February 21, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Wearable game weaves clues into cloth

If you find yourself wearing clothes from a new company called Edoc Laundry, beware: Strangers may walk up to you on the street to examine the intricacies of your shirt's patterns.

That's because Edoc Laundry's first line, expected to launch March 1, literally weaves an episodic, multimedia game into the fabric of the garments. The Seattle-based company is believed to be the first to attempt such a fashion feat.

Edoc line

The idea is an extension of so-called alternate-reality games, or ARGs, in which people try to solve puzzles that are propagated online but require players to team up to find clues in the real world. Usually, the games are promotional vehicles for other products, including video games and movies.

Examples of ARGs include 2004's "I Love Bees," which was a lead-in to Bungie Studios' "Halo 2" for Xbox, and 2005's "Last Call Poker," which promoted Activision's "Gun."

Edoc Laundry's line integrates an ARG into its shirts, hats and accessories. The story involves the mysterious death of the manager of a fictional band called Poor Richard. Players find clues such as words and symbols embedded in the clothes. They then head to a Web site where they can unlock complex elements of the overriding story of Poor Richard and its music.

"I think it's an excellent idea," said Jonathan Waite, senior editor for ARGN, an online publication about ARGs. "It's something that I'd not heard tried before: incorporating a cerebral, mentally-challenging aspect to clothing. So often (clothes are) aesthetically pleasing, but to incorporate underneath that layers and layers and layers of intellectual substance is totally innovative."

Edoc Laundry was founded by, among others, Elan Lee, the chief designer at 42 Entertainment, the leading producer of ARGs, and Dawne Weisman, wife of Jordan Weisman, a 42 Entertainment founder. In a bid to help its clothes stand on their own, regardless of how the game element was received, Edoc Laundry also brought in apparel veteran Shane Small.

"The basic premise is that all our shirts just look damned good," Lee said. "They've all got kind of a street-edge, skater look to them."

Thus, the clothes are heavy on artistic and abstract images, sometimes with birds intertwined with human figures, or with guitars that seem to morph into trees.

Those who have seen the line say the company is headed in the right direction.

Blending fashion with art
"I was really attracted to the mix of urban culture-based graphics and the attention to detail and the quality, as well," said Grace Kim, an assistant buyer at Evo Seattle, one of the first stores that will carry the Edoc Laundry line, and a haven for Seattle hipsters. "That's what initially grabbed me, the visuals, and the overall mesh of fashion and art."

Edoc Laundry, said Small, is a clothing company first and a game company second. As someone with a long career in apparel, Small said it was important to him to do something new.

"I've gotten to the point where everything's been done, and I'm over it," Small said. "We're saying that clothing...can be so much more. You get (something) like HBO through your T-shirt."

CONTINUED: Clothes that tell secrets…
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