While other brands in the fashion and retail space are aligning themselves with devices that measure physical activity or provide communication from your wrist, Tommy Hilfiger’s first foray into the wearable tech world comes in the form of two solar-powered jackets released for the holiday 2014 season.
Designed for both men and women, the limited-edition styles charge electronic devices like your smartphone or tablet by converting energy from a series of removable solar panels attached to their backs.
I tried one out (as pictured). Here’s everything you need to know…
We’ve all been in those scenarios where the battery on our phone dies and we don’t have access to a port to power them up again – why couldn’t we carry our own energy-generating source around with us? A subtle cord in the lining of this jacket connects the solar panels on its back to a removable battery pack in the front right pocket. From there, you’re able to charge as you go.
The solar panel unit itself is made from a flexible amorphous silicon technology, developed by Pvilion – a specialist in designing and manufacturing lightweight, portable solar products. When exposed to full sunlight, those cells charge up the battery pack which, in turn, can fully charge a standard 1500mAh mobile device up to four times. There are also two USB ports on the pack allowing you to connect multiple devices at once.
The first thing to say, is that the solar panels on the back snap easily on and off, meaning you can detach the technology and be left with a genuinely nice-looking jacket too.
That’s also a bonus considering carrying both the battery and the solar panels around does make the jacket somewhat weighty. Not unbearably so mind you as the rest of the jacket is reasonably lightweight, with a removable insulation layer inside making it even more so.
From a design perspective otherwise, the three-quarter length women’s piece works as a great statement thanks to the juxtaposition of a bold blue nylon accompanied by a tartan developed by British wool mill Abraham Moon. That tartan also appears on the men’s version, instead against a warm olive green. Both are water resistant.
I have the good fortune of tracking what’s happening with wearable technology as part of my job – keeping one eye on what’s coming up in the future, and the other firmly on what we as shoppers actually want to buy now.
In my opinion, it all comes down to two simple things: does the piece in question look good, and does it do something we care about enough to actually want to use.
The Tommy Hilfiger solar-powered jacket promises both; it’s stylish while simultaneously offering a solution that is inherently useful to the individual wearing it. As with most wearable technology, it’s a ways off yet in terms of being something to be worn everyday and that would have application to everyone (not least because of the $599 price tag attached to it).
But it’s not intended for that – the fact it’s a limited edition design proves Tommy is testing the water with what consumers are interested in. It’s also an incredible fit with its brand ethos and focus on outdoor Americana, rather than the city setting I tried it out in (albeit it very useful around New York to fulfil the never-ending need to charge devices on-the-go).
In fact, the Tommy Hilfiger fall 2014 campaign is all about this look; the great outdoors and the activity that escaping to it entails. A series of how-to or survival guide films also sit at its heart, each of them exploring things like packing, pitching a tent and climbing to the summit of ‘Mount Hilfiger’.
This jacket is seemingly ideal for that person it’s portraying. As Tommy Hilfiger himself said: “We were inspired by the fusion of traditional design techniques with technical mountaineering references. We also thought about what the adventurer of today would need and want and how our customers are interacting with technology in a more integrated way than ever before.”
The jackets are available in select Tommy Hilfiger stores across Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia, and online at Tommy.com. The company is also donating 50% of proceeds from the sale of each jacket to the Fresh Air Fund, which provides free summer camp experiences to children from low-income communities in New York City.