Asher Levine wants to make sure you never lose a piece of clothing he designed. Last week, the 24-year-old fashion world darling (he’s dressed Lady Gaga, which seems to be the benchmark for that descriptor) unveiled a Fall/Winter 2013 collection that included garments embedded with Bluetooth-enabled microchips.
In a demonstration in front of a packed Fashion Week house, Levine showed how an iPhone app will allow the wearer to press a button and make their garments "ring." If the lost item isn’t nearby, the app will locate it in Google Maps. The thin microchip—which fits easily in the palm of your hand—will be sewn into compartments in gloves, coats, and hats from Levine’s spring collection.
But Levine didn’t design the chips himself—rather, they’re being built by a company called Phone Halo. Halo’s flagship product, a Bluetooth-connected wallet called TrackR, has raised over $25,000 more than their goal on Indiegogo (there are five days left). The company’s mission is admirably simple: Help people stop losing stuff. The collaboration with Levine was part of their strategy to expand from wallets into personal belongings in general. "We believe that fashion will have more and more technology integration," Phone Halo’s COO, Christian Smith, said over email. "Asher’s smart gloves are a great example of how tech-fashion can improve our lives."
Of course, TrackR can only help you see where your belongings are at the moment. Getting them back—particularly if they’ve been stolen—is another matter. If you look at other objects people track using GPS (bikes or computers, for example), you’ll find that it takes a certain amount of dedication to personally accost a thief. It remains to be seen whether Levine’s market—of people who can routinely afford bags that cost more than a few thousand dollars—is the appropriate target demographic for such a technology. It’s easy to imagine using TrackR to locate a misplaced hat at a party; it’s harder to imagine tracking down a stolen bag across town.
That distinction aside, it’s interesting to watch fashion designers dipping their toes into the pool of ubiquitous computing. And for Levine, the Phone Halo collaboration is just the latest in a series of tech-friendly projects. During his Fall/Winter 2012 Fashion Week presentation, an on-stage MakerBot Replicator 3-D printed eyewear for his models.