Ralph Lauren unveiled its latest lifestyle fashion Monday and it didn’t take place on a runway. Instead, the new high performance Polo Tech shirt debuted on opening day of the US Open in NY. Some of the ball boys at the two-week tournament will be wearing smart black compression shirts capable of monitoring their biometric data.
This marriage of fashion and tech is a partnership between Ralph Lauren, which designed the shirts, and OMSignal which provided the biometric tech know-how. The compression shirt is basically a black, nylon tee shirt like you might see someone wearing at the gym. It’s equipped with a sensor that tracks the wearer’s vital signs. The data is sent via Bluetooth to an app that that breaks down the wearer’s recorded activity into heart rate, respiration, movement and other data. And it has a Polo logo on it.
The shirt acts as a sensor because it has a conductive silver-coated thread woven into it. So instead of wearing a chest strap to monitor your movements and collect the data, the silver in the fabric does this for you. It sends it all to a “black box” which is attached to the shirt with 4 snaps. This can be snapped off so you can wash the shirt. The black box has an accelerometer and gyrometer, in addition to housing the Bluetooth transmitter. It’s also rechargeable, though my idea of charging a shirt has nothing to do with micro USB ports.
The tech box is a little larger than looks comfortable but the models demonstrating it with picture-perfect push-ups to get their heart rate going didn’t seem to mind. As they increased their stress levels, I was able to see the heart rate and respiration numbers of up on the mobile app. As these were working prototypes, I’m told the final products, which will be available next Spring, will have smaller sensors.
You may be wondering; wearable tech from Ralph Lauren? That’s exactly the direction the company wants to pursue, according to David Lauren, Executive Vice President of Global Advertising and Corporate Communications. He told me their goal was to be the first major luxury fashion brand making wearable tech and there are plans to expand into other types of clothes like their iconic Polo shirts, and of course fashion for women. Since the sensors can measure and return all kinds of data, he envisions taking this to the next level across the lifestyle brand; embedding tech fabric into everything from baby clothes to business suits to the latest fashion trends.
For now, Marcos Giron, a top-ranked singles collegiate tennis player will be wearing the PoloTech shirt during his debut match at this year’s Open. He’ll be tracking his biometrics, as will his coach, so they can make real-time adjustments to his play and form. The question is, how soon might we see something like this on Serena Williams? Lauren says a women’s line is definitely in the works.
No word on price yet though, I’m told it will be in line with Polo pricing.