Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Mingjing Lin is a doctoral researcher in textiles and fashion at the orld's leading art and design research university oyal College of Art in London. She graduated from Tsinghua University and London College of Fashion, major in fashion design and fashion design technology (womenswear) respectively. Her research focuses on 3D-printed textiles for fashion design. Lin previously lectured in ENSAIT, France, also presented at various occasions worldwide including Oxford University (UK), Imperial College (UK), Royal College of Art (UK), iMakr (UK), The University of New South Wales (Australia), Central Academy of Fine Arts(China) and China University of Geosciences (China). And her works have been exhibited internationally since 2011. In 2016, Lin collaborated with professor Yingjun Li from Tsinghua University on a 3D-printed Qipao (a type of Chinese dress) project, in which they discussed the dialogues between the East and the West, modern and tradition, digital technology and craft. The project was initially presented as a physical performance and an exhibition at the RCA, after then it was displayed in China, Spain and France. Following Interfashionality, in 2017, the very recent project Fold-the-Interfashionality featuring 京剧 (a type of Chinese opera) performance and 3D-printed pleated costume displayed at the RCA. In collaboration with Tsai-chuan Huang, this project investigated the cultural and spatial relationships of parametrical design, 3D-printed textile and human body. As designer and researcher, she involves EU-award-winner WISP sensual Jewellery in 2017 (Wear Sustain Programme), was wearable consultant for VIGOR INNOTECH since 2016, co-founder of 3W studio since 2016, and the founder of non-profit platform ABOUNDARY and Far Eastern Study Group at the RCA since 2014. She has continually probed for creating innovative 3D fashion, exploring the possibilities of wearable technology as well as smart textiles, and pushing the boundaries of art, design and technology. With the valuable experiences of working with technological companies, material scientists and avant-garde designers, her works tend to cover both commercial and academic aspects in fashion and textiles.
How did you end up working in the smart textiles and fashion/3D industry?
To be honest, I was against technology for a while. Most of my design was inspired by nature or made by hand. However, when I moved to London to continue study and work in fashion and textiles, I was alarmed, amazed and inspired by the advanced and innovative use of cutting-edge technology in design. Interestingly, once I started to use technologies, such as 3D printing and face-recognition, I simply couldn’t stop. Because there are so many possibilities were generated by advanced technologies, and so many creative ideas are even out of my imagination, such as some designed textiles that could not be easily made by conventional hand making. Technology, especially digital technology we are surrounded by, is not merely a tool for me to process the existing ideas in my mind, it also can be very inspiring and innovative, which triggers our design journey.
Which has been your most challenging project and why? How about most rewarding and why?
I would say all of the projects are equally challenging and rewarding. As a creative person and researcher, my job is to challenge the conventional forms and framed notions, in this sense, the more challenging a project can be, the more rewarding it will become. Normally, for me, the most recent project is always the most challenging/rewarding one, since I am trying to push the boundaries and break the rules that I found through the previous project and would develop further in this project. My most recent project is a 3D printed folding costume project for traditional Chinese Opera: Fold-the-Interfashionality, in which I collaborated with another PhD researcher Tsai-Chun Huang at the RCA (the 3D printing was sponsored and manufactured by Sinterit). It was developed from a 3D printed Qipao project Inter-fashionality in 2016. During Fold-the-Interfashionality, I found many strong conflicts later become transgressive inspirations for us to process the newness. We are trying to build dialogues in between the East and West, modern and tradition, digital technology and craft, and to join many unlike elements in one project. Thus, it is the most challenging and rewarding project.
How do you keep learning about smart textiles and fashion technology because it is constantly changing with new technologies?
Again as a practice-led researcher and maker, I learned technologies from making/project. Through each project, I sourced various materials, studied from other cases, I talked to experts in different areas and learned from collaborators. Although technologies are constantly changing and someone might felt scared to ‘give a go’, I believe hands-on experiences based on a specific project are more important than only studying the materials as an ‘outsider’, especially when the project was led by myself. The most efficient way to update the skills is to update the mind through making.
What do you think will be the key trends in the fashion tech and smart textiles in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Integration and conversation. Integration means that technology will become more and more ‘invisible’ and embodied in fashion, textiles and even our ways of living. Previously, many technologies do not belong to fashion and textiles and might be considered as body invaders when they were first introduced to fashion and textiles. I have noticed the trend that more and more designs are trying to merge and blur the clear-cut and visible lines between digital technology and the way we are living, many advanced or previously unacceptable technologies become part of our life seamlessly. One of the key reasons is because many conversational and cross-boundaries collaborations have occurred. This gave experts of different disciplines the opportunities to broaden their horizons and bring in their knowledge into building hybrid fields. So I would say the conversation among many fields will be another trend.
Who are your 3 inspirational businesses or individuals in fashion tech and smart textiles/3D industries?
Nervous System, Iris van Herpen, Zaha Hadid.
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.