It is one thing for our accessories to go tech, but Levi Strauss & Co and Google Inc. are collaborating to make your clothing from jeans, shirts and underwear tech savvy as well.
The companies are calling it Project Jacquard and it is officially being introduced to Google developers at their Friday May 29 conference. Basically they will be introducing the idea of putting what they develop in their smartwatches and smartglasses to be put into the fabrics of Levi’s clothing.
Google already has the technology to make it happen. The company developed conductive fibers through a Japanese firm and it can be woven into any type of fabric, just as simple as sewing through fabric.
The only problem that may arise is the size in the yarn compared to the thread of Levi’s clothing.
“As far as yarn thickness goes, we’re not almost in the same ballpark. We are already in the same ballpark. Google has accepted the supply chain for what it is and there’s no modification for any of the looms as we’ve been working with this. Fundamentally, this is empowering the garment as a platform, not the garment as a device,” said Paul Dillinger, vice president of innovation for the Levi’s brand.
On the other side, Ivan Poupyrev, the technical program lead for Google’s Advanced Technology and Products group says,
“We’ve been looking at conductive garments for over 20 years. What we’ve done is build the interactive element into the textile. We join the yarns with a connector that enables you to connect to a mobile phone or tablet. It’s about the size of a regular Levi’s button and includes a power source and Bluetooth connection.”
But, how did two different companies from two spectrums of business come about this deal? Well Levi’s came to Google last year and after much talk and consideration, both parties thought it would be greatly beneficial on both sides and too great to pass up.
Of course there is the concern on how a fashion brand can still stay up to date and creative in design while having to suit a tech part into their clothing.
“To make high-tech scalable and profitable, you need large volumes, but it goes against the nature of fashion to make a lot of a single product,” Poupyrev of Levi’s says. “We’re not the military. Fashion means variety, and this technology can work with virtually any kind of textile and any kind of garment, even sheer silks or lingerie.”
With Project Jacquard clothing, we will have the same ability to do what we do on our phones and tablets with our clothing.
Dillinger also brings up the point that many criticize society for being glued their phones and not enjoying what is around us, he says this is “the opportunity to get our faces out of our phones, to be engaged in the real world again, to watch a concert instead of recording one.”
Poupyrev also cites on the issue by bringing up “people’s desires to get back to simplicity.” He believes this is the way.
“Up until now, it’s always been a question of adding another device to those you already have. It’s another purchase, another thing to buy and carry with you. Clothing? It’s something that’s always in the background, so basic. Why create something else to buy when we already have things to wear?”
Though the yarn they have developed is versatile there is still concern in yarn widths and colors. A Google executive says they are still “ugly, in one color, expensive and not conductive enough.”
Still with Project Jacquard still in development, Dillinger has hope that they will improve as the project moves along.
“What they engineered is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” he says.
Maybe that is the hope the Levi company grew on with their first ever founder and designer, Levi Strauss, who built his company based on the Gold Rush because gold mining was where the business was at. And now the company has moved from durable gold mining jeans to a fashion empire.
“That’s where the opportunity was then,” Dillinger says. “Where is it today? Silicon Valley.”
Technology is booming and the possibilities seem to have no boundries. One can only guess what the next big development will be in 10 years.