How can fashion and technology collaborate more closely in Eindhoven? This is the question that was discussed in the meeting of Women of Wearables held during Dutch Design Week 2018.
Women of Wearables (WoW) is the global organization with headquarters in London that aims to support and connect women in wearable tech and fashion tech. Women of Wearables events were brought to Eindhoven in 2017 by its ambassador Yelena Kharitonova, the founder of TZSARINA Female FashionTech Platform. “We gather for regular meetings to reflect on what’s happening in the fashion and technology world. Our keynote speakers are mostly fashion professionals based in Eindhoven – they can be experienced, prominent specialists or the ones who are only at the beginning of their careers,” says Yelena Kharitonova. “So far we have held four meetings for women working in tech fashion in Eindhoven, in the future, we plan to organize a FashTech Talk in Amsterdam.”
The keynote speakers of the most recent Women of Wearables event were Mary-Ann Schreurs, the former Alder(wo)man for culture, innovation, design and sustainability in Eindhoven and Marina Toeters, the founder of By-Wire.net and a fash-tech expert at TU Eindhoven and Helena Beks, a fashion and design expert from Leiden.
Marina Toeters is most frequently introduced as someone bridging the gap between fashion and technology. “What I’m trying to do is to bring companies from high-tech together with the fashion brands. I am integrating tech into garments in my studio in Utrecht but I am also coming to Eindhoven frequently because I teach in TU Eindhoven and because Eindhoven is the place where fashion and tech really come together. In other cities of the Netherlands I can only talk about the integration of fashion and technology but here, in Eindhoven, I can really do something in this sphere.”
Mary-Ann Schreurs, who worked as the Alderman for design in Eindhoven (the only alderman for design in the whole world), believes there is no topic in which design isn’t of added value. “Everything is design,” says Mary-Ann. “We are living in a designed world. We are cultural beings, we create the world and we shape it in a different fashion.” And what is fashion? As Mary-Ann defines it: “Fashion is one of those areas where you express yourself, it is a fundamental cultural expression. In technological fashion, you can focus on functionality but in the end, fashion is so much more – it’s the expression of the days and ages that we are living in and of our own identity among other people.”
Marina Toeters says that most of her interest in fashion comes from seeing all those opportunities for innovations in the world of fashion: “I’m getting so frustrated to see that there are no innovations being developed in fashion and my main motivation for work comes from this frustration. In my exhibition Fashion? Future Design For The Present I am trying to explain it to people that there are so many ways of making fashion better. For example, garments can start taking care of you – they can give you massage or make you more aware of your body. And innovations in fashion are important for sustainability, too: for example, we can automatize the production processes and improve them with innovations, so we will not have to ship the garments back and forth.”
“In Eindhoven, we are good at R&D aspects but maybe we are not that good at marketing and selling our products”, says Toeters. “For example, in the USA they oversimplify the products, so the value decreases quickly but they use very good words and create a nice image for putting the product into the market.” Mary-Ann Schreurs shares her opinion on this topic: “Here in Eindhoven we should have a value-based approach to the products that we develop, otherwise when they are put into the market, we are reducing us all to mere consumers.”
Marina Toeters finds it advantageous for the integration of fashion with technology that Eindhoven is not a city traditionally associated with fashion. “In the Netherlands, such places as Amsterdam or Arnhem are loaded with the history and how-tos of fashion. But for fashion tech, we need totally different how-to’s. So in Eindhoven, we have more freedom of putting our identity into tech fashion,” says Marina Toeters.