Interview by Amanda McIntyre-Chavis
Billie Whitehouse is the CEO, designer and director of Wearable X. Known for her development of Nadi X and Fan Jersey recently presented at Super Bowl 50, Billie is invigorating the fashion industry and transforming it into a business focused on improving the quality of our lives. Billie is an aesthetic specialist with a naturally inquisitive nature towards technology and innovation. As a garment engineer she strongly believes people should not have to look like the technology that they have grown to love and depend on. Business Insider recently named Billie as one of the 30 most important women under 30 in tech and she was named in the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. The highlight for Billie in 2017 was being named one of the Most Innovative Companies in Fitness by Fast Co., in 2016 it was winning The Wearable Award in Paris at Show Room Privé as well as being featured on The Jimmy Fallon Show. Billie is a renowned keynote speaker with presentations stretching from the The New Yorker Tech Fest 2016, Fortune’s Elevate 2016, Wired UK 2015, Cannes Lions 2015/2016, Conde Nast Digital Russia 2016, India Fashion Forum 2016 and many more.
What is the concept behind Nadi X and how did you come up with it?
Nadi X has woven-in technology for easier yoga on your own terms. We found that people were intimidated by yoga and that they were often making excuses about not having time to get to class. The Nadi X pants paired with your iPhone breaks down each pose step by step and guides the wearer with vibrations on the body. The sensors embedded in the pants know what pose you are in, in real time and are able to detect whether you made it into the pose.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team?
We started working on Nadi X over 2 years ago. We have 6 full-time team members and we are all only as strong as one another.
How long was the process to be where you are now?
A little over 2 years.
What was the biggest obstacle?
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Washability, fit, comfort and ease.
What are some of the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? Are there any specific to being a female founder?
There are always challenges, some of it is team based and some of it is technical. I recently had a male investor talk over the top of me nonstop in a pitch, I did have to wander if they would do the same to my male counterpart. However I think people like to test you in those environments regardless of your gender. Previously I have been cut out of TV interviews and certainly talked down to or ignored in meetings, however this isn't a pity plea, I believe this can happen to anyone and know that often it does happen due to prejudice. I chose not to take it to heart, however to address it in real time if I truly do believe that it is based in real disrespect otherwise I move on and let it go.
Why is the #WomenInTech movement important to you?
We all need people to look up to, whether its in technology, design or leadership in general. People in senior roles that understand the meandering paths towards fulfilment sharing their stories is only going to inspire more confidence in people to go out and find their our version of success.
Women are more than half of the worldwide population, this isn't a female problem this is a human problem. Technology is integrated in almost all parts of our lives. "OUR lives", this means that over half of the population is interacting with technology that "mostly" has been designed by men. But women are also 70% of all purchases, even if they are buying for a male customer it first has to appeal to the woman buying it. There are parts of a woman's life that I truly believe some men will never understand. Technology for women and by women is the way forward for a better human economy.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all of the female founders and entrepreneurs out there?
BELIEVE in your own magic. Know deep down that you do have something unique to offer the world, this doesn't mean let your ego get in the way. It means remember that you are only how you feel about yourself and how you make others feel. Find work that makes you feel your best self and not like it is work at all. That doesn't mean going home at 4pm every afternoon, it’s about making your own rules.
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech/smart textiles industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I believe we have moved beyond the quantified self, I choose to believe we will move into an age of enchantment. It’s not about counting but about delighting your life through technology. A version of the future that feels more like Disney than Minority Report. That uses design for all 5 senses with more sustainability. Technology is here to stay, it needs to fit into our lives in ways that makes sense for us.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech?
Pauline von Dongen
LinkedIn: Billie Whitehouse
Social media handles: @wearableX
This interview was conducted by Amanda McIntyre-Chavis, Women of Wearables Ambassador in New York, USA. She is the CEO and Founder of LegendFactory, a interactive brand management company and two new tech initiatives: Muzaik, a social media aggregator and Myndfull, a wearable tech company. She is also an active mentor, arts advocate and supporter of various social causes. Based in New York, Amanda is a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc. (NARAS), the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment (NABFEME), National Association of Professional Women (NAPW), the ELLEVATE Network and Women In Music. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMcChavis.