If you think all-knowing smart clothing the equivalent of Big Brother is Black Mirror aeons away, Tommy Hilfiger is making you think again. In the unassuming facade of sweatshirts and denim, Tommy Jeans accelerates the mainstreaming of tech everydaywear with the launch of its new tracking chip-embedded line, dubbed Tommy Jeans Xplore.
This unisex 30-piecer of striped tees, crew-neck sweatshirts, tapered denim and bags is part of Tommy Jeans rewards program which gifts free merchandise and perks depending on how often a customer wears, you guessed it, the Xplore products.
WWD reported that each piece comes with an Awear Solutions’ Bluetooth chip, linking it to the iOS Tommy Jeans Xplore app. When turned on, the chip lets the brand track how often and where an item is being worn. Additional bonus points are given when wearers walk past Tommy Jeans locations as marked on the app and checks in.
The brand’s aim to build “a micro-community of brand ambassadors” is cushioned with reward incentives like concert tickets via a Live Nation partnership, invitations to fashion shows and the Tommy Archives, even the option to exchange points for donations to select charities.
To prevent stalking hackers, the brand claims its privacy terms include the encryption of data. And wearers, should they wish to, can turn off the tracking system through the app at the cost of being permanently disqualified from participating in the rewards programme.
“Never before has a brand been able to understand how the consumer truly uses the product after it leaves the store. Tommy Hilfiger’s innovative history has shown that they understand what consumer engagement truly is,” said Liron Slonimsky, CEO and founder of Awear Solutions, to WWD. Indeed, the integrated Xplore system breaks through with brand engagement that reaches beyond the traditional touchpoints.
Although not the first to incorporate digital innovations in fashion — tech-forward designer Hussein Chalayan worked with Intel to create shades that monitor their wearer’s stress level in 2016 and Ralph Lauren made sensor-equipped biometric shirts in 2015 among others — Hilfiger’s attempt is seamless in making sure his designs look, well, normal.
Its ’90s normcore aesthetic fits right into the fashion currents. Hoodies and bum bags (albeit with concealed chips) are de rigueur pieces that won’t look out of place in 2018 after all.
This quantum leap in tech fashion begs the question: Is this what we really need? The fact that our phones, laptops and tablets are charting our digital activities and listening in to our every conversation is disturbing enough. The idea of covering our bodies with garments that can do this, too, is more so.
For now, Hilfiger’s chip integration chiefly benefits the company with consumer data without actually offering back its consumers a value-add related to the innovation. But imagine an upgraded 2.0 Xplore chip that can do more for wearers. Sweatshirts can be our new phones for all we know.
The hysteria around the Xplore line will probably end up short-lived, but its normalising of tech advancement is the bellwether fellow forward-thinking fashion giants needs to weigh in on the commerciality and development of wearable tech. Its uncharted territory spans endless possibilities for innovators to experiment on. The future may soon be neatly folded in your wardrobes.
The Tommy Jeans Xplore is currently available in the US only. A worldwide launch date has yet to be announced.