Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Eliana Guzmán holds a degree in Clothing and Textile Design from UADE, Buenos Aires and is a Theatrical Costumer and Techno-Textile Artist. Since 2014, she develops professionally as a costume designer for shows.
In 2016, she founded Ceiborg, a project where she researches and develops a new generation of textiles and clothing dabbling in electronics and programming, 3D printing, and the cultivation of microorganisms and fungi to develop bio-textiles.
From the beginning, Ceiborg has developed customized clothing for clients such as Facebook and The Blind Theater. Eliana’s designs have been exhibited in international events such as Fashion Week Rome, Fashion Week Milan and SXSW (Texas). Also, she has been recognized by several media such as La Nación Group and the City Channel, and has received invitations from different Institutions to give talks and exhibit works such as UNTREF, UNMDP, C3, and Fabricacademy. Moreover, has received mentions and given talks, trainings and workshops in different Educational institutions.
Eliana, welcome to our team! How did you get into fashion tech and wearable tech?
Although I have a fashion design degree, my professional career is focused on costumes for theatre and shows. With the aim of improving and making my costumes more striking, I decided to immerse myself in the search of new materials that would favor the visual communication of my creations.
In 2015, I started to venture into new technologies, partly through my husband's background, Diego Dorado, who is an Electronic Artist, Programmer and Musician. He always filled our house with cables, microcontrollers and computers!
A little because of curiosity, and a little bit because of being constantly surrounded by technology, I started studying programming and playing with Arduino to be able to add these developments into my designs.
Arduino platform was a very important starting point for me. The Arduino platform was a starting point for me. It really made incorporating this technology accessible to me. Having no technological background, the use of programming in the physical world was very distant and difficult for me.
Learning Arduino was so stimulating, that I quickly started, not only to develop wearables based on Arduino, but also to get interested in other technologies to enrich my costumes, such as 3D printing and the development of bio-textiles.
Today I think that the development of wearables and fashion tech is not only an important communication tool for the development of costumes, but it is also a way of learning, of being interested in how things work, of democratizing education and to encourage new generations to get involved in applied science and technology.
What is the idea behind Ceiborg and how did you come up with it? When did you start with that business, how did you start and do you have other members in your team?
Ceiborg is my personal brand, founded in 2016. In it, I center my technological projects and costumes.
At the beginning, we started developing e-textiles. Very simple circuits in fabrics, and teaching about this. Little by little, we made more complex developments, customizing costumes, adding IoT, making projects for interactive stage works, connecting the costumes with webapps, among other things.
Today, in Ceiborg, we offer 3 different types of services. On the one hand, the development of customized clothing, on the other, courses, workshops and training. Currently, we are starting to develop commercial products. Ceiborg works with multidisciplinary teams, which are organized depending on the project we are developing.
In addition to our everyday work, we do our own research and development in different areas. From the development of bio-materials, to our own boards (PCB) optimized for wearables. We also perform works and costumes that are exhibited at festivals, events and catwalks.
The goal of Ceiborg is to be at the forefront in the development of techno-costumes, promoting work in multidisciplinary teams and sharing their learning and experiences.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
About 4 years, taking as a starting point the first experiments with e-textiles.
What was the biggest obstacle?
I think that my biggest obstacle was also my biggest challenge, which encouraged me to learn more: living in a remote part of the world, Argentina. In Argentina, there is not much information on wearables and application of new technologies in the textile industry. In addition to this, we have all kinds of limitations to buy products, from monetary exchange, to import laws. Therefore, some things that can be solved in other countries in a simpler way, here, is quite complex. For example, when I started working with e-textiles, I could not find conductive thread, and it was not possible to buy it through a foreign portal such as ebay, aliexpress or amazon. I used to ask my friends, who travelled abroad, to bring me e-textiles stuff.
Nowadays, some things are starting to be commercialized, but not many and the quality is not very good.
This difficulty, forced me to understand how things work and how I could manufacture my own modules and materials, or what obsolete machine I could use to get this or that. For this same reason, I started developing my own boards.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Without a doubt, being an entrepreneur woman in fashion-tech is a challenge. On the one hand, there is not much knowledge about the application of new technologies. On the other hand, the things that are produced are generally designed by men and aimed mainly at the male audience (e.i. Robotics).
From my point of view, fashion-tech is a very incipient market in this country. There is still very little knowledge, but it is certainly growing. Three years ago, when I started giving talks and workshops around these issues, there was clearly less development than today. Little by little, there are going to be more projects and people start to get familiar with words like IoT, Arduino, 3D Printing, and so.
I think the biggest challenge we have as fashion-tech developers, is to find out how to move forward, so that these technologies become more popular, accessible and that stimulate learning and the incorporation of more women in science and technology.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
My greatest achievements are having positioned Ceiborg as a brand of fashion tech and wearables, in constant relation with many other developers at the regional and global level. Having gained the trust that customers place in our developments. Also, to be a reference in fashion tech education at a local level is something that fulfills me.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
I am currently working on several projects. One of these projects I'm doing with Diego Dorado. It’s about hacking an old knitting machine to automate the patterns of the fabrics. Our goal is to weave patterns in two colors, in a live music show, with music generated by code (live coding). Moreover, I have just been selected along with Irene Carolina Fedon (Biologist), for a residency of Art and Science. We are going to develop and design a biotextile clothing that will be exhibited next November, at the San Martín Cultural Center, during the November Electronic Buenos Aires event.
At Ceiborg, we are designing new costumes for the Blind Theater in Buenos Aires. In addition, we constantly give trainings, talks and workshops.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, indeed. In my opinion, is very important to support all movements and organizations that favor the exchange of knowledge, promoting inclusion, equality and diversity, and giving greater visibility to all developments of women in technology.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech and wearable tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I believe more and more that fashion-tech will be integrated by different disciplines and new technologies; IoT, artificial intelligence, VR, 3d printing, biohacking and many others that will be developed. Without a doubt, it will have to be aligned with the circular economy and sustainability behaviors.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
I think that, in my process, the most decisive thing was the permanence and the desire to learn. Sometimes things go well, but most of the time they go wrong, so if you hold on and persist with what you want, eventually you will achieve it.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or wearable tech?
I find the work of many women very inspiring, but I mainly love the designs of Iris Van Herpen, along with the work that is being developed at Fabricademy with Anastasia Pistofidou, Cecilia Raspanti and other geniuses. I think the artistic work of Ying Gao is great, also the work of Hannah Perner-Wilson and Mika Satomi in Kobakant, the developments of ElektroCouture and many more!
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This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables. 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.