A new collaboration between Google and Levi’s Jeans may herald the future of wearable high-tech in general, and smart fabrics in particular.
The ‘Commuter’ smart jacket was introduced at South by Southwest, in Austin, Texas this week. Specifically targeting customers who bike to work, the jacket avoids clunky, attention-getting displays of technology in favor of a subtler approach. With the technology woven into the fabric itself, the jacket enables the user to take phone calls, get directions, and check the time by simply tapping and swiping the sleeves of the jacket.
With information delivered through headphones, drivers and bikers are able to keep their eyes on the road while using the jacket.
The jacket is expected to be available to customers this fall for 350 dollars.
The smart fabric is washable, powered by a cufflink-like device with a two day battery life, that is removed in order to wash the jacket.
Sidney Morgan-Petro, who is a retail editor at the firm WGSN, said “I think that the commuter jacket from Levi’s is really perfect because it’s focused on a single consumer audience. It has the cyclist in mind and is targeting what their needs are.”
She added that the jacket sets itself apart, and heralds the future, by not marketing itself with high-tech as its main draw. Instead, it focuses on a specific group of consumers, and zeroes in on their needs, using technology to serve this purpose. Morgan Pietro said the jacket would appeal to consumers who may not have a specific interest in high-tech gadgets – which smartwatches and other wearable tech have largely failed to do.
As the market for wearables such as smartwatches has slumped somewhat in recent quarters, analysts have anticipated a shift towards more focused and streamlined options.
Jitesh Ubrani, a senior research analyst for the International Data Corporation, explained in a report in December:
“Where smartwatches were once expected to take the lead, basic wearables now reign supreme. From a design perspective, many devices are focusing on fashion first while allowing the technology to blend in with the background.”
The collaboration between Google and Levi’s is also indicative of broader, growing trends. Companies including Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour, and Ralph Lauren are offering smart clothing, and designers have collaborated with companies like Apple and Fitbit to produce fashionable, less tech-centric wearable technology options.
Morgan-Petro added: “The retail opportunity is huge. We’re basically seeing clothes as the future of wearables.”