Changing the Fashion Technology Narrative - Fashion Tech for Girls
Fashion Tech for Girls
How did you get into fashion?
I think of fashion more in the verb form than the noun – fashion means “to make into a particular form”.
Fashion for me is creativity, design and construction which were always an essential part of my existence. I taught myself to sew and design when I was six and I started to draft patterns when I was ten. Fashion provided shape and identity to me, a way to express myself and rebel. I moved to Japan when I was 22 where I found a foothold for my designs (that were threaded with wire to give them dimension and movement). I held a design exhibition there called “Wearable art for Durable People” – which really defined the direction that I have taken with fashion – when I am teaching now, I emphasize to the students that they are creating wearable, functional art. In 2009 I founded ThunderLily, where we developed a design software to connect independent designers, producers and suppliers in the fashion industry.
What inspired the creation of Fashion Tech for Girls?
As a co-creator of the ThunderLily fashion design software I consult with many emerging designers and through their eyes I saw how fashion opens up a whole new perspective on math, science, engineering and technology – it is a perspective that is not only exciting and produces results but it provides a foundation for so many areas of learning.
Teaching offers us the opportunity to both share what we know and love but also to correct our own mistakes – I wanted very much to provide a place where girls who define themselves as creative can stay involved with math and the sciences, to see how these subjects are relevant to their lives and can empower them in a niche area.
As you say, you’re igniting a passion for math, science, engineering & technology - what does your curriculum entail?
As students learn how to be fashion designers, they also look at ways that that can improve our world through sustainability and technology. For example we explore sustainable fashion by looking at how we can use recycled materials or grow our own fabrics and we learn how to use electronics and technology to program our clothes to perform functions.
Fashion Tech for Girls™ is project based but each project is custom-made for every group that I work with, so the focus varies along with the needs of the group. The students are really eager to work with LEDs because anything that lights up is exciting and has an instant wow factor, so while I incorporate programming and sewable tech in many projects I pull everyone back to focus on the essentials of design, construction and sustainability with the science, engineering and technology woven throughout their experience, so that they are really learning to be designers not “customizers”. Pattern drafting is all math and geometry, it is really beautiful and I love sharing this with students, they have such a sense of accomplishment to know that they can design and create a project from start to finish.
Why is it important for such a programme to exist?
I believe that we need to change the narrative of what engineering means, of what fashion means. I don't believe anybody should be pigeon-holed as a creative or a scientist or a math-geek or an engineer, we are multi-faceted and any opportunity to combine these different sides of ourselves is a way to move forward, explore and create.
I also don't believe that any single programme is the answer to everything, it is simply a new narrative, one that provides a place for girls to explore, tinker, experiment, empower themselves with new skills and challenge themselves to make an impact on the world around them, if they have fun in the process then I feel I have achieved something.
Where do you hope to take Fashion Tech for Girls over the next few years?
This is a very exciting time in fashion, it is undergoing a revolution. For a few years the high profile fashion tech startups have been working primarily on the retail – how customers can access fashion. Now the focus is shifting, we are starting to see more development in the production cycle from design software to new sustainable fabrics, machines that cut and sew garments. Imagine if we could provide spaces where girls could freely come and try out engineering, technology and design skills, to test out their math and science in a creative environment to try, fail, problem solve and try again, imagine the results, not only for the fashion industry, but in empowering young women with engineering skills that they can take into any industry.I would like Fashion Tech for Girls to be part of the conversation, to get more sponsors involved in providing education that can help us create the thinkers and doers of the future by providing programming across the country. The possibilities are very exciting.