Double tap, change the song. Swipe left, answer a call. Forget smartphones—in collaboration with denim magnate Levi’s, Google is redefining twenty-first century fashion with smart clothing. The Levi’s Commuter Trucker x Jacquard jacket is the first-ever garment designed with Google’s groundbreaking smart clothing technology, Project Jacquard.
As a subsidiary of Google, Project Jacquard strives to ease the processes of communication, navigation, and entertainment for commuters. Manufactured and sold by Levi’s, the smart jacket allows wearers to control music, screen calls, get directions, and receive Rideshare alerts, among other functions.
Woven into the jacket as a seamless patch of fabric on the left sleeve, the technology is touch sensitive and works with Bluetooth and the Jacquard App to send signals between smart devices. The patch operates using a system of conductive metal threads interwoven with regular fibres to produce a new type of fabric that retains the traditional look of denim, while providing heightened functionality.
Project Jacquard has no plans to open their own factories, preferring instead to collaborate on product design with brands that are already established clothing retailers. Their goal is not to enter into the fashion industry as a competitor, but rather to create technology that brands can use to update “wearables” for the twenty-first century consumer.
Although the Levi’s jacket remains an anomaly in the fashion tech industry, Google is not the only corporation to identify the market potential for smart clothing. Under Armour created the HOVR Sonic Sneaker to track performance statistics during a workout, and fashion tech company Wearable X designed the Nadi X Yoga Pants to identify when the wearer slips out of proper yoga form during practice.
Although this type of smart technology remains limited in scope, the Levi’s collaboration indicates that the innovation will soon be accessible to the masses. Smart clothing is changing the way we interact with our surroundings by allowing us to be less distracted by our phones, while still receiving important information on the go.
Still, the system increases the consumer’s connection to technology because it is literally woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. With smart clothing, there is no barrier between the wearer and the constant stream of information coming through smart devices.
Project Jacquard has the lofty goal of integrating conductive thread into every item of clothing on the market. As they move in that direction through the expansion of their technology, it is important to consider the impact smart clothing will have on the way people experience the world around them.
Consumers have grown accustomed to the presence of technological accessories in the form of smart watches and Fitbits, however, smart clothing remains a rarity in the marketplace. The expansion of fashion technology, including Google’s Project Jacquard, will further cement technology’s grip on communication. Google believes smart clothing to be the cutting edge of the fashion industry and, while innovation is inevitable, their conviction begs the question: how connected do we really want to be?
Claudia Rupnik is the MUSE Fashion Editor. Want to submit? Click here.