Welcome to the age of techno togs — Levi’s wired to play music, electrified plaids that can change color, $1,000 evening gowns that repel red wine stains, jog bras that monitor heart rate and pompom hats that light up on the slopes. It’s not enough for a pair of pants to just be a pair of pants anymore — it has to do something.
With 42 million iPods sold since 2001 — 14 million of them during this holiday season alone — it’s no wonder that the race is on to integrate the device into apparel. Everyone is betting on the power of the Apple music player to educate consumers about the possibilities of incorporating technology into fashion.
Earlier efforts at marrying the two have been little more than exercises in cord management, with ear buds, headphone wires and the devices themselves hidden away in strategically placed pockets. But today, textile companies are weaving conductive fibers and treating fabrics with nano-particles to render neckties stain-resistant and fleece jackets static-free, while MIT grads are working furiously to develop color-changing, solar-powered electronic textiles.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been the driving force behind electronic textiles since 2001, when it introduced a project to develop, among other things, military uniforms that could provide on-the-fly camouflage or map a soldier’s location.
But color-changing garments are still a few years away, she says.
“To be blunt, nobody is putting up the money, honey,” Orth says. “The momentum is growing for this technology, but the fashion industry, which runs on low margins, will have to wait until others provide it to them.”
Maybe so, but come fall, at least people will be able to wear their Levi’s and listen to them too.