MasterCard was interested in partnering with Parsons on this endeavor is the emerging consumer trend of regarding payments-integrated technologies as part of their day-to-day lives. The school, Haymond remarks, is “training students to go out there and design and build things, for real life, that are both fashionable and practical.” Innovating for contactless payments, then, was viewed by MasterCard as “the next logical step.”

Referring to MasterCard’s partnership with payments-enabled jewelry company Ringly, Haymond explains that such integrations “really resonate with regular people” — those who aren’t necessarily “payments geeks” (a category with which Haymond herself proudly identifies).

“The idea of having something that you wear that’s really pretty that’s serving another function — it’s notifying you of text messages or phone calls, if your phone might be in your bag or on your desk … As you’re running errands and you stop at Starbucks, and you can tap and get your coffee … Or you jump into a taxi in New York City, and you can tap to get out without having to do anything other than put your finger up to the terminal … There’s something that’s very relatable about that,” says Haymond.

“It really contributes towards that frictionless, seamless life,” she adds, “where the payment kind of melts into the background.”

Toward that end, Haymond has observed that fashion, jewelry and accessories are a perfect fit — perhaps even more so than traditional fitness wearables, by comparison.

“People think about clothes, and what they wear, and how they’re going to present themselves and accessories every day. Even better if what they’re already wearing is functional, as well as beautiful and stylish,” she tells Webster. “I think that people can really visualize themselves adopting this technology and having it become part of their daily lives. Because it’s not something extra; it’s something that they’re doing anyway.”

And if it also makes their day easier and cooler — putting them on the cutting edge of an emerging trend — people get really excited about that, Haymond added.

While the kind of innovations that MasterCard is fostering at its first Fashion and Design Hack are likely to result in “a really great addition for everyday spend,” notes Haymond, she also believes that it’s only the tip of the iceberg and that further developments that will integrate even more seamlessly into consumers’ daily activities will continue to emerge over time.

As Webster observes, forward-thinking experimentation — such as what MasterCard is engaged in with Parsons — is necessary to learn how consumers react to different payment-enabled concepts and how the experience can be further perfected.

Haymond agrees, noting that that very reality is what makes it an exciting time to be working in payments — both at the very moment and with an eye toward the future, as she hints at the fact that MasterCard is going to be introducing some additional, fashion-forward “prominent payment methods” later this year.


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