H&M has been involved with several innovative sustainability initiatives recently, including choosing to use sustainable materials, launching a PETA-approved vegan fashion line, and a virtual clothing collection to support sustainable fashion startups. And a few days ago, the company’s chief technology officer, Alan Boehme, announced plans to create H&M’s smart clothing line that could replace wearable tech like Apple’s infamous smartwatch.
According to Bloomberg, Boehme is looking into how H&M’s smart clothing could measure and monitor hydration levels and heart rate. In addition, he is looking into how AI could reduce the steps within the supply chain to help the company reduce its overall carbon footprint. In September this year, the company was unable to keep up with the demand due to disruptions within the supply chain. Boehme hopes to eradicate these disruptions through innovation and technology.
If Apple decides to launch smart clothing that would make complete sense. But here we have a fashion brand trying to get into smart clothing, something you would expect from a technology company. H&M has partnered with a fashion tech company called Boltware and has already launched a denim jacket that could simulate hugs. The jacket did not receive enough nods to go into production, but the company has no plans to slow down or abandon its smart clothing initiative; Boehme has a vision.
“All of the components are there”, Boehme mentioned in an interview. “It’s the ability to uniquely put things together in patterns that we as individuals or as a society have not yet done”.
Current wearable tech products like fitness trackers, rings, and watches are only good as long as they are on the body. H&M’s smart clothing could be less obtrusive and offer a continual solution for monitoring health even when you go to sleep without the need for clunky devices hugging your wrist.
H&M’s smart clothing could lead the way towards futuristic clothing that uses sensors and hardware to create a unique solution to help consumers elevate their wellness.
While H&M is one of the few fashion brands to initiate a smart clothing solution, it is not the first. Google and Levi’s invented the Jacquard jacket that offered Bluetooth embedded in the cuffs to help consumers communicate with their smartphones. But H&M’s smart clothing could do more than just connect you to your phone. Imagine wearing a shirt that tells you how much more water you need to drink.
It’s hard to create smart clothing that could easily integrate technology. But that’s not the only hurdle the company will face in its quest to enter the wearable tech market. Smart or tech clothing is far more expensive than regular clothes, which are the brand’s primary offering. And not to mention that other technology companies are already entering the wearable tech market, which gives H&M significant competition to fight.
Additionally, smart clothing has yet to become popular with general consumers who want comfort at a reasonable price. Smart clothing would require special, time-consuming, handling for its proper care, which could be a deal-breaker for a generation that is always in a hurry.
Moreover, it’s hard to create clothes that would sync with 5G, especially in regions with low or weak network penetration.
So it may take some time before H&M’s smart clothing could enjoy the same popularity as the company’s current apparel catalog. But it’s not too far in the future. Boehme brought years of experience as a technology innovation officer from companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola before he joined H&M in 2020. He has the vision and the experience to make smart clothing the next big thing for H&M.
Would you prefer a smart shirt over a smartwatch? Tell us in the comment section below.