Interview by Michelle Hua @MadeWithGlove
Berlin based engineer and fashion tech designer, Lina Wassong, seeks innovative and aesthetic ways of digitalising the environment and the human body. Her work explores how we will seamlessly connect and communicate with electronic components in the future. Wassong integrates micro controllers and sensors into her pieces in order to create new interfaces. Her design techniques are a fusion of traditional craftsmanship and digital fabrication techniques such as 3D printing and laser cutting.
Wassong, who is from Cologne, Germany, studied Clothing Engineering at Hamburg’s University of Applied Sciences, and Design in Los Angeles, California. She also encourages people to learn about electronics, leads workshops and gives tutorials. She has co-written an O’Reilly book about light, electronics and programming and is currently working on a second book about wearables and e-textiles.
You studied fashion in Pasadena in LA before studying Clothing engineering in Hamburg Germany and winning a scholarship to being a Designer in San Francisco then a Designer in Residence at ElektroCouture.
What led you to being interested in studying clothing engineering and then to fashion tech wearables?
While taking fashion classes in Los Angeles, I realised that the technical aspect of clothing interested me most. I started studying Clothing Engineering in Hamburg where I learned about the clothing industry. However, I quickly realised I wanted to create something new and more interactive, rather than reproducing styles. First, I started integrating lights into my garments and did research about the structure of conductive metal yarn as well as integrating soft circuits and micro controllers into clothing. I became fascinated with all the possibilities opening up by using sensors, since they can detect so many tiny changes in our environment that we, as human beings, never even notice. Also using digital fabrication like laser cutting or 3D printing provides so many new possibilities.
How is clothing engineering related to wearable tech? Is there a difference?
Clothing engineering is about garment manufacturing processes - producing the threads and textiles, making the patterns, quality controls and selling the garments. I learned a lot about making high quality products and this knowledge helps me now designing my fashion tech pieces.
What are your biggest achievements?
My biggest achievement was writing a book about wearables and e-textiles which will soon be published. It was a good amount of work finding the right structure and projects but I’m very happy with the result. It feels good writing down all the knowledge about e-textiles which I researched during my studies.
What projects have you worked on and working on?
I work on one-of-a-kind designs for fashion shows and special events as well as giving workshops and writing books about wearables and e-textiles.
What do you think will be the key trends in the fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
RTW fashion tech garments which look like “regular” garments but have smart features. Textile engineers are researching amazing nano fibers and multifunctional textiles. Also, pre-existing technology is continually improving. Having smart garments which can perfectly adapt to our physiological needs would be very exciting – no more freezing or overheating. Going a step further, it’s going to be very interesting when we can seamlessly connect our pieces to the IoT cloud and actually upload software onto our garments. Instead of buying new pieces, we just download the latest look or even behaviour in order to change our outfit. However, clothing will become more functional and, eventually, a part of us. Fashion tech is also great for designing fascinating showpieces – I can’t wait to see how they going to look like in 5 years.
What is your dream job?
Pretty much what I am doing right now: researching about new technology and design techniques. Also teaching and inspire more people to learn about electronics – it is going to be so important in the future.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to women in fashion tech?
To keep exploring new techniques, methods as well as the latest technology.
Don’t be afraid of electronics. Using micro controllers and sensors is way easier - and actually a lot of fun - than most people think.