Categories
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.

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product technology

Levi’s updates its Google smart jacket with Uber, Lyft and Bose features

Google x Levi's Project Jacquard
Google x Levi’s Project Jacquard

Levi’s has announced its first update on its Project Jacquard smart jacket developed in collaboration with Google, including the ability to work with ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft, and Bose headphones.

Although at this point users won’t be able to order a car through the jacket, once connected to the Uber or Lyft apps, it will notify them that their ride is three minutes away and do so again once it arrives via its cuff, which will light up and vibrate. Brushing the cuff will also enable real-time updates on the car’s whereabouts via connected headphones.

Google x Levi's Project Jacquard
Google x Levi’s Project Jacquard

The jacket now also supports Bose’s Aware Mode, which picks up any surrounding sounds and sends them to the user’s headphones. This enables users who are listening to music while on the go to still enjoy noise reduction, but be able to hear any important things happening around them – in a cyclist’s or pedestrian’s case, this could mean a horn or a fast-approaching vehicle. Bose users will also be able to turn their headphones on or off via hand gesture.

Another new jacket feature enables users to drop a pin on the map to save a location and then see and share that from the app’s activity screen.

At a conference in California in October 2017, Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh hinted at upcoming innovations by stating that if there is a feature that doesn’t require a screen, it is possible that it could be incorporated into the commuter jacket’s 2.0 version. By approaching it with that mindset, the company can potentially investigate the future of smart clothing beyond cyclists, which was its initial target audience with the Google partnership.

Categories
Editor's pick product technology

Trying on the Levi’s and Google smart jacket at SXSW feels like the future

Rachel Arthur trying the Levi's Commuter x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket at SXSW with Ivan Poupyrev and Paul Dillinger
Rachel Arthur trying the Levi’s Commuter x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket at SXSW with Ivan Poupyrev and Paul Dillinger

The most important thing to say about the Levi’s x Jacquard by Google jacket is that fundamentally there’s little about it that screams technology.

We’ve known that ever since Paul Dillinger, VP of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co, demonstrated it on the Google I/O stage in May 2016. But now this weekend, everyone else who wanted to could give it a go at SXSW in Austin, where a whole rail of different sizes embedded with the conductive yarn that enables touch interactivity were on show.

Getting your hands physically on a technology that has just been a concept for over 18 months, is an exciting leap – especially given the fact this comes with the announcement that Levi’s and Google’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group, will finally launch it to the public this fall for a retail price of $350.

But again, what strikes you the most when you do put it on, is the fact this is a fashion item first. Where most other “wearables” have been about hardware devices with the occasional fashion accessorising, this is all about textiles. The design is based on an existing Levi’s jacket – the Commuter Trucker. It’s specifically for urban cyclists, which is the point about the tech’s functionality too, but it’s also generally a nice looking, great feeling, performance piece.

And that’s what’s going to be critical for the longevity and mass uptake of wearable technology today – that it merges with what we’re both used to and want to put on our bodies. The tech has to enhance what we wear, not supersede or act in place of what it looks and feels like.

Head over to Forbes to read the full story, including insight on really why this matters for the future of the fashion and wearables market.

Categories
Events technology

SXSW 2017 – your guide to the very best of this year’s Interactive content

SXSW 2017
SXSW 2017

For anyone heading to Austin for SXSW Interactive this year, you will no doubt be entering into those few days ahead where you realise not only how much else there’s still to be done at work before you go, but just how little time you’ve had to prep for what’s to come.

Never fear! On the one hand, there’s something incredibly beneficial about the serendipity of going with the flow at this event. Plus the app is pretty spot on for getting you figured out hour by hour. That said, on the other, there’s a need to do several RSVPs to make sure you can get in to the parties you want to etc, and having a rough idea of your itinerary for the week, never harms.

So on that note, here are our highlights for the best of each day, designed specifically with those working in fashion and retail in mind. There’s also a link at the bottom to my full schedule for the week should you wish to see a more detailed, but still filtered version of the programme.

Look forward to seeing lots of you there. Don’t forget, we have #FashMash drinks at 6.30pm on Friday, March 10. If you didn’t get an invite, do drop me a note. Last but not least be sure to check out the survival guide Olly Rzysko of Primark wrote for us last year, complete with insanely relevant Kanye GIFs throughout.


FRIDAY, MARCH 10

Friday is a real ease-in kind of day, with a slow start to allow you to get your badges, and only a handful of highlights throughout the programme. One of the true beauties of SXSW is stepping outside of your usual remit and learning from other worlds, so don’t miss Cory Richards’ keynote at 2pm – a climber and visual storyteller, he was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year (2012) and a National Geographic Fellow (2015).

Also worth checking out is the 11am session on how tech is shaping the future of entertainment. Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of Mashable, will sit down with leaders in the entertainment and technology space to discuss how television and film are working hand in hand with Silicon Valley to not only reach consumers in the new ways they’re watching videos, but adjusting their creative process based on new advances in audience data.

On top of that is a session on the dawn of the drones, and how blockchain applies to other industries beyond fintech. If you have time, The Girls’ Lounge is also open from 8am – 6pm and is worth heading over to.


SATURDAY, MARCH 11

Saturday is a real conundrum with multiple incredible sessions all planned at the same time. Here’s where the luck part comes in at SXSW: some of them will be the talk of the week, others will be a total fail, and some you may not even be able to get into (if it’s a popular subject or speaker, be sure to arrive at least 30 mins early). For the 9.30am session for instance, it’s a toss up between learning about where artificial intelligence is headed from Microsoft, the real application of it in Disney’s case, or a talk from Bolt Threads’ CEO on their progress with spider silk as a new fibre for the industry – an exploration of how his team is using biotechnology to design protein-based materials at the molecular level. That’s a tough choice.

Later on, there’s an influencer session under the SX Style umbrella with Reward Style’s Amber Venz Box and a deep look at data specifically in the fashion industry with StitchFix and Poshmark. My true highlight for the day however, has got to be Casey Neistat’s talk at 3.30pm.

If that’s not enough, the Levi’s Outpost also opens on Saturday (and runs through the week), with a party in collaboration with Google’s Project Jacquard team the same evening.


SUNDAY, MARCH 12

Sunday is Decoded Fashion’s day, meaning if it’s really fashion content you’re after, you may not need to move from their Hangar Lounge location. That said, if you’re looking to mix it up and step out of your comfort zone, several other talks look very promising, including Fjord’s 2017 trends report examining not only trends that will impact consumers, but those set to impact design, business, organisation, culture and society in the next 12-18 months.

By the time you get to Sunday, it’s quite likely you’ll have already been to, or intended to go to, a handful of sessions on chatbots, but there’s another at 11am that seems particularly worthwhile. Outside of those, we’ll be heading to one on mixed reality at 3.30pm, followed by what looks to be a very fun session all about the technology promised us by Marty McFly in Back to the Future at 5pm.

As for other events, ModCloth and Wrangler have teamed up for a reception early evening, while Intel also has their AI lounge (running March 10-12) to head over to and learn from. If that wasn’t enough: Liz Bacelar (founder of Decoded Fashion) also launches her new business, TheCurrent, with a VIP programme from 4pm-7pm looking at innovation in the fashion and retail industries featuring speakers from Under Armour, Ford, Google, Parsons and more. There’s also a live podcast recording on Saturday morning with Rebecca Minkoff.


MONDAY, MARCH 13

If you haven’t had too much in the way of tacos and magaritas yet, and you can still manage to get up early, kickstart Monday with Ford’s session with executive chairman, Bill Ford, all about smart mobility. Make sure to get out on time however, because Marc Jacobs is up at 11am in conversation with Vogue’s Sally Singer and the queue is likely to be popular. The discussion is around designing in the age of the social media, which isn’t exactly a new topic (for anywhere, let alone SXSW), but it is Marc Jacobs.

A true highlight of the day (in fact the whole week), mind you, comes from futurist Ray Kurzweil, a director of engineering at Google, with his daughter Amy Kurzweil, who works at the Fashion Institute of Technology no less, at 12.30pm. Ray is one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen, so all hopes are pinned on this session being one of the best.

Rounding up the day is Matthew Drinkwater of London College of Fashion on designing in a digital world, and then Avery Dennison on connecting our clothing and our wardrobes, followed by a drinks reception with their team. If you have a spare moment, you might also want to check out Giorgio Armani’s Films of City Frames installation – showcasing five cities by five directors through five films. It runs all day from 10am-6pm, from March 12-15.


TUESDAY, MARCH 14

On to the final stretch and why not end on an inspirational high on the last day? Netflix is talking about mobile, L’Oréal is discussing holograms and the one and only Buzz Aldrin is also in town.

The big hitter, however, will be Yasmin Green of Jigsaw (of Alphabet variety, not the British fashion store), who leads the team’s innovation efforts, overseeing projects on counter-radicalisation and fragile states.

And last but not least, it’s not a true SXSW experience until you attend one of Bruce Sterling’s closing keynotes. “The future: history that hasn’t happened yet”, as he calls his session, will whip the slider-bar between the unthinkable and the unimaginable, which is exactly what you’ll need to cap off your Austin week.

For my full programme, check out this link to my shareable schedule. See you all there!

Categories
digital snippets e-commerce Editor's pick product social media technology

Digital snippets: Mid-tier blogger power, the robotics opportunity, Alibaba’s anti-counterfeiting feud

midtierbloggers

After a week refreshing the mind and the soul at Futuro in Ibiza (an awe-inspiring experience), we’re back with a round-up of everything you might have missed in fashion and technology news (and beyond) over the past fortnight or so. Read on for highlights from mid-tier bloggers and robots to Alibaba, Victoria’s Secret, Levi’s, WeChat and more…


  • The power of the mid-tier blogger [Racked]

  • How robots can help fashion companies drive business efficiencies [BoF]

  • Inside Alibaba’s anti-counterfeiting feud [Associated Press]

  • Why Victoria’s Secret won’t be mailing out any more catalogues [AdWeek]

  • Aerie refused to Photoshop its ads for two years and sales spiked [Mashable]

  • Project Jacquard: Google and Levi’s launch the first ‘smart’ jean jacket for urban cyclists [Forbes]

  • Fashion shake-ups go beyond designers to the C-suite [NY Times]

  • Fashion industry faces disruption from outside — and from within [FT]

  • Why lux brands love Line [Glossy]

  • With 92% of luxury brands on WeChat, here’s how they can step up their game [Jing Daily]

  • How four creative directors are using Snapchat [Glossy]

  • How Instagram’s new feed will impact brands and influencers [BoF]

  • With subscription beauty boxes, rules of e-commerce don’t apply [WSJ]

  • Why buy buttons on Pinterest and Instagram haven’t taken off for retailers [Digiday]

  • Brands want to predict your behaviour by mining your face from YouTube videos [Motherboard]

  • Chatbots won’t solve everything [BoF]

  • For the first time, Google is bringing retail ads to image search [AdWeek]

  • Shoptalk: Pondering the store’s future in an age of web buying [Associated Press]

  • Keep calm and keep shopping – how elections impact retail sales [The Conversation]

  • Why dynamic pricing just doesn’t work for fashion retailers [LinkedIn]

  • I tested Rent The Runway’s new Unlimited service. My satisfaction was… limited [Pando]

  • What does ‘innovation’ in retail look like? 8 leaders weigh in [Retail Dive]

  • Online retailers should care more about the post-purchase experience [HBR]

  • Does Kendall and Kylie’s game actually sell clothes? [Racked]

  • EasyJet’s new smart shoes guide travellers as they wander through new cities [JWT Intelligence]

  • MIT researchers create 3D-printed fur, opening up “a new design space” [Dezeen]
Categories
Editor's pick product technology

Project Jacquard: Google and Levi’s launch the first ‘smart’ jean jacket for urban cyclists

Levi's Commuter x Jacquard by Google

At initial glance, the new “Levi’s Commuter x Jacquard by Google Trucker Jacket” appears like a straightforward piece of clothing. There’s nothing that shouts technology – no big flashing screens, no hefty battery packs, no suggestion that it does anything more than just look good.

In fact, explore a little closer and the only unusual thing you’ll spot on this jean jacket is a slight error in the weave alongside a black strap partially wrapped around the cuff of the sleeve, modeled as a version of what you’d find on a trench coat.

Announced today at Google I/O, the item is indeed a subtle piece of wearable technology, and the outcome of the yearlong collaboration between Levi Strauss & Co and Google’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group, under the banner of Project Jacquard.

Head over to Forbes for an exclusive interview with Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google’s ATAP and Paul Dillinger, VP of global product innovation at Levi’s, on everything to do with the new item.

Categories
Comment data e-commerce Editor's pick film mobile social media Startups technology

2015: a designer meets digital year in review

AppleWatch_Hermes

It’s been another big year for the fashion industry and its integration with technology: from the release of the (Hermès) Apple Watch, to Natalie Massenet’s departure from Net-a-Porter as it merged with Yoox, not to mention the ongoing and evolving discussions around fashion weeks becoming consumer-facing events.

There’s also been a broadening discussion on the role smart fabrics play in the wearables space, virtual reality is increasingly on our radar for its relevance to retail, and we’re obsessed with how the industry is slowly adapting to a new aesthetic thanks to apps like Snapchat.

Here then, are 10 of the posts you loved the most on Fashion & Mash this year. It’s a collection nodding to many of the aforementioned subjects we continue to track, as well as the likes of personalisation, data, instant messaging, emojis and more. A veritable feast of trends we’re watching across the digital landscape as we head into the New Year…

Thank you for reading and see you in 2016. Wishing you a very happy holidays from everyone here at the (growing!) Fashion & Mash team.

Categories
Blocks Editor's pick technology

Six things your clothes will be able to do in the future

A version of this post first appeared on Fashionista.com 

paulinevandongen-PHOTOGRAPHER_LiselotteFleur
Pauline van Dongen

Spending on wearable technology is expected to reach $53 billion worldwide by 2019, according to Juniper Research. Sound a bit surprising? Rightly so. At the moment, the wearable tech on the market is seemingly designed for gadget geeks or fitness fanatics, and not much else. Even the Apple Watch leaves little to be desired in the fashion department. So where’s all the good-looking stuff we actually want to, you know, wear?

Fortunately we’ve seen the future, and we can tell you it’s not all going to be about smartwatches, pieces of jewellery that flash when our phone rings or virtual reality goggles. The launch of Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech T-shirt in August is evidence of the kind of appealing connected technology that is slowly moving into the apparel realm. This one might still be geared towards the athletic market first and foremost – it allows the wearer to capture biometric information including heart rate, breathing rate, steps taken and more – but it’s a good move forward.

And there’s lots of other work being done in science and technology that will change the way we dress further. Whether it’s about controlling devices through the cuff of a sleeve, or quickly shortening the length of our skirts for a night out, here’s some of the clothing-related technologies you can look forward to in the future.

Items that change colour

This one is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we want our white T-shirts to change to a darker grey if we spill something on them, or a polka dot dress to shift to stripes when we spot someone else wearing the same one? In the future, being able to change the colour of your look will be easy;  at the moment there’s lots being worked on in this realm to make it so. Most of it is similar to the Global Hypercolor t-shirts from the 80s and 90s – remember those ones that changed color when they got hot for instance? Look out for the likes of The Unseen, a London-based brand fusing science and design, which is already experimenting heavily in this space.

TheUnseen
The Unseen

Jeans that communicate

Walk into a tech conference, and you’ll see lots of people speaking into the Apple Watches on their wrists, a la Inspector Gadget. But interactions with the items on our bodies are about to get even weirder. Next year, Google will launch Project Jacquard with Levi’s, weaving conductive yarn into jeans to allow touch interactivity on the fabric itself. The idea is to provide simple functionalities that will free us from using our mobile phones all of the time — like being able to request an Uber, silence our phones, take a selfie or even turn a lightbulb on or off. A prototype saw the same idea embedded in the sleeve of a jacket made on Savile Row. It might sound wacky now, but more seamless interactions are the way of the future.

Clothes that charge your other devices

Garments that feature solar panels and a small portable battery that you can plug the likes of your phone into to give it a little more juice, have been out in the market for a while. Last year, Tommy Hilfiger launched a jacket designed for the great outdoors with solar strips attached to the back of it, while Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen has a great looking T-shirt that does the same job. In the future, designers will also harness kinetic energy from our bodies for a charge.

tommysolar
Tommy Hilfiger

Jackets with body temperature controls

Speaking of energy, in everyday clothes, we’re often hot one minute and cold the next. Wearable tech’s future will be about being able to control your body temperature through your coat. Ever sat in one of those cars with heated seats? Imagine something like that, but far more stylish. If you’re after even more technology in your life, there’s no reason why you couldn’t then connect your body temperature information from your outerwear with your thermostat at home so your apartment is just the right temperature once you walk in, too.

A wardrobe made to measure

There’s an ongoing amount of work being done around making sure clothes really fit us through 3D body scanning and detailed algorithms. Imagine being able to customise the size of everything you buy, whether it’s from Asos or J.Crew, and not just a high-end designer name. Knowing that a dress is going to be made to perfectly fit our body shape, or the drama of purchasing jeans is going to be completely seamless, will make the click-to-buy button all the more tempting. Start-ups like Acustom Apparel, which uses the latest 3D measuring technology to digitally tailor menswear, is just one in a long list of companies exploring this space. Others like Orpiva, which launches this autumn, are also incorporating ideas such as being able to snap a photo of someone on the street in an item you like in order to seek out similar looks online. From there you can then virtually try them on too.

Styles that shift in shape

Shape-shifting styles are a bit further away in the future, but they’re not a complete pipe dream. A video released by Lacoste in 2012 set the tone (see above), showing clothes that shift colour, sleeves that lengthen and silhouettes that grow slimmer. This kind of technology is based on complicated fiber science — i.e. changing the molecular structures of textiles — but it’s something that researchers at the likes of OMsignal, the technology company behind that PoloTech shirt from Ralph Lauren, are working on. Pauline van Dongen is also exploring how 3D printing can be used to achieve such changes, adapting structural flexibilities so items can be more tightly woven at one point, and more open at another. And sportswear label Chromat just revealed a dress in collaboration with Intel during New York Fashion Week that features a carbon fibre framework that expands and collapses based on the wearer’s body temperature and stress levels.

It’s not impossible to imagine a future where a perfectly-fitting dress could change colour, sleeve and hem length depending on the occasion; maintain the right temperature in response to the environment; and be used to charge a dying phone battery or send a message to a loved one, too. In the future, we’ll be surprised just how little our clothes once did for us.

Categories
Editor's pick technology

Savile Row’s wearable tech future: why bespoke tailoring makes sense

ProjectJacquard

While classic tailoring on Savile Row might look the same as it has for hundreds of years, technology is starting to be incorporated at as a way of making the bespoke suit all the more personalised.

“Clients are getting younger, and we need to keep up to keep ahead,” Rachel Alice Smith, a self-employed coat maker at Norton and Sons, told me. She was hired by Google’s Project Jacquard team to create a prototype jacket featuring its conductive thread. The result includes a touch panel on the sleeve that was included in the launch video for Jacquard and Levi’s partnership announcement in late May.

That product might be a one-off for now, but it has since been taken on tour by Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google’s Advanced Technology and Products (ATAP) group, as a means of demonstrating the potential of the technology to other brands in the fashion world.

“The idea of incorporating a beautiful craft and tradition into the future of technology is exciting and something unexpected. We don’t seek out change on Savile Row but I think it’s possible to keep our heritage and still bring a new market of clients to the street,” says Smith.

Read the rest of her interview with me over at Forbes.

Categories
Blocks Editor's pick technology

Google and Levi’s talk Project Jacquard, their all-new smart fabric

ProjectJacquard_levis1

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.