Friday, 27 May 2016

Riding The Road To Smart Wearability

The trick to making an item of clothing sustainable is building it to last. If you don't feel the need to throw it away, you won't. If that item becomes as indispensable to you as, say, your mobile phone, then you'll be more inclined to look after it, and make it last.

That makes the new collaboration between Levi's and of all people Google so interesting. The two giants have been working on the concept of smart clothing–items that do more than keep you warm and dry. WIth their Project Jacquard, they might have hit the jackpot.

The first iteration of their team-up is the Commuter Trucker Jacket, a sturdy denim number that looks and wears just like a classic piece of Levi's clothing. But it's loaded with electronics, and the yarn it's made from is interwoven with conductive fibres. This means that it can connect with mobile devices, and allow the wearer to interact with them using swipe and tap gestures.

The target market for this prototype is urban cyclists. The sort of rider who doesn't like to go to the office in Lycra. Wearing the Commuter Trucker Jacket, you'll be able to skip songs, or reject an incoming phone call with a simple tap on the sleeve. It's a good idea, meaning that cyclists can concentrate on their ride more safely without needing to fiddle with their phones.

Most importantly, though, the jacket is designed to fit neatly into everyday use. It's waterproof (again, an important consideration for cyclists) with the exception of a detachable electronic tab that sets up the connection between the garment and your phone. If it gets dirty, take out the tag and sling the jacket in the washer. No muss, no fuss (although as someone that regularly leaves keys, change and pens in his pockets pre-wash you'd like to hope the tag is robust enough to survive the occasional accident).

Our View: There's no doubt that the Commuter Trucker Jacket is a desirable item, and here at The Pier we'll be interested to see what comes out of Project Jacquard over the next couple of years. The balance of price, utility and wearability is one to get right if smart clothing is to take off in the way that wearables have with the advent of Fitbits and the Apple Watch. I have to admit, though, this particular item is right up my street and I hope it becomes more than just a proof of concept.


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