Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Dedicated follower of fashion

You will no doubt be delighted to learn that, in 2013, the fashionably inventive applied for well over 30,000 design patents.

There have long been design breakthroughs that have had an impact on the fashion world – zippers, anyone? – but apparel is going more high tech these days, and Business Week recently rounded up some of the breakthroughs we’re going to be seeing on and off the rack.

While the appearance of Velcro on the footwear scene has meant that parents have been able to defer the moment when they had to teach their kids to tie their own shoelaces, shoelace-tying may well become a thing of the past. It will join parallel parking, dialing a telephone, reading a map, and changing the needle on a “phonograph” as one of those little life skills that are no longer necessary.

Nike, it seems, has patented self-lacing shoes. The company:

…has finally secured a patent for the kicks, which will feature a spring coil, a bunch of lights, and a dock to charge the shoes like a pair of giant rubber smartphones. Nike’s patent attorneys pointed out that the design could work in a wide range of footwear, including ice skates, ski boots, and cycling shoes. Will shoe chargers proves to be a game changer?

How well I remember taking off my mittens to lace up those ice skates. And, worse, taking off those mittens to unlace those skates after the laces had become frozen. But blowing on those fingers to restore circulation and ward off frostbite was all part of the pond skating experience. One more life can be real, nature can be harsh moment will be lost.

And it’s been decades since I’ve hit the slopes, but don’t ski boots have buckles that just sort of snap into place?

Do we really need self-tying shoes?

Okay, ask me in another twenty years when I’m in my dotage, and it’s too darned blood-rushing-to-the-head dangerous to bend over and tie my New Balance geezer walkers. Or even press the Velcro into place.

“Smart purses” are also on the horizon.

Last year Everpurse started selling handbags that charge smartphones with no plug required. Now the company is working on ways to have accessories alert people about lost keys or forgotten ID cards. Ultimately, it’s hoping to license the technology to a range of big-name apparel makers. “Co-branding is a big deal for us,” Everpurse founder Liz Salcedo said this morning. “We’d really like to have the ‘Intel-inside’ model.”

Oh, phooey.

A really smart purse would be one that informed you that you already have three periwinkle blue cashmere sweaters, and that the reason that teal shirt is calling to you is that you already own one exactly like it.

Anyone who’s ever run into the “if the waist fits, the thighs bag” problem with jeans, or who is the owner of not one, but two odd-ball feet, will certainly welcome the advent of the bespoke body-scan.

Accustom Apparel, a New York startup, performs body scans that collect more than 200,000 data points.

And those data points will translate into the perfect fit, without having to pay and arm and a leg to have the bespoke item hand-crafted for you. (Think of how great it will be when this combines with a 3D home clothing printer. Forget nothing to wear…)

The final trend that Business Week has spotted is that technology driven apparel will be on the QT. No more “geek chic” aesthetic a la Google Glass. The technology will be hidden away, humming in background.

It may be hard to disguise that you’re sporting automated shoelaces, but for those with the shirt that unbuttons the top two buttons when someone cute walks by, the dress that self-shortens when you move from audience with the pope to nightclub, and the hat that changes color to better match your coat, the technology will be embedded.

Meanwhile, I suspect that most of us will stay old-school, the zipper and miracle work-out fabrics will be the highest tech we go.

Fine by me.

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