Billie Whitehouse, a thirty-two-year-old Australian fashion designer and tech entrepreneur, has spent years trying to figure out the best use for vibrating fabric. In 2013, she came up with vibrating underwear, for couples in long-distance relationships (she called it Fundawear). After that, she made a G.P.S. blazer, which vibrates to tell the wearer when to turn right or left (Navigate). Her latest invention is vibrating yoga pants, which buzz in contact with specific body parts as directed by a cell-phone app that calls out poses (Nadi X).
On a recent Friday morning, Whitehouse invited a handful of Instagram influencers—mostly women, mostly tall—to a loft in NoHo, to test-drive the pants. Mats were laid out beside a breakfast table topped with overnight oats and gluten-free banana bread.
Whitehouse began with a demonstration, assisted by a yoga teacher named Melini Jesudason. “I’m going to set the vibrational strength now,” she said, handing Jesudason a black battery the size of a walnut and directing her to clip it into a little port behind the left knee of her black pants. The pants buzzed. Whitehouse, who has shaggy blond hair with dark roots and dark eyebrows, said, “The vibrations will guide your focus.” The idea is that, when you perform an asana, five sensors in the pants scan your body, collecting data and calibrating your alignment. If it’s off, the pants will vibrate and buzz in targeted spots, to indicate where to make an adjustment. After each pose, the app on your phone will say, “Congratulations,” in a robotic female voice. Or it will say, “Please look back at the instructor and try again.”
After a few poses, Whitehouse called her guests to breakfast. There was a pair of Nadi X pants, which cost two hundred and fifty dollars, at each place setting, along with a vial of CBD oil.
Folasade Adeoso, an influencer with eighty-six thousand followers, had outlined her eyes with gold liner. The vibrating pants, she said, were “very on brand for me.” She’d already wriggled into hers and was doing some squats to test the fabric’s elasticity. “They’re cool,” she said. “They kind of remind me of aliens, though.” She pointed at the tiny wires threaded through the fabric.
Isabelle Chaput, half of a French performance-art duo who wear matching outfits, asked if the pants could be washed. Whitehouse nodded. “That was one interesting hell of a journey—the wash test, the tumble-dry test,” she said.
Chaput nodded. “I think they make my butt look good, too,” she said.
Whitehouse explained how, when she first arrived in America, she’d found yoga classes intimidating. “That’s where Nadi came from,” she said. To create the Bluetooth technology needed for the vibrating pants, Whitehouse hired a team of engineers. They spent two years collecting data from about a hundred yogis, on five continents, about the most common mistakes that people make while doing particular poses. Then they sewed sensors into the linings of some test pants and synched them to an app that they had created, using the data. The pants, which are manufactured in Sri Lanka, need to be charged between workouts.
Whitehouse told the group that she’d come up with some yoga sequences designed to be done while wearing the vibrating pants on an airplane. “Sitting is the new smoking,” she said. “This is a genuine epidemic. It’s not just because we’re at desks all day but because we’re constantly on airplanes!” (Because the app uses Bluetooth, it works with a phone on airplane mode.)
One woman asked, “Can you make sequences for music festivals?” Another wanted to know if they’d fit her boyfriend, who is six feet nine.
After breakfast, Whitehouse led a few more demos. “In Sanskrit, the nadi are the highways of communication that exist around the body when all your chakras are aligned,” she explained. She double-tapped a battery and waited for it to light up. “These things are monogamous, I always say. They only like to be connected to one phone.”
“We want to go into the market with a lot of consumer feedback,” she went on. “The big vision is having a full highway of communication around the body. When you walk down the street, it’s this bubble of data that can be delightful. And then we’ll track it over time. We have cohort analysis, charting how well groups do in particular poses. We can individualize it.” If Whitehouse’s customers agree to share the data generated by their pants, she could become the Big Brother of the wellness set. “We just have to get them to approve it,” she said. “Because of privacy laws.” ♦
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe