Wearers can update their clothing with new political messaging each day, with the augmented-reality The Last Statement T-shirt from Swedish retailer Carlings.
Developed for the brand by creative agency Virtue, the T-shirt is nearly blank to the naked eye. Viewed through a phone, however, it sports a bold, animated design that comments on a political topic of the day.
The wearer can choose from a range of graphics created especially for The Last Statement T-shirt and accessible through the Instagram or Facebook apps, where it works on the same principle as face filters.
The graphics appear superimposed over the white T-shirt, and adjust to the drape of the fabric and movement of the wearer in any photos or videos they record.
There are 20 initial designs, that were released gradually over December 2019 and January 2020. Carlings intends to keep the messaging options constantly updated.
The retailer describes the product as the “world’s first augmented-reality T-shirt”. It is also one of the first items of clothing intended primarily for an online audience, since its messaging is only visible in photos and videos posted to social media.
Carlings CEO Ronny Mikalsen said that rather than restricting the T-shirt’s usefulness, the augmented-reality feature makes the product more versatile and long-lasting. It allows someone to buy just one political T-shirt where before they may have purchased several.
“A statement T-Shirt is a way for the voiceless to get their message out there and today, social media allows people to amplify that a thousand times,” said Mikalsen. “But social media also makes statement T-shirts even more of a one-off purchase.”
“So we worked on how to extend the environmental impact of a single T-shirt through digital innovation.”
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Some of the designs available in the initial offering include one with the words “Some records shouldn’t be broken” alongside a graphic of a red-hot planet, one proclaiming “No trees, no air” accompanied by a yin-yang symbol, and one satirising toxic masculinity.
The designs are built using Spark AR, Facebook’s augmented-reality platform.
A relatively small logo near the shirt’s neckline serves as a tracking point for a smartphone, so the Facebook and Instagram apps can accurately overlay the graphics.
The shirt is only available to buy online via the Carlings website. It is shipped in reusable packaging, and £10 from each T-shirt sold is donated to non-governmental organisation Wateraid.
Launched in 1980 and with stores across Scandinavia, Carlings prides itself on taking an innovative and sustainable approach to high-street fashion.
In 2018, it launched another world-first, a collection of purely digital clothing, called Neo-Ex. Its pieces came as 3D digital models that Carlings’ “digital tailors” would precisely overlay onto customers’ photos.
Mikalsen said that with The Last Statement T-shirt, the brand is exploring how digital augmentation and alteration will shape tomorrow’s fashion industry.
“Customisation and personalisation are two of today’s biggest trends,” said Mikalsen. “We are curious about how this technology could allow us to invite our customers into the design process, giving items a digital afterlife post-purchase.”
Carlings’ partner in the Neo-Ex and Last Statement T-shirt is Virtue, the creative agency arm of media brand Vice. The agency was also behind Q, the first genderless voice.