There was a genius campaign run this past April Fools that saw H&M “releasing” a capsule collection in collaboration with Mark Zuckerberg. Yes, you’ve got it – grey t-shirts and blue jeans; a humorous take on the fact the Facebook founder does indeed wear the same outfit everyday in a bid to put the mental energy such decisions take to other more important things.
The only thing missing in this case was the dark grey hoodie he also frequently dons.
Otherwise known as the mainstay of the Silicon Valley uniform, the hoodie as a key item continues to get all sorts of attention. Now, it’s also at the heart of a new initiative from the head of industrial design at Pebble in a bid to come up with something that works better with smartwatches.
One of the most interesting things about connected clothing at this point is imagining the possibilities it will actually bring – do we really need tops that light up, shirts that tell us what the weather is doing, or the ability to see some of our social media feeds embedded in the laces on our shoes? When we stop and think about it, what do we truly want our garments to do and achieve for us?
The fact of the matter is, the things we wear are indeed getting smarter, and yet we’re still waiting for the perfect use cases to make us all want to jump on board and buy them.
The good news is, there’s potential that’s all set to change. You may remember a few months ago the announcement that Avery Dennison, a global leader in branding, labelling and RFID solutions, and Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG, teamed up to introduce 10 billion items of connected clothing over the next three years.
That deal will mean brands and retailers have to think less about how to get their wares on the grid, and instead focus on what exactly they want them to be able to do. As Niall Murphy, CEO and co-founder of EVRYTHNG, said at launch: “We’re taking the manufacturing complexity out of the challenge list by pre-solving it for brands. No longer is it about how am I going to get my 500 million pairs of sneakers to have a digital capability, because it’s already there. Now it’s about what applications you’re going to create, and a focus on real end value for the user.”
On the consumer side (digital clothing has many business applications also), he envisioned everything from finding our shoes when we’ve lost them, to figuring out how to wash our clothes properly, looking for style tips on how to wear items, and even searching for how to buy a new version of the same piece.
In a bid to show how “born digital” clothing could work, the duo have now launched a video (as above) detailing the possibilities a consumer might encounter through the Janela Smart Products Platform. Reminiscent of the virtual wardrobe in 1990s film Clueless, it focuses on the idea that new items just bought will instantly appear in a user’s app, enabling them to help visualise outfits to wear based on what they own, as well as get advice on other things to purchase to match. It also turns to the end of a garment’s life cycle by helping show them how and what they can recycle.
EVRYTHNG has reportedly had to expand its sales team in order to keep up with demand from brands and manufacturers since the announcement. It is also seeing numerous new use cases emerge in things like supply chain, where identity on an item can help solve compliance issues and use data to join up fragmentation in the sector.
As the designer churn continues apace, it’s no surprise to see lots of this week’s coverage surrounding what the future of the industry might look like on that basis, as well as whether this whole see now, buy now concept will work. Read on for an outline of Balmain’s plans, as well as other fashion and tech stories you need to know from the likes of LVMH, H&M, Gap and more. Dare we say ad blocking gets a mention too…
Google is stepping into the world of smart fabrics with the introduction of “Project Jacquard”. The tech giant is partnering with Levi Strauss & Co, the clothing manufacturer known for Levi’s denim, to make conductive yarn that will be weaved into garments–from our jeans to our jacket. The goal is to enable touch and gesture interactivity so we can do things like press our sleeves to turn a light bulb on or off, and activate our phones to make a call (as the concept video below shows).
It’s one-way communication, but it’s so embedded into what we wear it’s completely unobtrusive. In fact, whether you like the idea of the functionality at this stage or not, it’s the first true example of what might end up really being “wearable technology,” and that’s because the result looks exactly like the clothes we already own. That was a point Paul Dillinger, vice president of innovation at Levi’s, drove home when speaking at the Fashion Tech Forum in New York last week. He was joined by Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group.
Head on over to Forbes for the full story highlighting the four big things they talked about: this isn’t a gadget, creating something people want to wear, why Levi’s, and scaling up.
Twitter is urging retail brands to build out their advertising strategies on its platform this holiday season in order to capture consumers who “spend early and spend more”.
The social media channel revealed research carried out with DB5 that shows over a third of its users have already begun thinking about their holiday shopping before October, while 24% plan to spend $1,000 or more over the holiday shopping season versus 10% of non-users.
The study also showed over 87% of Twitter users are inclined to impulse buy, compared to 71% of non-users, and highlighted clothing and footwear as the top category for purchase.
Twitter is also relied on to discover gift ideas and special deals, it outlined, with 54% of users saying promotions they learn about on the platform then motivate them to buy. Meanwhile, more than half of them (52%) say they learned about a product they later purchased because of Twitter.
“When we think about our users, there’s a lot that kind of differentiates the mindset from when they’re on other platforms,” JJ Hirschle, Twitter’s director of retail, told BuzzFeed News. “[Because it’s] live and public and conversational, it fuels a kind of passion for discovery on the platform. This notion of it being actually in the moment lends to us being more connected not only outside of the store, but inside the store as well.”
That inside the store bit is also worth noting from the survey; 54% of users say they check Twitter to learn about products when out shopping.
Here are some of the tips from Twitter for retailers this season:
Launch your holiday campaign soon to make sure your products command attention: 54% of users said that seeing an advertised offer made them more likely to buy a product
When creating your ads, keep in mind that great prices and positive reviews are what users say most influences their likelihood to purchase
Don’t forget to make your landing page mobile-friendly: seven out of 10 Twitter users who purchase gifts online have used a mobile device to do so
Encourage conversation about your brand when shopping is top of mind, such as on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You might also try a limited time offer
According to our research, most Twitter users plan to take advantage of limited time offers they see on the platform this season
Once you’ve launched your campaign, monitor results daily to determine which ad content, format and targeting work best, and optimise accordingly
Then scale your efforts by encouraging users to Tweet about the gifts they’re buying or have received. Users tell us that recommendations from family and friends matter when considering a purchase
Home appliance manufacturer AEG has launched a 45-minute documentary called The Next Black focused on the future of clothing, with the goal to anticipate what washing needs are likely to look like down the road.
Featuring interviews with representatives from heavyweight brands such as adidas through to Patagonia, the film looks to understand what people will be wearing and washing totay and tomorrow, and how the industry can become more sustainable in doing so. It was produced together with production company House of Radon.
It also stars tech-clothing company, Studio XO; Biocouture, a consultancy exploring living organisms to grow clothing and accessories, and Yeh Group, which is pioneering a new way to dye clothes using zero water.
“We talked to designers, innovators and leaders from around the globe – people who are rethinking the way we use clothes. They have a fresh look for the future and are using their passions to fuel change. It’s not just about what we will be wearing but how we produce clothes, how we interact with them and how we care for them,” reads the write-up from AEG.
The content touches on such developments as Lady Gaga’s bubble dress; monitoring an athlete’s performance via their clothing in real-time; and materials grown in a bath tub out of bacteria.
Nancy Tilbury of Studio XO refers to her work during the interview as design engineering that just happens to be dressed up as fashion. “Philosophically as a project we’re really keen to tell people about this transformation in textiles,” she says, demonstrating how coding is being combined with clothing to bring about a fun, playful and curious result that is tranforming the way we dress.
Suzanne Lee of BioCouture meanwhile looks at how the most radical of future innovations could be organic, outlining her process for creating textiles as much closer to brewing beer or making food. The next step, she says, is taking such ideas and concepts from the lab to the market.
Imagining the future is exactly what this film sets out to do, check it out below…
Rachel Arthur recaps the highlights of this year’s SXSW Interactive conference and identifies key takeaways for the fashion industry.
AUSTIN, United States — The marketing and tech crowd hit Austin, Texas, once again this week for the annual SXSW Interactive conference, bringing with them more members of the fashion industry than ever before. There were representatives from long-time attendees like Burberry and Bergdorf Goodman, alongside a flurry of first timers from Parisian fashion houses and UK department stores alike, a sure sign of technology’s increasingly pervasive impact on fashion retail.Thought of as an incubator for tech-enabled creativity which aims to provide a “view on the future,” the annual event is overloaded with keynotes, panel discussions and pop-up events, not to mention a trade show floor. But, as usual, much of the action also happened off-piste, in spontaneous conversations at hundreds of events and parties.
Here, we’ve compiled some key takeaways, on themes ranging from wearable technology to consumer privacy.
The State of Wearables
It was clear wearables — an emerging category of personal accessories with embedded sensors, displays and other digital technology (such as Nike’s FuelBand, Google Glass and Apple’s rumoured iWatch) — were going to be a key topic even before SXSW began. They’d dominated the scene at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas each January and over 60 sessions addressed the topic, up from a mere handful last year.
Speakers unanimously agreed that the category is advancing rapidly. American basketball star Shaquille O’Neal even made an appearance to discuss his new interest in wearable technology with Rick Valencia of Qualcomm. Yet despite predictions that the market for wearables could reach $30-$50 billion over the next 3 to 5 years, the growing consensus was that mass adoption was still a ways off. On Google Glass, Robert Scoble (author and startup liason officer of Rackspace) said: “This is one of those products you know is the future, but it’s so unfinished at this point that it’s frustrating. It’s three to five years away before it’s really useful.”
And indeed, it was the word ‘useful,’ more than design or aesthetics — which the current crop of wearables are widely thought to lack — that came up the most. Jennifer Darmour, user experience design director at Artefact, said she has a drawer full of wearables that she had worn for just a week or two each before abandoning them. There was too much focus on novelty, she said, rather than on creating real functional value. “We’ve been taking a technology and trying to find a problem for that technology, instead of the other way round,” she added. “We need a more human-centric approach.”
Q Manning, chief executive of app design company Rocksauce Studios, agreed: “We need to solve problems. Just because we can build it, doesn’t mean we should. We need to pinpoint will this actually be useful? Is it beneficial? Will it help me live my life better?”
Jay Morgan, digital creative director of Havas Worldwide, added: “When wearable tech becomes [part of our] normal clothes and we don’t have to [actively] interact with it, it’s not then going to be about whether people care about it, it’s just going to be a part of your life. That’s what brands need to think about it now.”
Privacy was another key topic at SXSW this year, perhaps unsurprisingly as whistleblower Edward Snowden gave one of the headline talks. Appearing via Google Hangout from an undisclosed location in Russia, Snowden called on the technology community to help protect privacy rights by building them into technical standards. “There is a policy response that needs to occur, but there is also a technical response that needs to occur,” he said. “It is the development community that can really craft the solutions and make sure we are safe.”
Christopher Soghoian, principle technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, added: “I really think that consumers need to rethink their relationship with many of the companies to whom they entrust their private data. I really think what this comes down to is if you are getting the service for free, the company isn’t going to be optimising your experience with your best interests in mind.”
While Soghoian was referring to Internet services like Facebook, the issue of consumer privacy should be of concern to retailers as well, as they increasingly collect and leverage personal data.
“The bottom line is data should not be collected without people’s knowledge and consent,” said Snowden. “If data is being clandestinely acquired and the public doesn’t have any way to review it and it is not legislatively authorised, it is not reviewed by courts, it is not consonant with our constitution — that is a problem.”
For others, the issue of privacy and personal data was seen in the context of a value exchange, with consumers increasingly willing to reveal information in return for benefit. “The more utility you get, the more you’re going to have to give away your privacy,” said Scoble, adding he’d happily do so himself in return for more useful and personalised experiences. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, agreed: “I’m excited about data being about me. The marketer gets a certain amount of value in the stats on my demographic, but the real value is for me.”
Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, said the way forward was giving consumers control of their data. “We are now developing technologies to give people control over who manages their data and how. We are ensuring privacy, so it will be very easy and very comfortable for them to give their data over and get something out of it.”
Elsewhere at SXSW, conversation swirled around everything from “embeddables” (technology emebedded in the world around us, such that “virtually any human activity we can think of is going to be modified and amplified with an invisible mesh of data and processing that we will drift through obliviously,” according to one panel) to bioengineering. But ultimately, “good technology is no excuse for a bad idea,” said Paul Kemp-Robertson, co-founder and editorial director of marketing consultancy and magazine, Contagious. “It’s easy to jump onto bandwagons just because a new technology looks cool. Everyone enjoys feeling like that little kid chasing after the bright, shiny tool in the distance. But in this age of service design and living data, if a marketing idea is not useful, relevant or entertaining, then really there’s very little point in letting it loose on the world.”
Kristina Simmons, a partner at leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, agreed. Wearable technology, for example, should not be a priority just because everyone is talking about it. “It needs to be something that makes sense for your business. It’s about thinking about your top five priorities, versus saying I want to do something with wearables.”
“Innovation isn’t just giant leaps and bounds and the sexy stuff — it’s also about the basics and thinking about how we do things better. Incremental changes can make a big difference too,” said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs.
“Being first has always been a big thing,” said Ben Malbon, Google’s head of creative partnerships. “But the future is here already. We should use the existing tools we have on the table. Innovation doesn’t need invention.”