Old-world fashion houses are making peace with the new world of tech

Project Jacquard image courtesy Google

Ready to Dare

New York Fashion Week is here, and we’re getting in on the action. So we’ve teamed up with men’s e-tailer Frank & Oak to bring you Fashion-Tech Week – everything you need to know from the intersection of tech and fashion.

As the 20th century’s major fashion houses move into the digital era, centuries-old traditions of craftsmanship are butting heads with the latest tech innovations. And while the results can appear clunky at best (just check out Diane von Furstenberg’s collaboration with Google Glass), many in both fashion and tech are innovating in fascinating, exciting ways. Check out seven examples of old-world style meeting new-world innovation.

Jean Therapy
Google’s I/O conference in May featured all the typical tech rollouts you would expect from the company, with a few unexpected twists. The company also unveiled the latest product from their in-house Advance Technology and Projects group – Project Jacquard. The fashion-forward tech play weaves conductive fiber into traditional fabrics, creating interactive clothing that reacts to touching, swiping, and more.

ATAP have partnered with Levi’s to create denim that will respond to haptic feedback – imagine being able to answer your phone by pushing a button on your jean jacket. The Levi’s-Project Jacquard products will first hit the market in extremely limited supplies in spring of 2016 – they expect a mass-market rollout by the fall.

Rubber Sole

Nike’s long-running partnership with Apple – the Nike+ running sensor range was introduced in 2006 – has made it an industry leader in the incorporation of tech with style. It has also made for some uneasy compromises.

In 2012, the 40,000 person company introduced the FuelBand fitness-tracking bracelet – a highly-praised fitness tracker that synced with a user’s iOS device. But only two years later, with the launch of the Apple Watch imminent, Nike discontinued the device, promising a new line of wearable tech developed in partnership with Apple. That device has yet to be released.

But the company continues to innovate in their most ubiquitous product – running sneakers. Their Flyknit technology – a method to weave the shoe’s upper half in one piece – has not only proved a sales success, it also cuts labor costs by up to 50% and material usage by up to 20%.

At Your Service
The earliest adopter of Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech smart shirt for men was a ball boy, of all people, at last year’s 2014 U.S. Open. Now that the tennis championship’s 2015 iteration has rolled around, Ralph Lauren has put the workout shirt – which tracks biometric stats such as heart rate and steps and syncs to a Ralph Lauren mobile app – on the market, at $295.

Ralph Lauren’s affinity for splashy tech has recently extended to its exhibitions as well. A year ago, the brand revealed its spring collection via holographic display over Central Park’s lake at Cherry Hill. This year, Ralph Lauren is live-streaming its New York Fashion Week collection show on Periscope.

Brand of Steel
In February, athletic apparel maker Under Armour revealed they had acquired fitness tracker Endomondo for $85 million and diet-and-exercise app MyFitnessPal for $475 million. Those are massive platform investments for a company best known for selling gym clothes, and they represent the importance for a 21st century apparel brand to own more than just the real estate on your thigh.

The Baltimore-based company has hired the architecture firm behind the Apple Stores’ glass cubes to design their new 200-acre headquarters, and CEO Kevin Plank has hinted that the company wants to build a platform to rival Facebook and Twitter. Don’t laugh – they’ve already got more than 140 million users on their fitness apps.

At Least It Doesn’t Tweet
Victoria’s Secret’s heart rate monitoring sport bra wasn’t the first bra to enter the wearable scene – the Nestlé Fitness Tweeting Bra, which sent out a tweet when unhooked, among others, beat the lingerie brand to the punch – but it was certainly the highest profile. Priced around $75, the bra features built-in electrodes and attaches to most clip-on heart monitors, and does not actually contain a monitor itself.

Tommy Dearest
Tommy Hilfiger might not occupy quite the fashion perch it once did, but that hasn’t stopped the Phillips-Van Heusen-owned company from taking chances with tech innovations. In January, Hilfiger introduced a digital showroom in their Amsterdam HQ, featuring a massive touchscreen tablet linked to a grid of 4K screens. And last year they launched a line of wool and nylon jackets with removable solar panels on the back, promising to keep your mobile device juiced.

Behind The Band
Though will.i.am may not have the best track record in the wearable sphere, Gucci Timepieces still went ahead and revealed a “smartband” in collaboration with the Black Eyed Pea turned tech impresario in March. The band features many of the bells and whistles one would expect of a wearable – fitness tracking, a personal assistant, calendar management – but does not require being tethered to your phone.

Now go forth (and look good).