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Phablet fashion goes beyond the devices themselves. People’s attachment to their smartphones, phablets and tablets is having a ripple effect on broader consumption needs, beyond electronic devices. Fashion is an interesting example. As consumers favour ever larger screens on portable devices to use in their mobile cocoons – Apple’s new phablet-sized phone sold out within 24 hours – fashion brands are responding to the gripe that these devices can’t fit neatly into consumer pockets. ‘BendGate’ when some brand new iPhone 6 models curved when squashed into front pockets as the aluminium succumbed to the pressure of the user’s movement – the subject of physics-style scrutiny in Wired magazine – only put the issue of the need for ‘tech-friendly clothing’ into sharper focus.
Brands have been producing unusual clothing with geeks in mind, highlighted in articles with titles like “Clothing for Gadgets: Play Dress-Up with Your iPad” for some time now, but responding to this need is now pressing, portable electronics have branched out beyond early adopters and most people are aware of the rising interest in wearable devices. In 2012, start-up I/O Denim secured funding via Kickstarter to make men’s jeans with deep, side-positioned pockets, closer to the knee. These trousers, now available via Amazon, can also accommodate an iPhone 6 Plus or Samsung device.
For mainstream fashion, however, with the regular iPhone 6 at 11.9 cm long, and the Plus at 14cm, front pockets would have to grow substantially to accommodate these gadgets. More fashion brands are viewing this as a design opportunity, rather than a headache, however. A spokesperson from Japanese brand Uniqlo recently told Quartz, the magazine for digital natives, that the company is “having conversations currently with the product development team regarding technology overall, and how our clothes can provide compatibility from a user perspective. Jean pockets is one of those conversations”.
Showing his brand’s responsiveness to shifts in technology preferences, Levi’s Head of Global Design, Jonathan Cheung has said: “Without being iPhone 6-specific, our mantra, like [Steve Jobs’], will always be to design products that make people’s lives a little better”.
While some menswear, particularly cargo/utility trousers, already features larger side pockets, more women’s designers wish to respond to customer lifestyle shifts as well as aesthetics. Tom Mora, head of women’s design at J. Crew explains: “Throughout the design process, we try to consider every aspect of the way our customers live their lives, and changing mobile technology is no exception. We think about all of these details — whether it’s introducing new tech accessories for the new iPhone 6 — or special interior pockets to carry the various generations of iPads or tablets”.
Whitney Neary, designer at Lee Jeans, meanwhile, reveals that her company started reviewing pocket size with the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus: “It’s something that we always are considering, in terms of the functionality of our garments. Of course, we’re always going to make sure that we’re going for something that’s flattering for the consumer… but we’re always thinking about how she wears the garment… and what she needs to just make them work for her everyday life”.