Solar-Powered Clothing: Everything You Need to Know
Everyone's talking about solar power these days, but it's usually in the context of technology or architecture. However, there's been a solar-reliant fashion movement quietly brewing for the last decade, and we have a hunch it's going to blow up sooner rather than later. With many of us increasingly concerned with living an eco-friendlier lifestyle while also relying more and more on battery-draining devices, it seems like a prime time to invest in products that allow for both. That's exactly where solar-powered fashion comes in, and though it's still an almost nonexistent market (shout out to BirkSun's awesome backpacks), there have a been a few big solar-fashion splashes over the years.
Discover fashion's coolest solar-powered moments thus far below.
Pauline van Dongen
Dutch designer Pauline van Dongen is one of the coolest solar-reliant designers working today, having created everything from a couture collection to a parka using solar panels. Her avant-garde designs seem set to make a big splash in fashion, with one especially cool item, her solar T-shirt, producing up to one watt of electricity from the sun (translation: enough to charge an iPhone for a few hours). Here's hoping she sells it to the public soon.
Tommy Hilfiger was one of the first major designers to test the wearables market when he designed solar-paneled field jackets for both men and women in 2014. Waterproof solar panels that could easily snap on and off the back, a hidden battery pack, and a USB port in the front pocket made it especially easy to charge your devices on the piece, which retailed for $599. Hilfiger also donated all proceeds to the Fresh Air Fund.
Australian company Tzukuri is beta-testing a line of sunglasses embedded with a solar cell and tracking chip to ensure you never lose your shades. If left behind, the chip connects to a phone app via Bluetooth low energy to alert you of their exact location. Consider us sold.
In the meantime, shop our favorite sunnies under $200.
Mae Yokoyama designed this standout solar-paneled necklace way back in 2009 while attending design school in Sweden. Composed of mini solar panels and the tiniest LED lightbulbs, the necklace harvested energy from the sun to light up and draw the best kind of attention to an outfit. We'd love to see pieces like this on the market today!
Watches are one of the few consistently available solar-powered pieces on the market, due to the simple technology they require. Rather than using a traditional battery to operate, many brands like Skagen store energy from natural light in a self-recharging battery. We're particularly fond of this unisex Casio style.
Despina Papadopoulos, the founder of innovation studio Principled Design, is a specialist in design strategy and wearable tech and the brains behind this awesome flapper-inspired solar-paneled dress. As Ecouterre explains, the dress comprises "448 white circuit board tiles that can be fitted with solar cells, LEDs, or photocells" and comes with an "attached microcontroller." By soaking up sunlight during the day, it allows the dress to glow at night to ensure anyone who wears it will stand out.
Ralph Lauren was way ahead of the game when he created these solar-powered athletic packs for his men's RLX line in 2011. Made in Italy with a thin, water-resistant material, the backpacks sold for a cool $800 and generated enough power to charge your phone for a few hours—perfect for a long hike, if you ask us. Bring them back, RL team?
Check out other editor-beloved pieces from Ralph Lauren.
Do you think solar-powered fashion is necessary? Sound off in the comments!