At the February edition, Pascal Morand, Executive President of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode joined Camille Bénech, Google Jacquard Europe in conversation on the future of connected clothing.
Google Jacquard to make any clothing smart
We are in the ubiquitous computing era, where everything is becoming smarter and more useful, says Camille Bénech. To achieve that in clothing, Google Jacquard is a computing yarn that can be sewn into any material. “Today we touch our phones 500X a day. It’s not normal to spend so much time. People want to touch real things we’re using every day, and clothes and furniture are part of it.”
The technology: a computer shrunk to half-pack of chewing gum size
Google Jacquard is made of three main parts; an input area, integrated and sewn into different textiles – this is area you touch. This interactive area communicates with the Jacquard tag, the mini-computer chip, which took three years to shrink to half the size of a pack of gum. This tag communicates with the touching area – trained depending on what kind of textile it is put onto – and through Bluetooth with your phone.
Up to fashion brands to innovate the uses
Instead of creating new wearables, Google Jacquard aims to seamlessly incorporate digital connection into any design. Levi’s made a jacket for biking commuters who can’t easily access their phone, enabling them to skip a song by swiping their sleeve. Saint Laurent’s city backpack kept its design and simply integrated control of a person’s phone into its strap. “We are still exploring with brands, we are still an innovation lab within Google, the use is going to be brought by the fashion brand.”
Designed for clothes with longer lifecycles
Google Jacquard works with fabrics high enough quality to be used for multiple years – jackets, backpacks – so the technology can upgrade. Take the Levis jacket. Its first version in 2016 could do 5 things from the sleeve. Today it has 25 functions. The product evolves digitally through software upgrades. “You take it out and there are six new things it could do it couldn’t do before.”
Fashion, however, was not born for function, counters Pascal Morand
“The principal of fashion is not to be useful, the more you give to the creative side of fashion, you less you are close to the dimension of the functionalities,” argued Pascal Morand. By becoming smart, with new functions, a product doesn’t remain exactly the same, he countered. “The question in bringing functionalities to fashion is just that it is an internal contradiction in itself.”
“There are way too many products today”
For Google Jacquard, however, the idea is to brings a new feature to a product, rather than creating a new wearable. “You will still need a shoe – but it’s no longer just a shoe, it does new kind of things.” This disruptive innovation, says Bénech, is challenging for fashion houses, designers, schools and creators in taking a technology and putting it where’s it’s never been done before. “This is why we need the help of the industry – everything is yet to be determined.”
From sportswear to gamification.
With Fitbit bought by Google – beyond health monitoring and sportwear, what potential playful uses could Google Jacquard have asked the audience –a digital sequin experience say. “Everything is doable,” says Bénech. “We want to build this. We have a lot of user research studies. If it’s technically possible and if there is a need, we have more launches coming, around gamification and how you bring real life into digital.”