Fashion, high tech merge as latest hip clothes get ‘smart’

Even clothes and shoes are going high-tech.
Fashion designers now incorporate technology into making new clothes. These clothes ― sometimes called “smart clothes” ― are quickly penetrating the consumer market.
The American jean maker Levi’s recently began selling its “Redwire” brand, which is specially designed to complement Apple Computer’s digital music players. The brand is available in the United States, but only hit stores in Korea last month. They are priced at $68 for straight jeans and $250 for DLX jeans.
The Redwire DLX jean has a custom iPod docking cradle built into a hidden side pocket. A red wire connects the cradle to the jeans. On the waistband, there is a retractable headphone unit; the watch pocket includes a white leather joystick controller, which operates play, pause, tracking and volume. This product costs $250 in the United States but is priced in the 400,000 to 500,000 won ($422 to $528) range here.
The concept of smart clothing is not new on a global scale. And the Commerce Ministry, aware of the new market, has been supporting the tech-clothing industry for the past two years.
One government-funded project related to the industry is the development of a textile material that can transfer digital signals.
Companies such as Beaucre Merchandising and FCG Co. are trying to ride the wave and sell “smart” attire. One T-shirt that is due to hit shelves in the spring will have a small button on the sleeve that activates an MP3 player.
Sportswear maker Adidas is also in the review stage for new training clothes that come attached with a pulse reader. Nike, always on the cutting edge, has been using electronic gadgets in its clothing for several years. The items allow runners or walkers to check their heartbeat patterns during exercise.
Shoes are also getting high-tech. The Adidas One, which debuted in September, was a “smart” shoe that featured a sensor under the heel to measure shock level upon taking a step. If the shock was too intense, the wearer could increase the cushion in the heel by pressing the “plus” button, and vice versa.
“This merchandise verifies the evolution of scientific sports,” an Adidas spokesman said.
The growing “smart clothes” market appears to be more than a fad.
“Information technology will accelerate the evolution of consumer goods, which includes apparel,” said Choi Kyung-ae, head of Levi marketing in Korea.

by Chung Sun-gu,Wohn Dong-hee


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