Rolling out a new product, especially one that takes proof of an entirely new concept to the masses, is never going to be without its hiccups — and that’s a lesson John McCarthy has been learning over the past week. McCarthy is the head of product for Google’s Jacquard initiative, which introduced a much-touted $350 smart jacket with Levi’s in late September, and he’s heard one piece of feedback over and over since the launch: a complaint that you can’t wash the jacket too many times before it goes off kilter. (The care guidelines posted on Jacquard’s official site read: “the jacket is designed to withstand up to 10 washes … but your experience may vary by usage and wash conditions.”)
During a conversation with Men’s Journal, McCarthy swore a solemn vow: “I can promise you that the jacket does not break on wash 11 or 12 or 13,” he said. From a sustainability standpoint, “Levi’s always encourages on all of their garments, wash when necessary. Frankly, you can take care of it like any other jacket. Wash cold, dry low heat. If you’re able to air dry, that’s always a better thing for the environment.”
The jacket shows its true colors when you’re on your way to work (it was, after all, designed for commuters, complete with an articulated sleeve that won’t restrict your movement). Whether you’re on a bike or standing on a crowded train, you can easily can activate its core functionalities (they allow you to control your music, alert you to the next turn you need to take on the road, and tell you about incoming messages) by setting up a series of touch patterns that correspond to a panel of smart fabric located on the left cuff. A Bluetooth-activated dongle connects the panel to an coordinating app that’s available for both Android and iPhone. These interactions are customizable (you can brush out to skip a song, our double tap to accept a call if you like) because McCarthy “didn’t want to lock down the functionality too much.”
But because a commuter jacket isn’t for everyone (this reporter leans a little more toward a two button notch lapel blazer, say, or a bomber jacket when it’s cold enough), the Jacquard team plans to use the anonymous aggregate data it collects from users to inform the next smart garment they create.
“The thing that I’m most excited about is getting it into more styles,” McCarthy said. “We don’t expect to be creating a one-size-fits-all solution. We wanted to work with Levi’s in particular because we think they do a pretty remarkable job of creating garments that are staples in people’s wardrobe.”
Bottom line? When Jacquard starts creating sport coats that can answer your text messages, you’ll have the first class of people who bought and tested this commuter jacket to thank. (And if you want to buy one for yourself, you’ll find it at levis.com.)