Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Marina Toeters operates on the cutting edge of technology and fashion design. She earned her Master of Art in fashion design with honours at MAHKU Utrecht. Through her business by-wire.net she stimulates collaboration between the fashion industry and technical innovators for a relevant fashion system and supportive garments for everyday use. She advises – via prototyping and a research through design approach – Philips Research, Holst Centre, fashion designers and others on product development. She designs and develops concepts to show the world how fashion could be. As a teacher, coach and researcher, she works for the fashion department in the Utrecht school of Arts, textile department at Saxion University for applied science and industrial design faculty in Eindhoven University of Technology.
What is by-wire.net about?
by-wire.net loves to expand innovative fashion by sharing knowledge and developing innovative prototypes. As freelance intermediary I have worked for fashion and technical companies; creating concepts, brainstorming sessions, presentations, garments and textile products for example for technical companies that are looking for new applications for their materials or advises designers interested in material and process innovation. Together with a widely developed network I am dedicated to designing and prototyping innovative textile products and garments.
How did you get into fashion and wearable tech?
It’s best to see our short video about this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iu1QdQCzduo
Tell us about your projects!
by-wire.net acts as an intermediary between technicians and designers, for companies and students. We design innovative garments, prototype wearables, generate ideas & concepts for a better future, support in up-scaling production, manages R&D projects and processes, and share knowledge via education, lectures and seminars. Due to our prototyping tools and consumables in stock we can act very quickly on a wide variety of demands in this field of fashion technology. Via this approach my team and I contributed to over 100 projects for a wide variety of clients and partners. Find more details about the projects here and here.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
Right now I’m working in this field for 10 years.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Moving great prototypes into valuable businesses so that society can truly benefit from all the relevant developments seems to be the hardest part. Also, how to make fashion technology projects iconic, catalysing and impactful enough to keep all the parties on board is still a continuing research.
What are the challenges of being a designer in the niche you are in (smart textiles and fashion technology)?
As being a designer, researcher, technologist, entrepreneur, educator, prototype, production leader all at the same time it is sometimes hard to find out which activity will have to most impact on the long run. There are only so many hours in the day. Finding a good location to physically link more people, facilities and production processes is a problem I currently face. This has to do with the up scaling phase of our niche field, as we get more relevant and known.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I guess the product launch of the Philips Blue Touch is quite something as we were closely involved in this development for over 4 years. It gave us insights in the total process from medical literature reviews to learn about theoretical principles, make the theory practice via prototypes, user testing, medical trials, certification, market development and so on. Only the middle part took us already over 60 prototypes.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
My latest achievement is winning the WEAR Sustain funding. I am also working on several medical oriented projects for technology firms and education a brilliant generation of students.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
The power of woman is everywhere around us. I think I am some kind of feminist, work a lot with woman and try to motivate female students to be ambitious. Anyhow, I also love to work with men, they can definitely be our supporters and allies!
What will be the key trends in the fashion tech and smart textiles industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Feedback loops: garments that don’t only sense but are also activated with on-edge technology. This will result in less urgency for connectivity and a better privacy handling.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all smart textiles and fashion tech designers out there?
Design the future you want to life in. Design the garment you would love to wear yourself.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and smart textiles industries?
Julia Miller-Osborn, Cath Rogan and Margreet de Kok.
LinkedIn: Marina Toeters
Instagram: Marina Toeters
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and 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.