Denim that talks


Looking smart takes on a different meaning as fashion labels go digital.


Smart retail is about to get smarter thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), which can connect pretty much anything to anything else via the internet, allowing the sending and receiving of data.

And now fashion brands can gain access to consumers via their wardrobes thanks to clothing labels with IoT connectivity capability. Levi’s is working with Google to create a modern version of denim. Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard industrial looms. This is possible thanks to new conductive yarns made of thin, metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton, polyester or silk – strong enough to be woven on an industrial loom. Jacquard yarns are indistinguishable from traditional yarns used today. 

Using conductive yarns, touch- and gesture-sensitive areas can be woven at precise locations anywhere on the textile. Alternatively, sensor grids can be woven throughout the item, creating large, interactive surfaces. Captured touch and gesture data is wirelessly transmitted to mobile phones or other devices to enable the user to connect to online services, apps or phone features. Jacquard allows the Levi’s innovation team to design and produce connected, interactive denim garments that are indistinguishable from the brand’s traditional clothing, but enhanced with digital functionality.

The digital connectivity is provided through a smart tag that houses all the necessary electronics, and apart from this detachable tag, the whole interactive garment is washable and durable like regular denim. 

Another venture sees Avery Dennison Retail Branding (part of international packaging company Avery Dennison), smart products company Evrythng and award-winning upmarket New York fashion brand Rochambeau trialling a new line of high-tech jackets (see box below).

Some are wary of the opportunity for mass hacking via the IoT, and cyber experts agree that regulations will need to catch up with technology, but for consumers willing to risk it, they could reap rewards for allowing retailers and brands to use their information. 

The collaboration with Rochambeau is part of the #BornDigital relationship announced by Avery Dennison and Evrythng last year. Avery Dennison’s manufacturing capabilities and Evrythng’s digital product identity
and data management platform enable clothing and footwear brands to digitise their products at the point of manufacture with software identities and data profiles in the cloud. 

‘Every forward-thinking fashion brand and retailer is working out how to combine physical stores with digital media and services, all powered by intelligent data platforms to personalise the experience of
buying and owning products,’ says Andy Hobsbawn, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Evrythng.

‘This innovative physical-digital partnership adds cloud software capabilities to physical store apparel to
show how it’s done.’ 

Deon Stander, vice-president and general manager of Avery Dennison’s RBIS division, which works in the global apparel and footware industry, adds: ‘We are delighted to demonstrate how adding digital identities to garments creates a valuable new channel for consumer engagement to support our retail brand customers.’ 

Julie Rodgers Vargas, director of digital solutions at Avery Dennison, says she has clothes for every occasion, crammed into every corner of her closet, ‘but I still feel like I have nothing to wear’.

‘I want to sort and swipe and see suggestions so I can manage my closet the way I manage my newsfeed or my inbox. I want my wardrobe to show me options based on my calendar and the weather. I want an alert when I’m reaching max mileage on my running shoes and guidance on which pair I should buy next. I want lifestyle brands to curate my actual lifestyle. I believe this is the next revolution in apparel and footwear design,’ she continues. 

While she admits that application, integration and adoption of this new technology could take time, she remains convinced that this type of connectivity will be the revolution for many women’s fashion needs.
‘Connected products will also offer a new opportunity to open up a two-way conversation with brands, to enable personalised experiences and curated content that I actually want to see,’ she adds.

Food and fashion up your sleeve 
Avery Dennison Retail Branding (part of international packaging company Avery Dennison), smart products company Evrythng and award-winning upmarket New York fashion brand Rochambeau have joined
forces on a new line of high-tech jackets. Late last year, Rochambeau produced an exclusive autumn/winter run of ‘Bright Bmbr’ connected jackets powered by Avery Dennison’s ‘Janela’ platform and Evrythng’s intelligent IoT cloud.

When scanned by an android or iphone, these ‘born digital’ garments can offer consumers, via their smartphones, exclusive dining, art, retail and fashion experiences. Rochambeau has produced 15 individually numbered jackets, each capable of unlocking a hand-picked selection of New York City restaurant, gallery, club, retail and fashion experiences. The left sleeve of the smart jacket features a hidden zip pocket containing a limited edition label with a custom NFC (near fi eld communication) chip and personalised QR code. Consumers can use their smartphones to connect with these smart tags and access the curated experience that comes with their jacket. 

Laurence Chandler, founder of Rochambeau, started the brand as an outlet for creative expression and artistic collaboration. ‘We can’t think of a more amazing way to do this than to create beautiful garments
with culture and connectivity stitched into the very fabric of the item,’ he says.