Fitbit Taps Public School Designers to Outfit Its Latest Fitness Tracker

The fashion label's first designs for the Fitbit Alta will debut on the runway at New York Fashion Week.
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Public School's Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow. Photo: Courtesy Fitbit

Public School's Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow. Photo: Courtesy Fitbit

Fitness trackers aren't known for their looks — if anything, they discourage would-be users from wearing them on the regular. That may change with Fitbit's upcoming collaboration with one of fashion's most sought-after labels, Public School, set to bow at the brand's New York Fashion Week show on Sunday.

Over the past month, Fitbit has unveiled two new health-monitoring devices aimed at style-conscious individuals: the $130 Alta, a slim, elegant cuff with interchangeable bands that tracks activity and sleep and displays text messages, and a $200 Apple Watch look-alike called Blaze, a more performance-oriented device with a heart rate tracker and color LED screen.

Of the two devices, it's the Alta that has the most market potential — and the one that Public School creative directors Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne have been tasked with remixing. The first designs won't be revealed until the duo's show, but the company says we can expect to see "high-end bracelets inspired by urban spaces" featuring "custom hardware" and "fine metals," as well as "more accessible printed sports bands" with "inspirational and bold graphic phrases… true to the Public School color palette and brand mantras." Got all that? The bands will be available for purchase, prices TBD, at select retailers and on Fitbit.com later this year.

The Fitbit Alta with a black rubberized band. Photo: Courtesy Fitbit

The Fitbit Alta with a black rubberized band. Photo: Courtesy Fitbit

This isn't the first time Fitbit has collaborated with a fashion designer. In 2014, Tory Burch designed a collection of brassy accessories for the company, and she's already working on another release. "We didn't want to [choose a new partner] that would compete with Tory," Tim Rosa, Fitbit's vice president of global marketing, said by phone earlier this week. While Burch has attracted a "range of female consumers," Public School, which designs sporty, urban-inspired runway collections for both sexes, is bound to appeal to customers outside of Fitbit's core demographic, including young millennials and men, he explained. Youmi Bang, product marketing manager for accessories at Fitbit, said that the company is also in talks with high-end retailers to carry the Public School bands, which could put the Fitbit name in front of even more potential customers.

As someone who covers fashion, the partnership seems like a real coup for Fitbit — Public School's perceived coolness is hard to come by, and could go a long way towards elevating Fitbit's profile. And Fitbit could use a boost right now. Shares of the company have plummeted 50 percent this year, following the lackluster reception of its Blaze device at CES, a class-action lawsuit alleging that the heart rate monitors in its devices do not function as advertised, and concerns that the brand can't maintain its lead in the market amidst increasing competition.

But Public School, which is only a $4-million business, could certainly benefit from the sales as well as the brand exposure a company like Fitbit — currently the number-one seller of wearable devices worldwide — can provide. All in all, it seems like a win-win.

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Fitbit Blaze contained a GPS chip.