Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Nancy Boehm is a designer, consultant and entrepreneur in user experience and interaction design. She creates products and leads researches on projects targeting social link, sensitive interactions, alternative forms of communication, environmental risks and sustainability. Her major skills are tangible user interface (TUI) and smart textiles, with a strong connection with fashion tech ecosystem and medical care. Being very conscious of the challenges her profession goes through, she conducted several studies nurtured by a critical analysis and a prospective vision. She participated in many talks and workshops, always looking forward to sharing her point of view and her values on interaction and user experience, in order to spread her know-how and her insights about innovative design.
Lou-Anne Boehm is a designer, artistic director and artisan d’art in textile and new materials. She creates innovative materials, constantly seeking for phenomena of metamorphosis to appear in the fabric, inspired by crossover and hybridisation. Her major skills are fine arts and fiber crafts, and stage design, with a strong connection with fashion, decoration and contemporary art. She designs fashion accessories, as objects where traditional craftsmanship meets innovative processes. She also participates and oversees the artistic direction of shootings, product launches, fashion shows and is often on the catwalks herself with her sister Nancy.
How did you get into fashion tech?
Nancy: In 2010, I started a diploma of textile, materials and surface design at ENSAAMA Olivier de Serres, Paris. I wanted to invent new fabrics thanks to sciences and electronics. Even though the projects made on mechanical looms and screen printing to acquire the know-how, the courses were too traditional and I decided to learn the basis of electronics by myself. I integrated a hackerspace in Paris (the only on e-textiles), was going there often and started to construct several prototypes of electronic textiles. In 2013, I shifted to Interactive Design at Strate, Ecole de design and expanded my knowledge in interaction design more widely. In 2014, I became member of La Fashiontech, the first association in Paris gathering fashion and technology ecosystems with sustainable development.
Lou-Anne: When I started Arts and crafts for textile at Duperré, Ecole Supérieure d’Arts Appliqués, my choice for this curriculum was well thought out. I wanted to master the key techniques of textiles and crafts before injecting innovation in my projects, to create a strong and coherent bound between the past and the future. From the beginning, my goal was to use traditional techniques melted with innovation to create avant-garde and up to date products. I joined La Fashiontech at the same time as Nancy.
Concerning innovation, we want to outline we have always been attracted by its marvellous possibilities but without being Tech Addict in our everyday lives. Our education has been very rational facing technology, our parents were quite vintage with their tapes and vinyl records!
What is the idea behind TWINS PARIS and how did you come up with it? When did you start with that business, how did you start a and do you have other members in your team?
Even if STUDIO TWINS PARIS is officially launched for one year, it started 24 years ago! We have always shared the same passions and we’ve been working together forever, very young already for friends’s outfits orders.
STUDIO TWINS PARIS embodies actions and values existing from the outset and formalizes a work which was already actual and real. Our credo is to renew the tradition, to keep the essence of the past and the present in order to offer the most suitable solutions, closest to the user’s needs. The Studio gathers textile and material design with user experience to create desirable tangible interfaces.
We are very well surrounded, by a caring ecosystem such as the PR Séverine Hyvernat for our communication, the designer Rémi Rivas for design and methodology, the fashion designer Olivier Lapidus and the designer Loeve for all kind of advices about branding and strategy. Let’s also mention Innotex, our current incubator and many professional friends helping and guiding us!
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
We are very pragmatic and each choice, each step has been carefully considered. Our process is firmly determined and has nothing to do with chance but leaded with passion and intuition. We weren’t dreaming about fashion or stylism but craving for textile design. Since we knew from the beginning that textile was the best medium to express our creativity, everything interlocked with coherence and logic.
What was the biggest obstacle?
We don’t face big obstacles, we live it more as daily challenges, on subjects we have no clue about so we learn constantly how to solve them. Otherwise - and as almost everybody in our activity - the practical core issue is the search for financing and the psychological one, the self-esteem, to develop, go further, in a virtuous circle.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?
It’s a small market, the technical constraints and barriers are numerous. Everything has to be invented. It’s also a quite recent discipline so the argumentation phase is crucial, to convince clients that taking risks will drive them to success. We have to show the added value of the project and explain how the risk is written off down the road. We fall within the functional and sustainable approach of innovative design, it’s not the tech for tech, we take our responsibilities towards users’s needs.
How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
We have never been downgraded or despised as women. Being a woman is the best asset for our image and the expression of our sensitivity. We must say that our youth and womanhood is challenging when we have to convince potential clients but we turn into businesswomen with enthusiasm!
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Nancy: My conference at Technarte, which took place at USC, Los Angeles, when I was only 23. In 2014, my first big exhibition at Cube Paris with one of my projects on the program cover.
This year, my double seminar conference in University of Applied Sciences, Tallinn, Estonia, marks the beginning of a new step towards design thinking and entrepreneurship training.
Lou-Anne: Manish Arora runway during the Paris Fashion Week and the feature in Vogue! This year, our conference presenting our studio at Polytechnique school of Paris.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Nancy: I’m working on MAASE, the friendly plaid for my relaxation. The tests were very positive and we now develop a functional prototype for pre-industrialisation, with an expanded team!
Lou-Anne: I’m working on SHAPESHIFTER for new developments in interior design and decoration, constructing wall panels and lights in particular. I may soon start a project in accessories and jewellery.
Besides, we are working on many conferences, presentations, and workshops, our audience is getting bigger!
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?
- A bright future for LOW TECH and NO ELECTRONICS
- Science progress with NO POLLUTION
- ETHIC, TRACKING & TRANSPARENCY
- Densification for local initiatives and RESHORING
- BIOSOURCED textiles, technology is the material, not added-on
- ON-DEMAND products. Less stock, less waste, less exploitation
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Think about your priorities, line up with your values
Question your career
Stick to your idea if it’s worth it
Who are your 3 inspirational women / men in fashion tech and / or wearable tech?
Iris Van Herpen for her way to reconciliate tradition and tech, her wearables are UFOS on catwalks and she knows how to reinvent herself.
Elena Corchero for her alternative vision and cross-cutting work, holder of the true values of Fashiontech. Her ideas and principles really match with ours!
Olivier Lapidus for the obstacles he faced and his courage to get over it, for his good will, his pioneering vision and his work with engineers, a long time ago!
Tristan Harris for his rational thinking and his user centric approach of social networks and new technologies.
Website: Twins Paris
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.