Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Amanda Cosco is a journalist and consultant focused on the intersection of fashion and technology as well as the founder of Electric Runway. Electric Runway is a future fashion event and content series with a mission to cover and discover fashion tech.
How did you get into fashion tech?
I grew up in the fashion industry. My family on my father’s side were tailors who immigrated to Canada from Italy after the war. Both my father and my mother worked in fashion and retail. This said, I never really took an interest in working in fashion until much more recently, when it merged with technology and started to form a hybrid industry.
I first starting writing about wearables and technology on the body in 2014 when I interviewed a self-identified cyborg for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. It was my first big break as a journalist, and it was a story so outrageous no editor could refuse. His name was Neil Harbisson and he was visiting Toronto to give a speech on cybernetics. Neil has an antenna osseointegrated into his skull (that means attached to the bone) so he can hear colour. You see, he was born colour blind, but his antenna listens to the sound frequency of each colour and delivers this information to his head via bone conduction.
It was fascinating to meet Neil and to hear his story. I thought, wow, we’re carrying our technology around all the time, we’re starting to wear our technology, and eventually, we’re going to become our technology. The term “fashion tech” didn’t surface until about a year later, but I’m confident I understood the implications of our deepening intimacy with digital technology early on.
You have your own business Electric Runway. When did you start with that business, how did you start a and do you have other members in your team?
Electric Runway has been alive for just over two years. It started with a future fashion runway show at the Maker Festival Launch Party in Toronto and has since grown into a media and events brand synonymous with the future of fashion. I've travelled the globe covering this unique niche at the intersection of fashion and technology, and I’m having the time of my life doing it. Although right now the team is technically just me, I have a network of journalists, videographers, photographers, makers and shakers who I collaborate with on an ongoing basis, so it doesn’t feel like it’s just me.
How long did it take you to be where you are now with Electric Runway?
It didn’t take long for people to start noticing what I was doing with Electric Runway, partly because I’d successfully launched brands before, but I’d say we’ve really hit our stride in the last year, which coincides with the rising popularity of fashion tech. In the past year we’ve also introduced our podcast and YouTube channel, which have added to the brand’s offerings as a media platform.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle for any entrepreneur is always the self. Aside from that, I’d say the biggest challenge as of late is convincing people that fashion tech isn’t just a fad, it’s the future.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
We all know that technology is such a male-dominated field, so I suppose sexism is the answer you’d expect—and I won’t say that it doesn’t exist—but working with the fashion industry has its own unique set of challenges, too. I think it’s always hard to bring two communities together, especially when they’re so different, but that’s what we do with Electric Runway—we help fashion and technology play nice. And it’s a good thing, because they have a lot to learn from one another.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I’m particularly proud of the events we’ve curated and the communities we’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with around the world. To that point, my biggest achievement is my network and the friends I’ve made along the way. Fashion technology is filled with the most genuinely creative and innovative people I’ve ever met.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Our YouTube channel (check us out by searching Electric Runway on YouTube!) Most people know Electric Runway as an events company or a blog, but we’re building up a library of rich content that’s letting me flex my hosting muscle and exercise my videography skills to tell visual stories. Fashion tech is interesting to write about, but a lot of it needs to be seen.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Of course. It’s really important to me to see other women not only working but thriving in this industry. Technology needs women more than ever, and although there are some shining examples of female founders (Ariel Garten, Aniyia Williams) often they’re the exception, not the rule.
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 see us moving away from gadgets and more towards garments. Smart fabrics that are alive and can add value to the experience of being human, whether that’s relieving pain using blue light or introducing a new sensory experience. I think the days of fitness trackers are over (RIP Jawbone) and that next chapter has more to do with human-centered design, not gimmicks.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Dream big. I know it seems cliche, but I find a common (and troubling) pattern among many of the female entrepreneurs I know, and it’s that they think small rather than thinking big. I’d love to see more female entrepreneurs taking life by the proverbial balls and really going for it. Easier said than done, I know.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or wearable tech?
Anouk Wipprecht - because she designs garments for the female body, oftentimes ones that enable a new kind of female self-expression
Lisa Lang - because she is a visionary and a powerhouse. She is the mainstay of the fashion tech community in Berlin and the world over. She is the beating, glowing heart of this industry
Billie Whitehouse - because I think her brand, Wearable X, has enormous commercial potential, and because her projects are always thoughtful and foreground human-centered design
Electric Runway Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/electric_runway/
Electric Runway Twitter: https://twitter.com/Electric_Runway
Electric Runway Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ElectricRunway/
Electric Runway iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/electric-runway-podcast/id1064514329?mt=2
Electric Runway YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIRvsPmkLt4FSzR3ouEnbkQ/feed
Personal Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/girlabouttoronto/
Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmandaCosco