Vive la Revolution!

Let’s all praise the triumph of good ideas

By Diane Smith

You’ve heard that we’re in the middle of a revolution right? Not the Republican Party – although admittedly it’s experiencing some pretty powerful disruption right now. No, we’re in the early stages of a clothing revolution.

Take Smart Parka. An entrepreneur in Toronto recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $21,000 for a winter coat that includes built-in gloves, scarf, hat pouch and tech pockets. So far, he has raised over $2M for his Smart Parka. It’s so going on my Christmas list.

And while I was at SXSW a few weeks ago, I bought ScotteVest jackets for David and me. Invented by a transplant to Ketchum, Idaho (population 2,700) who wanted to make travel wear that conveniently held all his tech gear. Our new jackets have pockets and places specially designed for today’s mobile phones, tablets, water bottles, earbuds and other stuff that we seem to be carrying around all the time. It’s a hit. David calls his the “comm jacket” and he’s taken to wearing it pretty much everywhere.

Finally. After 100 years of clothing design that never really challenged fundamentals like pocket functionality, we’re having a clothing revolution!

Let’s all praise the triumph of good ideas.

One of my favorite examples of super-simple yet transformational ideas was the introduction of wheels on luggage. Back in the 1980’s, long after the Downton Abbey notion of butlers accompanying titled travelers while managing “the luggage” had become outdated, ordinary folks continued to schlep heavy garment bags and big square suitcases through airports and train stations regularly wrenching backs and twisting ankles along the way.

Then something awesome happened; somebody somewhere began making suitcases with wheels. And some company stocked and sold them. Pretty soon, we had all replaced our impossible garment bags and bulky suitcases with luggage on wheels. A seriously simple tweak saved billions of travelers from the pain of hoisting heavy suitcases over miles of concrete airport floors. I, for one, am eternally grateful.

Evolutionary innovations like wheels on luggage or clothes designed for the century we’re actually in are tough to protect from a patent perspective. As a result, the inventors who blaze these trails often have to watch as others improve on their original ideas. Frequently it’s the follow-ons who make the most money.

Across America, though, from big cities to small towns, super-clever inventors are working on the next revolution. Maybe it’s a follow-on in clothing, or a simple yet fundamental transformation to food or energy. It’ll look a bit like these smart clothing products; small yet profound changes seep into our daily lives and make them easier. We have a lot to look forward to. In fact, I’m going to put on my ScotteVest jacket now, jam it full of gizmos and a water bottle, and think about how lucky we are to have a front row seat to the clothing revolution. Thanks to all you creative trailblazers out there making it happen.

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