Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Marta Waydel is a social entrepreneur, researcher and influencer in the field of Fashion Tech and Sustainability. She is London based fashion industry professional with over a decade of extensive worldwide experience in Creative Direction including exposure to fashion shows, photo shoots and production management. She is also a creative individual passionate about working on projects that drive innovation and a positive impact. Her research and professional experience in the fashion and technology industries shape her approach to sustainability. She is a co-founder of iKLEID - an experience platform that not only is trying to solve the problem of fashion overconsumption but also aim to activate new concepts and abilities to experiment how to better use clothes. Marta holds a BSc in Business Management, MSc in Marketing from the University of London and a PGCert in Fashion Buying and Merchandising from London College of Fashion. Besides, she has a background in Computer Science.
How did you get into fashion tech?
When it comes to the industry that I am in, I must admit that it was quite a natural progression for me, although not so straightforward. My first choice of studies was Computer Science. However, after the first year I was scouted to the modelling agency. Despite that I wasn’t much into fashion, then. From modelling I moved to the photo shoot and show production. This was the time when I have noticed fashion industry really changing. The huge amounts of cheap and poor quality clothes started flooding the market. The ever-accelerating trends seemed like simple money making machines. I didn’t like that change, so I decided to educate myself further. I undertook various postgraduate studies in fashion buying, marketing and management to understand the wider spectrum of the fashion industry. I started to realize how ruthless and often not ethical fashion industry is. Thanks to gained knowledge I become really passionate about consumer behavior and I started researching the ways to motivate people towards more sustainable fashion consumption. It was quite obvious to me that it has to be done through some kind of a digital platform.
What is the idea behind iKleid and how did you come up with it?
iKLEID is a project where we are designing an experience space to build myriad innovations upon. We concentrate on methods based on exploration, co-creation and collaboration that foster more sustainable fashion consumption. We believe that it’s very important to encourage a stronger relationship with our clothes and understanding of true value and cost behind what we wear. We also aim to activate new concepts and abilities to experiment how to better use and extend life of our garments.
When did you start with that business, how did you start and do you have other members in your team?
The idea started to develop when I was studying buying and merchandising at LCF. I researched this idea and I wrote my dissertation around this subject. It was still very blurry then but that was the beginning of my new adventure with fashion.
In regards to other members of the team - my husband who is a scientists working in space industry supports the project. He is very helpful with all engineering problems. Also my brother is on the board, he is a great UX Designer and frontend developer. So I can say that iKLEID is a family business for the moment.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
It is not so straight forward. I think that all my previous jobs contributed into what I am doing now. However, true beginning of iKLEID was probably around 3 years ago when we started brainstorming about the problem and sketching the first MVP.
What was the biggest obstacle?
My biggest challenge is to narrow down the problem and to concentrate only on one specific point. It is not easy as there is so many ways to go and so many solution seems to be equally important and helpful when it comes to smarter clothes consumption.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?
Slowing fashion consumption is not very welcome by most fashion brands as it can mean smaller profit. Aggressive marketing funded by many fashion companies is also not easy to compete with. Besides slow or eco fashion is still associated often with boring or hippy style.
How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Especially now it is a bit of juggling with my personal life since I have become a mum recently. Being a mum and an entrepreneur is extra challenging but it is also a great lesson. My six months old daughter needs constant attention so lots of logistic is necessary.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I am very proud that I have decided to undertake this path, which is not the easiest one and not very rewarding, especially at the beginning. For me the most important is to do what I believe is right and can bring a positive change. I am not expecting to see drastic change in people consumption patterns straight away but even small tick of habits can bring a big different on a bigger scale, and I already can see much more interest in the subject what is very rewarding.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
iKLEID is my main project - and to make it work I need to constantly research the subject and be up to date with all the novelties within the sector. I also helped to asses Wear Sustain project- EU wide wearables and e-textiles projects confronting ethics and sustainability through research and innovation. I am also working on a new project close connected with iKLEID, however it is a bit too early to talk about it.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
I think it is very important to encourage women to work in the areas they are passionate about and especially those highly dominated by men. For me personally #WomenInTech movement also helps to find like minded people who can inspire and encourage further work.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I think IoT - here internet of clothes will be very popular. Thanks to digital labels combine with AI will become powerful and will create new ways to target consumers. This might be used both ways to try to sell more unnecessary stuff to people but also to educate consumers and help them to make right choices.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Be open-minded, patient and don’t be afraid to try various things to discover you intrinsic motivators, experiment in order to find your flow. By flow I mean when you are performing an activity feeling energised, focusing with the full involvement. I believe this is how you can discover what is best for you, what is your real passion. It is also worth to remember that it is never late to learn and don’t be afraid to change your career if it will help you feel accomplished and true to yourself.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech?
When it comes to the women around me that inspire and drive me. I must admit that I have always admired intelligent and knowledgeable people. There are a couple people within Fashion Tech sector that inspire me. I really like Kate Goldsworthy’s work and her contribution to material innovation, technology and transformation in the textile industry. Next is Amy Winters with her interactive wearable designs; she creates a touch-sense-sound multi-sensory experience. I admire Pauline van Dongen wearable technologies and her input into research in the human body in relation to its surroundings. I do agree with her that technology can add new value and meaning to fashion.
Meet Marta at our upcoming event - Next Wave Fashion Tech, London 25 April!
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.