Interview by Darya Yegorina
Julia Doherty is the founder of Bello Studios, a design consultancy that collaborates with number of companies and academic institutes to realise conceptual aspects of design within wearable technology. She is a graduate of NCAD fashion department, UCD's Innovation and Entrepreneurial Academy, and has spent a number of years overseas, working in the UK fashion industry. The work of her studio is primarily focused on developing human centric design which examines the inherent relationships between product performance and human experience, and how this applies to wearable technology. A combination of her previous experience, and innovative projects lead her to constantly explore better design for better futures.
Julia, how did you get into fashion tech?
I studied fashion design at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, when I finished I moved to the UK and spent a number of years working in the fashion industry there, mainly in design, garment technology and product development. I moved back to Ireland and set up my own design consultancy - Bello Studios- and got contacted by Design Partners to help them develop a piece of wearable technology. Working with a team of electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and industrial designers made for the most challenging, complex, and interesting project I have ever worked on. I knew from that point on I had found the right area for me to work in. We've continued collaborating on projects ever since, the latest of which can be seen here.
What is the idea behind your project / product 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?
I started my studio as a reaction to coming back to Ireland, after spending a number of years in the UK working in the fashion industry, and realising that the same industry here didn’t have the same appeal. As most my passion lies in developing ideas and solving problems setting up my own studio was the way to allow myself more freedom to work across multi discipline projects while not having to limit my skills and ambitions.
My business practise exists to help companies develop wearable technology in a considered, human centric way. I work at the junction of technology, textiles, and the human body and work on how to best integrate systems with minimal compromise to technology or textiles.
I started Bello Studios in 2017, with just myself, one studio about 9 (and counting) different machines I work with. I have an ongoing series of collaborators and contributors who help me define the identity of the company, how we best work and what we want to produce.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
A lifetime of sewing and passion for understanding how things work together has brought me to where I am now. But in terms of hard facts and figures it is about a year of hard work and 7 day weeks has landed me in a position where my name and wearable product development are gaining recognition in my homeland of Dublin - and presenting great opportunities such as speaking at a WoW event!
What was the biggest obstacle?
Overcoming my own biases in product design and allowing myself to be freer while building on a set of pre-existing skills and methodologies. In my work on wearable technology development on the same project I might use techniques learned from my experience in tailoring, couture bridal but use pattern cutting aspects from compressive sports wear- I have to be able to harness a lot of different areas of knowledge to achieve the best outcome for a product while not limiting myself.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in
Time! There is never enough time to get everything done, or to meet with all the people you want to meet with. I am lucky to be working in a very innovative area of design, the challenges are never ending- and are welcome. We need to be challenged to progress, and to learn.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Being a female founder often means having to repeat yourself to be heard. There is not much I can change about my gender but I can do what I can to change attitudes- I am quite happy to call out behaviour that is overtly sexist, or gender bias and I don't think the man who dared call me 'sweetheart' in a meeting once a few years back will ever forget the repercussions. At the same time I have to be understanding of my male counterparts too - some culture and attitudes are ingrained, not intentional, and we must all work together to foster an economy of mutual respect.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Delivering 60 units on a groundbreaking piece of wearable technology for a communications company, working until about 1am or beyond every night for 3 weeks and then still wanting to go back into the studio when it was all over.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
I’m currently working on some products using flexible sensor technology for sports monitoring, and building a methodology of design around sub-or part assemblies for wearable product manufacture.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, because one women’s struggle is a struggle that belongs to all of us. We need to see, and to share our difficulties to help empower a community of women working within a typically male - dominated space.
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?
Home health monitoring is coming up as a big trend, as we move towards an increasingly aged population, technology will be harnessed more to decrease trips to GPs, hospitals, and to remotely engage healthcare teams with patients.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Fear is what will kill you and your ambitions, push past it, it’s only a little voice in your head.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or wearable tech?
Fiona Fairhurst, who invented the Speedo Fastskin suit. Naomi Wu, a DIY maker who also goes under the name of ‘Sexy Cyborg’. Iris Van Herpen, a fashion designer who harnesses 3D technology in the most complex and beautiful way.
LinkedIn: Julia Doherty
This interview was conducted by Darya Yegorina, Women of Wearables Ambassador in Dublin, Ireland. She is a serial entrepreneur, CEO of CleverBooks and other ventures in multiple industries. Darya’s current focus is on emerging technologies for education where she has the mission to deliver the most innovative Augmented Reality technology to schools around the world and to create equal access to technology for kids globally. Darya is called the Innovator by Irish Times, Irish Tech News and Examiner in 2017, was featured in Forbes and selected as one of young Irish best entrepreneurs in 2016. Connect with Darya on LinkedIn: Darya Yegorina orTwitter: Darya Yegorina.