Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Julia Krantz originally has a degree in Textile Arts from School of Design and Craft (HDK) in Gothenburg, Sweden and has worked in a transdisciplinary manner between fashion and art. The game industry caught her interest, looking at the human body’s relationship to new technologies and interactive storytelling and she is also running the blog Magic Fabric - about the interface between video games and fashion. Today she works as the Creative Director at the noteworthy start-up Volumental in Stockholm. With their 3D scanning technology for feet, they are innovating the shoe store experience where 3D models of the customer’s feet make it easier to find the right shoes.
Julia, tell us a bit about your background and your projects so far.
My background is originally in fashion and art. When graduating, I received a big award which gave me time and space to further explore and develop my artwork. The game industry caught my interest and I was fascinated by its interactive storytelling. I was especially interested in the way it used 3D technologies to model and visualize the looks and designs of its characters. In 2014 I started the blog Magic Fabric - about the interface between video games and fashion. Today I work as the Creative Director at the 3D technology company Volumental in Stockholm. With a diverse team of researchers, developers and creative thinkers we have managed to innovate the shoe store experience using 3D scanning and AI. We now have our systems in over 35 countries around the globe, helping people find the right shoes by creating 3D models of their feet and learning about their preferences.
How did you get into this industry?
Back in 2014, I was one of the few with a burning interest in fashion and 3D. In only a few years the market has boomed and in the fashion industry, many players are making huge investments into virtualizing their product cycles. I was lucky to find a company that saw its potential at an early stage. It might still be relatively rare to enter at deep tech company with my background though I think we will see more and more of, not artists necessarily, but artistic people being picked up by tech companies. As we step into a fully digitized society we need humanist perspectives on technological developments for them to be relevant. Machines are good at being machines, humans are best at being human. Imaginary and experimental approaches will also be an opportunity for positioning in a robotized society as it is harder to automize. But most importantly - we need complementary perspectives to avoid ending up in a tech dystopia.
What does your current job role entail?
I drive creativity within the company, both in shaping our brand and help to develop our product in how it looks and how it works. That require me to collaborate with a range of professional areas. I would describe Volumental as a highly diverse team, tightly interconnected, working in a family-like environment.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
We are currently growing the Volumental team and that includes creative competencies which is one of my challenges ahead. On the side I try and expand my knowledge in 3D fashion, learning how to build garments in CLO3D.
How has your career progressed since your degree? Has it been an easy industry to get into or have you had many challenges?
To end up at a company in robotics and AI is of course not an obvious choice for someone with a background in art or design, and for sure, it isn’t an easy one. You might see yourself struggling with things you earlier have taken for granted, such as having access to other creatives. But in the end, I think you learn more from that journey than from being surrounded by like-minded. And I think that I have, at Volumental been blessed with supportive colleagues which has been a very important factor for me.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
To start working purely towards the tech industry took me five years as I graduated in 2009.
What was the biggest obstacle?
I guess coming from a very different professional area, and adding it’s a traditionally female-oriented one, you are going to face some prejudice and negative bias when you step into high-tech. Adding that you will find yourself in an environment with other work methods, routines, and lunch topics. You will have to make sure that there is room for the things you need for creative input and advancement, as it isn’t automatically given to you.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Wow, that’s a tricky question. I guess my biggest achievement is sticking to my route despite great resistance and difficulties.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders, entrepreneurs, and designers in the industry out there?
I like the word support better than advice. Advice tends to empower the one giving it rather than the opposite. If you are passionate about something, you deserve all the support in the world.
In your opinion, what will be the key trends in the 3D, fashion tech and STEM industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
The adoptions of AI are truly exploding and we are definitely moving towards a society where personal data will unlock opportunity to adapt everything in your life to your specific needs and preferences. Your daily activities and the services you use will adapt to you and not the other way around. With this, we are also going to see an even more growing debate about the pros and cons of these technological advancements. Looking a year back we can see how polarizing online algorithms can work but it’s of importance to also talk about what opportunities it can offer. What’s our tech-utopia? For sure, technology cannot be stopped or hindered. But we can steer it in a direction that will work for the benefit of humanity as a whole.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and 3D?
When it comes to combining fashion, technology, and art, Björk was very early with setting up cross-disciplinary teams in combining art and technology. And she seems fearless in staying relevant in this area. We also have a person like Iris van Herpen, one of the early adopters of 3D printing techniques in fashion. She has with strong conviction managed to keep her studio running through ups and downs. Above all, I take my hat off for the women I work with at Volumental every day as well as female friends working in the tech industries who thrive with excellence in their professional areas where female leadership isn’t the norm.
Websites: Juliakrantz.com, Magicfabricblog.com, Volumental.com
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.