AUSTIN, Texas—"The tech couldn't be seen as slapped on the garment," Ivan Poupyrev, technical program lead at Google’s Advanced Technology And Products (ATAP) group, told the crowd during his weekend South by Southwest panel. "So we started from the core—the yarn—we built starting there and went from the ground up. The first yarn we brought, I remember Levi’s looked at us funny and said, 'you know that’s going to break right?'"
"It's called singing denim," responded Paul Dillinger, vice president for global innovation at Levi's. "You expose the cloth to an open flame which burns excess cotton. So we said, 'You have this great tech, but you understand we’re going to blow torch this right? We’re going to do this to an open flame.' Frankly, I was doing it to scare them off, but then Ivan's response was 'what’s the fuel source for this flame?' He wanted to learn how to solve this problem."
You read that correctly: at SXSW this weekend, Google visionaries sat hobnobbing with style icons from Levi's as they discussed thread and production techniques. That's because this fall, the companies will release what can crudely be referred to as a smart jacket. Named Project Jacquard, this is by no means a new entity. Google first announced its intentions to make smart textiles back at Google I/O 2015, and last year the idea of debuting the technology in a commuter jacket form factor became public. But with Jacquard inching closer to an actual release, SXSW gave these two collaborators another opportunity to explain. More importantly, the event presented these companies with the first high-profile opportunity to let the attending public reach out and wear the thing.
from Wowing and washable: Google’s smart jacket wears and works well at first glance