Editor's pick product technology

In wearables, design needs to come before tech, says Levi’s

The wearables industry is expected to double in market value to $27bn+ by 2022, according to CCS Insight. But for Paul Dillinger, VP of Global Product Innovation at Levi’s, consumers will only fully invest in these tech accessories if they look good once turned off.

“We aren’t building a product just for the technology”, he said at a conversation during the Fashinnovation conference in NYC this week. “This has to be a technology integrated with things that you already want to wear because even if the technology isn’t engaging, people still want to wear their Levi’s jean jacket,” he later told TheCurrent Daily.

He was joined on stage by Ivan Poupyrev, Google’s Head of Advanced Technology and Projects, who worked with the denim brand on the original Project Jacquard jacket, which uses a sensor on the cuff to control music, screen phone calls, and even receive notifications from Uber or Lyft. Google famously thought tech-first when it designed its now defunct Google Glass, but it (naturally) believes trial and error is part of the process: “You put the product in the market, learn from mistakes, and do it again.” According to Poupyrev, however, unlike the Glass, there was a strong focus on the physical appearance of the smart jacket, wherein technology came in to simply extend its functions.

Now, instead of creating a product from scratch, Google is focusing on working with established brands in the industry, who can teach the tech giant a thing or two about what fashion customers want. “We realized that if you want to change the nature of apparel, as a connected and intelligent garment, you need to work with someone who has expertise in making apparel,” said Poupyrev. “Not just a prototype, but someone who understands how to scale all the way from the design to the supply chain and marketing. That was a shift  in thinking in the company as well.”

The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket
The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket

Since Levi’s is one of the world’s biggest brands in denim, a partnership with the brand was an important strategic decision. While the classic Levi’s jacket retails at $150 or less, the smart model retails at $350. For Dillinger, customers who chose the premium alternative should expect the technology to continue to evolve with time.

In 2017, six months after it was first introduced to the market, it received a series of updates, such as enabling it to work with Uber and Lyft. Just before Christmas, it added a functionality where the jacket sent the user a pin drop notification in case the owner left it behind. “That was a new value that no one was expecting for it or paid for it,” he said. “That promise of sustained improvement puts the purchase in the context of a lifetime, instead of a moment.”

Just like a smartphone, the jacket keeps improving. But unlike a shiny new iPhone, a Levi’s jacket customer is looking for design that is timeless and not forced into obsolescence. “You can talk about improvements of a phone, but eventually that phone won’t be the one you want to have any more. This garment, this jean jacket, stays in perpetuity, so the value will continue to go up”, added Dillinger.

For all its innovation, this is still an early attempt at a mass-market smart denim jacket. But as the technology becomes more deeply integrated into people’s lives, the wearable category may well begin to move beyond its early adopters.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

business Editor's pick sustainability technology

Levi’s and Harvard University launch blockchain pilot for worker welfare

Levi Strauss & Co. has partnered with Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health to pilot a worker’s welfare initiative that will utilize blockchain technology.

The aim of the program is to better understand the wellbeing of its factory workers in real time and react accordingly because, according to the denim brand, “what’s good for workers is also good for business”.

The program features an annual worker survey, with questions developed by the School’s Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) center. The garment worker’s responses will then live on a blockchain platform powered by ConSensys, thus enabling a transparent and secure way for workers to share their experiences anonymously, with no fear of consequences.

It will be piloted this year at three factories in Mexico who produce for the brand, and together employ 5,000 workers.

“For the last 25 years, work in supply chains has been monitored mainly by audits,” said Dr. Eileen McNeely, director at SHINE. “A distributed system of inquiry on the blockchain that goes right to the source (workers) offers a new solution.”

The initiative is part of Levi’s’ existing Worker Well-being (WWB) program launched in 2011, which sees the company partner with its suppliers and local organizations to implement change focused on giving its workers financial empowerment, health and family wellbeing, and equality and acceptance. The program, which since its inception has reached over 200,000 workers globally, is available open-source.

“One of the aspirations of Worker Well-being is to influence the apparel industry and make WWB the standard for the sector,” says Kim Almeida, director of WBB at the Levi Strauss Foundation. “We believe that the SHINE work, in partnership with LS&Co., will provide an important tool that gets us one step closer to making this goal of scaling our approach a reality.”

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainable innovation strategy.TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Calvin Klein to launch interactive NYC Market with Amazon Fashion

Calvin Klein Jeans Fall Campaign

Calvin Klein is partnering with Amazon Fashion to bring to life its Fall 2018 jeans campaign through an immersive retail experience in New York.

The Calvin Klein x Amazon Fashion NYC Market, as it’s called, sees three major attractions – a photobooth with flying popcorn, a photoshoot set-up themed around the brand’s “Together In Denim Billboard” campaign, and a giant water-box installation.

Visitors will also have the chance to win exclusive Calvin Klein products such as jeans and underwear designs, as well as Amazon devices, by playing games on site.

Calvin Klein Jeans “Together In Denim” billboard


“By joining Amazon Fashion’s digital expertise with Calvin Klein’s physical presence, we are creating a ‘phy-gital’ experience in the middle of New York City, reinforcing our commitment to a consumer-first strategy,” Marie Gulin-Merle, chief marketing officer of Calvin Klein Inc. told WWD.

Further detail show the interactive photobooth will feature levitating popcorn that visitors will be able to take a picture with. It was inspired by the Calvin Klein 205W39NYC Fall 2018 runway show, which saw the floor covered with the white snack.

The re-enactment of the brand’s “Together in Denim Billboard” campaign, which saw models posing on an oversized billboard, will have a professional photographer on site ensuring social media-ready snaps.

And the giant water-box will house vending machines where visitors have the chance to win limited edition artworks from the Fall campaign.

Calvin Klein Fall 2018 runway show

Amazon will also host an Amazon Alexa Jukebox Lounge, where an analog Juke Box enhanced through the Alexa voice technology, will allow visitors to interact with the music played on digital screens. Guests will also have the chance to use their voice to control the music and lighting.

Any visitors keen to purchase Calvin Klein merchandise on site will be able to do so smoothly through Smile Codes (Amazon-branded QR codes), which will give visitors access to the dedicated Calvin Klein website on Amazon Fashion. A dedicated #MyCalvins Campaign Shop will allow them to try things on when on site.

To further encourage consumer purchasing, the brand has also created a denim jacket in collaboration with rap star A$AP Rocky, exclusively available on Amazon Fashion.

This is the second time the brand has partnered with Amazon Fashion for an interactive experience. In November of 2017 the brand opened a tech-enabled store in Los Angeles and New York, selling exclusive stock and offering in-store customization stations.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Editor's pick product sustainability

Wrangler is erasing 99% of water from denim dyeing with new foam process

Wrangler adopts foam dyeing

Classic American jeans manufacturer Wrangler has become the first brand to adopt ‘Dry Indigo’; a new foam-dyeing process that eliminates 99% of the water typically used in dyeing its jeans.

In 2019, the brand will launch a full line of jeans dyed with the new technique to showcase the evolution of sustainable denim.

“Foam technology reduces water consumption and pollution further upstream, helping our fabric suppliers to dramatically minimize the impacts of making denim fabric blue,” said Wrangler president, Tom Waldron.

This evolved manufactured process is just one of the ways Wrangler is working to approach their broader goal to reduce water usage by five billion liters by 2020. The company has already recycled 3 billion liters of water over the past 10 years.

Considering, a single pair of jeans today takes more than 1,000 gallons to be produced, this innovation is another significant step forward.

Tejidos Royo, a Spanish fabric mill with a reputation for prioritizing environmental performance, is set to receive the new equipment this October, pioneering the foam-dye process. “Our Dry Indigo process nearly erases the environmental impact of denim dyeing and represents the next generation of denim production,” said its sales director, Jose Royo.

Sustainability is becoming ever more of a factor for consumer purchase decisions. In 2017, 33% of consumers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good, according to data from Accenture. The study also says that 21% of consumers would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials more clear on packaging and in marketing – representing €966bn worth of untapped opportunity for brands.

How are you thinking about textile innovation and sustainability? We’re all about helping you build strategic integrations. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Editor's pick product sustainability technology

Levi’s revolutionizes finishing process, driving more sustainable supply chain

Levi's Project F.L.X.
Levi’s Project F.L.X.

Levi’s has announced Project F.L.X. (future-led execution), an operating model that reinvents the denim finishing process, resulting in a more sustainable supply chain.

Developed by the label’s innovation arm, Eureka Lab, the initiative replaces a decades-old manual technique for finishing that the industry has adopted as a standard production method, which is not only chemically-reliant, but time-consuming and labour-intensive. At the heart of it, is a series of digital tools including a laser technology.

“30 years ago, jeans were only available in three shades: rinsed, stonewashed and bleached. Today those three shades have exploded into endless variations, all produced with very labor-intensive jobs and long lists of chemical formulations,” said Bart Sights, VP of technical innovation at Levi’s and head of the Eureka Innovation Lab. “We’re designing a cleaner jean for the planet and the people who make Levi’s jeans, and we’re doing it on a scale that no one else has achieved to date.”

Developed in house, Project F.L.X. also allows the brand to considerably reduce production times and as a result, time to market. For instance, it cuts finishing time dramatically – from two to three pairs per hour to 90 seconds per garment, followed by a final wash cycle. Its on-demand production also means it can delay final product commitments until much later in the production process, reducing lead times by more than six months to in some instances, only a few days.

Meanwhile the brand’s designers have been given a new video game-like software that allows them to build new styles on an iPad. They can then digitise the finished design with photo-realistic quality and send the digital files directly to a vendor for mass manufacturing, thus also cutting R&D times considerably. With this technique, the process of prototyping a pair of jeans has been reduced to only three steps, from between 12 to 18 steps prior.

“With this new model, we can deliver the authentic and iconic products we’re known for in an incredibly responsive and responsible way,” said Liz O’Neill, SVP and chief supply chain officer for the brand. “The advanced imaging capability is a game-changer for us, and something that has eluded our industry for years.”

Levi's Project F.L.X.
Levi’s Project F.L.X.

From a sustainability standpoint, the model is a step forward in achieving the company’s commitment to zero discharge of chemicals by 2020 because it accelerates the elimination of many chemical formulations that Levi’s has promised to “phase out”.

It is also expected to reduce textile waste by being more responsive to demand, and accurately only producing what the market needs. As for saving water, the company has already proved it can use nearly 100% recycled water in the final manufacturing stages, and is exploring how to roll out this recycling capability more broadly over time.

To help unlock the sustainable benefits that the new digital capability can enable in the design and development of garments, Levi’s has worked with Jeanologia, a leader in eco-efficient solutions for fabric and garment finishing since 1993.

Editor's pick technology

The innovation mullet: How Levi’s looks at sophisticated tech to simplify shopping

Levi's president James JC Curleigh speaking at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week
Levi’s president James JC Curleigh speaking at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week

Levi’s thinks about a balance between simplicity and sophistication as the key to relevancy in today’s market, according to the brand’s president James JC Curleigh, who opened NRF’s Big Show in New York this week.

He referenced the idea of the 1980s mullet haircut as to how this should be seen by consumers. “What did it say? Business in the front, party in the back. Well, the new brand and business mullet should be simple in the front, sophisticated in the back. The best brands on earth, the most powerful brands on earth, have found a way to deliver simplicity on the front side through a very sophisticated platform on the back side,” he explained.

“In today’s world, there are more choices, more angst points, more obstacle courses than ever before for our fans. We make jeans, and products you wear with your jeans. Let’s be simple. In a world of difficult decisions, picking out your favourite pair of jeans should not be one of them. We need to put you on a simplified course to make sure we can either keep you in Levi’s or introduce you to Levi’s in a simple way.”

To do this, modern organisations have to take a level of sophistication in the supply chain and in how they show up at retail, he said. The most relevant future innovation platforms are ones that consumers don’t see; they’re powered by partners interested in managing big data, artificial intelligence, RFID and productivity solutions. But ultimately what that’s about is a better experience for shoppers than ever before.

“We have a basic fundamental promise to our fan, to our consumer, that we can meet and exceed their expectations. It’s expected to have points of distribution – that the product is actually there, that their size is available and that they can navigate to the fit that is right for them. There are lots of modern ways through technology and innovation, and tried and tested ways through relationship and service to do this in the moment of truth. Delivering the expected has never been more important than it is today,” he noted.

He also nodded to the importance of turning moments into momentum, referring to the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, which infers that retailers at rest will stay at rest.

Referencing CEO Chip Bergh, he said Levi’s wants to always keep one foot rooted in the heritage of the past in order to remember where they came from, and one foot confidently in the future, to keep driving the brand forward.

To really achieve this momentum, he nodded to the idea of protecting the core and expanding for more. “Our vision for the Levi’s brand is to be the most relevant, most loved, lifestyle brand again,” he said. He talked about moving beyond jeans to various other lifestyle solutions, like the Commuter Jacket, its wearable tech offering in partnership with Google’s Project Jacquard team, which Curleigh demonstrated as he arrived on stage riding a bike.

He also referenced other key platforms introduced in the last five years on behalf of its fans, including the Levi’s stadium and the Levi’s music lounge.

“[We] started to look at the whole lifestyle brand we wanted to create for two reasons: first to keep inspiring the fans that never left us, and second to re-inspire those who never stopped loving us, but have left for other brands. We want them to come back,” he explained.

business digital snippets e-commerce product social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Tim Cook on AR for fashion, the future of visual search, open sustainability

Apple CEO Tim Cook on the future of AR for fashion
Apple CEO Tim Cook

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past week.

  • Apple’s Tim Cook on the future of fashion and shopping [Vogue]
  • Retailers continue to experiment with visual search [Glossy]
  • Fashion needs an open-source sustainability solution [BoF]
  • Alibaba to spend $15 billion exploring ‘moonshot’ projects [Bloomberg]

  • Giorgio Armani speaks on restructuring and succession plans [BoF]
  • Coach is changing its name to Tapestry [Bloomberg]
  • How Supreme grew a $1 billion business with a secret partner [BoF]

  • Fashion week engagements on Instagram nearly tripled compared to February’s fashion month [AdWeek]
  • Snapchat is twice as popular as Instagram when it comes to teens’ favourite social apps [AdWeek]
  • Will Dove’s ‘Pepsi moment’ affect the brand in the long term? [The Drum]

  • Walmart and Target are banding with Google to take on Amazon [AdWeek]
  • Black Friday shoppers more likely than ever to go online this year [Retail Dive]
  • ASOS launches same-day delivery service [The Industry]

  • Mastercard offers first checkout option for VR with Swarovski [AdAge]
  • What Sephora knows about women in tech that Silicon Valley doesn’t [WSJ]
  • Marie Claire and Mastercard showcase the future of shopping [BrandChannel]

  • What goes into making an earth-friendly $68 pair of jeans at Everlane [Bloomberg]
  • Spider silk and stem-cell leather are the future of fashion [Engadget]
  • Stella McCartney is pioneering synthetic spider silk in high fashion [QZ]
  • Kering announces 2017 sustainable winners [FashionUnited]

  • With the launch of a lower-price subscription service, how Rent the Runway’s ‘closet in the cloud’ is changing the face of sustainability [Fashionista]
  • Digital closet start-ups want to give you the Cher Horowitz experience [Racked]
Editor's pick product technology

Lee Jeans is using ‘visual science’ to contour the body for the Instagram generation

Body Optix by Lee Jeans
Body Optix by Lee Jeans

It’s not often a conversation about optical illusions and visual science sits at the heart of a London Fashion Week event, but so was the case at the Body Optix by Lee Jeans launch this past weekend.

Here, lasers, geodesic patterns and the behaviour of light served as the focus as the brand revealed its new collection of 16 “body-enhancing” denim pieces.

The line, developed in parent company VF Corporaton’s Cognitive and Design Lab, is the result of experimenting with the science of optics, Steve Zades, VP of transformational innovation at the group, revealed.

He demonstrated the really simple idea of how our eyes perceive different shapes. A white triangle jumps out from a series of black ones drawn on a page for instance, while a circle changes from convex to concave as you turn the piece of paper (or in this case the screen) accordingly. These are all lighting principles – something artists have known for centuries about how our minds interpret and make sense of what we’re really seeing.

“All of a sudden with this you start having a palette based in visual science where you can really push the design around… if you get the optics right you can create incredibly flattering styles,” he explains.

Head over to Forbes to read more about it, including exactly how this science is applied to the denim in order to enhance the wearer’s form.

mobile social media

Hollister launches 16-bit skateboarding game for jeans season

Hollister's 16-bit skateboarding game with TreSensa
Hollister’s 16-bit skateboarding game with TreSensa

US teen retailer Hollister has launched a retro, 16-bit game for mobile in partnership with TreSensa to promote its new denim line.

The skateboarding-themed interaction sees two characters, Waxer and Betty, making their way around various parts of Venice in California on their boards, including the pier, the boardwalk and the bike path.

As they go, they have to navigate over and around various obstacles such as lifeguards, traffic cones and hotdog vendors, all the while collecting coins for points and denim items for super powers.

On completion, users can share it with friends via social media, opt to play again, and be in with the chance of winning prizes.

This game follows the success of an earlier surfing-themed one launched by the brand in March. Designed to live in ad space, it gained 27.6 million impressions during that month alone. Users spent an average of 43 seconds playing it, compared with a benchmark of eight seconds for interface with a mobile video ad. Furthermore, a video or display ad interaction rate is usually 5% and the Hollister game saw a 42% average game start.

Said Will Smith, chief marketing officer at the company, at the launch of that first iteration: ” It keeps the brand breaking through in new and unique ways and helps us maintain our relevance day to day. This comes at the customer in an unconventional way and that’s part of our brand ethos of not being staid and traditional—we want to be young, credible and authentic.”

The new game will again live in the ad space, distributed via the TreSensa engagement platform, which has a global reach of over a billion devices. It will also be promoted via Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

social media

Hollister turns to personal teen moments in back-to-school social campaign

Hollister #HCoJeansMovement
Hollister’s #HCoJeansMovement campaign

Teen retailer Hollister is enlisting 30 of its customers to share personal thoughts for its latest social media campaign.

Referred to as a “celebration of uniqueness”, the #HCoJeansMovement initiative is a bid to drive engagement around denim ahead of the all-important back-to-school season.

As Michael Scheiner, VP of marketing and communications at parent company Abercrombie & Fitch Co, told WWD: “What brings all of these people together is their love of jeans. Jeans have always been a key part of our brand, especially during back-to-school.” Each of the models/customers in the campaign are indeed wearing Hollister jeans.

They do so in both stills and video format – holding up signs that express something that’s special about themselves, or something they believe in. In one, a teenage girl says: “I’m graduating early to pursue my dreams.” In another: “Dyslexia didn’t stop me from reading. It challenged me to be more well read.”

Others include: “Singing sparks my soul. All I need in life is a crowd and a mic.” Plus: “Nerd is my favourite label.” And: “I never let my friend group define me. I define myself.”

The assets will appear via e-mail and across Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Hulu, Twitter and Spotify.