When Amsterdam-based designer Thom Kool set out to design the perfect jacket for people he describes as "urban nomads"—city dwellers who are often on the go, are tethered to their laptops, and move about by bike or public transport—he mined a handful of sources, from the clothing of indigenous peoples to performance gear worn by athletes and soldiers. It was about balancing utility with a silhouette that was desirable to have right now—but durable enough to weather the fashion cycle.
The resulting Power Parka was Kool's graduate project from the prestigious design academy Eindhoven. At its core, it's a weatherproof parka with ample pockets—one big enough to store a laptop—and an internal skeleton that evenly distributes the weight of what you've stuffed inside. It's equipped with a removable liner to make it warm enough for mild winters and light enough for chilly summer evenings. In sum, it was about merging utility with looks.
During his research, Kool came across a traditional Inuit garment called an Amauti. It features a built-in infant carrying pouch, and it rotates so mothers can breastfeed without exposing their baby to the elements. Kool was inspired by the garment's construction. "Rarely do today's jacket makers think of extra functions other than sheltering you," he says.
Kool saw a gap in the market for apparel specifically designed for people on the go. Many of his friends and peers often work remotely, moving from place to place with their laptops. What they needed most was a consistent power source—and to be able to move about freely with as few trappings, like bulky backpacks, as possible. To that end, he integrated lithium-ion battery packs into the jacket to charge phones and laptops via a USB connector. The packs are removable and recharge wirelessly when the coat is hung on an accompanying hook. Additionally, LED lights on the jacket's back—for safety while biking or walking—will also turn red when the pack is running low on juice.
For the silhouette, Kool looked to the fishtail parka developed by the military, which he admired for its shape and how it has stayed fashionable for decades. "I designed the jacket to look clean, and I didn’t want it to look super futuristic—it’s a product for now," he says. He sees the jacket as a successful marriage of fashion and technology tailored to today's consumers, not some far-flung future of wearables.
"There are a lot of great things happening with wearable technology, and it’s only the beginning," Kool says. "A lot of major corporations have tried to combine tech and garments, but often you still get something that’s extremely technological looking. In fashion, it’s still very much about aesthetic appeal, and tech comes second. I think I found a nice balance between both of them. The jacket looks fashionable and desirable, but it isn't extremely about either fashion or tech. I've gotten a lot of reactions from people saying, 'I could actually use this.'"
While the project is only a prototype, Kool hopes to find a manufacturer to help bring it to market. Any takers?