Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Tomya Mateo is a designer interested in tech applied to design (wearables/e-garments). She is a philosophy student and has worked for brands like Zalando (ZLabels), Sahinler Group (Santex) & Lustre Life.
How did you get into fashion tech and wearable tech?
It all came, after an experiment. I figured out that it was possible to activate a thermochromic ink with electrical current. (Usually thermochromic inks change with temperature).
From there, for me it was clear that there are a lot more possibilities when combining electronics with textiles. So I decided to do experiments by myself and to contact persons that could improve some properties of textiles by using electronics.
What is the idea behind your project / product and how did you come up with it?
Hominems is an international fashion platform that sells a selection of independent, wearable electronics or smart garments from our affiliates, partners, and our own products. We also support enhanced fashion items using innovative nano technologies. After having a first prototype, I realized that this market is decentralized. To cater to a decentralized market, I developed the concept of Hominems.
When did you start with that business, how did you start a and do you have other members in your team?
We are still in the early stage. Hominems started in May 2018, as a test version. We are currently 3 persons. Myself, a developer and an engineer. We are constantly collaborating either with other companies or remote freelancers.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
Still I’m in the process getting where I would like to be one day, as we are still at an early stage. A big step towards building my own company was my participation in Première Vision Paris in 2017.
What was the biggest obstacle?
Well, it is a relatively new market. So, a lot of people are not sure if they want to have electronically devices as solutions for everything. But we had this question already from the changing phase from beepers to telephones, cellulars to smartphones, same as with analogue watches to smart watches. The product market fit is definitely there, the next step is to approach users.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Smart textiles is a brand new field with no established customer base. Plus it is very technical, which makes it necessary for me to develop a whole new set of skills. In my living context, I don't see any difference regarding the situation of male or female founders.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Well, I was part of Première Vision Paris a couple of times, that helped me a lot with networking in this field, and to attract possible customers. We are currently part of start up school from Y-Combinator, with is pretty informative and supportive for start-ups. Also, some test have worked fine, so we are going to enter a phase of further experimentations and product development in the next 6 months at hubraum, which is also amazing. We have access to 5G, which is going to be very important in our experimentations.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
We are currently residents at hubraum, the tech incubator of Deutsche Telekom AG, and we started the conceptualization and research phase for our next shoe prototype, exploring connectivity.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Sometimes you need to acknowledge the differences in order to get a sense of equality. I think the WomenTech may approach this. I’m against self-segregation, but it is necessary, if women feel that there is not enough representation in tech.
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?
People like to track themselves.I guess that people are going to be more comfortable with sensors and tracking systems embedded to their clothing as well, even more if is imperceptible.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Test your intuitions and if the outcome is positive, just go with it.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in fashion tech and / or wearable tech?
It is a difficult question, probably there are hundreds of women developing nice products that we are not aware of, judging from my experience, I would propose:
Lindsey Hargrove - Fossil
Monisha Perkash, CEO of Lumo Bodytech
Angela Ahrendts (Burberry, now Apple)
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.