Interview by Marija Butkovic (@MarijaButkovic)
Originally a trained fashion and textile designer working in London Fashion Week, Veronika migrated to the newly emerging field of Research in Materials and Design. With an undergraduate qualification in Fashion and Textile Design, Veronika was offered a scholarship to study for a PhD in Engineering Design by the University of Bath.
Veronika is an academic and industrial research specialist, author, broadcaster and communicator of Biomimetics and Design led approaches to Innovation. Veronika is a Reader at the London College of Fashion in Material Technology and Design and is regularly invited to speak at international conferences, symposia and has several publications on Biomimetic applications, while her work in biomimetic textiles has received significant media attention.
Veronika is the co-director of MMT Textiles Limited and inventor of INOTEK TM, a biomimetic fiber based textile technology that uses moisture in clothing microclimate to create a mechanical response for advanced moisture management. Her specialist area is design of programmable materials, structures and systems. In November 2014 she won the ITMA Future Materials award for INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR.
Veronika's consultancy includes expert advice and workshops in textile technology and material futures; patent/ technology exploitation, strategies for design led innovation and roadmapping; she works extensively with textile and apparel industry on an international scale.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on several projects:
with my commercial hat on, I am working on progressing our InotekTM fibre technology into programmable nonwoven structures for the creation of adaptive insulation textiles.
with my academic hat, I am exploring pathways to develop conceptual and theoretical frameworks to support future development in biomimetic, programmable textiles.
What does your current job role entail?
I don’t see myself as having one job, but several roles. As CTO and Technical Director of MMT textiles limited I provide leadership in all aspects surrounding developments of our fibre technology. As a Reader (Associate Professor) in material technology and design at the University of the Arts London, I am developing my own research agenda in programmable textiles while supporting academic staff and PhD students with their own research journeys.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
What was the biggest obstacle?
In academia, it is carving out time to focus on your own research.
Within MMT Ltd, keeping focus on goals within an environment I can best describe as an arms race between funding, industrial stakeholder agendas and IP security.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?
I am working in a space of uncharted territory, which means that there is no one who can say they have been-there–done-that. Without the comfort of those that have gone before, there have been many times I have felt like I am hacking my way through deep rainforest with a machete.
How about being a female entrepreneur?
I don’t really see myself as an entrepreneur but more of a mad inventor, I kind of fell into entrepreneurial activities by default, some would say I can be pretty single minded. However, at that point of transition, the driver was never profit but to realization.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
My two beautiful girls.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and fashion tech industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
I am reluctant to class myself within the wearable tech / fashion tech industry because it is inextricably linked to wearable electronic technologies. This is not a field I have been involved in at all. There are many amazing women, blazing new ground in wearable electronics every day. I harbor an alternative vision for programmable electronic-less textiles, emerging from a biomimetic approach to design that consolidates mechanisms for advanced functionality (such as shape change and self-assembly) within the material infrastructure of the textile system and uses ambient sources of energy such as moisture, heat and light for power and information.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, I think this is a fluid, novel entrepreneurial space that has not emerged from a traditional, patriarchic model that limits opportunities for women as found in many established business sectors.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Always have a plan b, c, d……!
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and fashion tech industries?
Ada Lovelace, Suzanne Lee, Nancy Tilbury.
LinkedIn: Veronika Kapsali
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, co-founder 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.