New technologies are increasingly changing the way we live. And thanks to digitalisation, the ways we dress and shop are also changing. Fashion and technology are gradually beginning to complement one another: smart fabrics, innovative ideas, new trends, 3D prints, wearables, LED lights, biotech, to name just a few examples.
A pioneer in this field is the entrepreneur Lisa Lang with her Berlin company ElektroCouture. We visited Lisa at her studio in Kreuzberg on Tempelhofer Ufer to find out about the future of fashiontech, her day-to-day challenges and the new collections that are currently being showcased at Bikini Berlin (from July 4th-8th).
Tell me a bit about yourself. What’s your background? How did ElektroCouture come about?
Well, the funny thing is that I don’t even come from the classic fashion sector. I went to fashion college for precisely one day. Then I studied media and arts and before that I trained to be a photographer. During my studies, I decided to get into programming. I studied at the Merz Academy in Stuttgart, which has a very interdisciplinary focus anyway and follows the philosophy that the artist is an artisan, and the artisan is an artist. That’s why we have a Bauhaus poster hanging here in the studio! So basically, as far as my career path is concerned, I’m more a jack-of-all-trades. But my goal has always been to understand the bigger picture.
And as for how ElektroCouture came about, the best way to describe it is an adventurous journey. I asked myself the question of why I, as a major technology nerd, couldn’t find anything to wear that looks good but is also smart from a technology point of view. Either you wear something that looks nice but isn’t smart, or you wear something smart and end up looking like a robot or a disco ball.
There simply weren’t that many cool fashiontech designs three or four years ago. So I took a leaf out of Pippi Longstocking’s book and decided to make a world according to my own needs! I had a full-time job here in Berlin, working for an American software manufacturer and in around 2014, I started looking for something that would evolve into today’s ElektroCouture and also be financially viable at the same time. And now we’re sitting here (laughing).
What challenges do you face in your everyday work?
We are working in the context of fashiontech and need fashion technologists who don’t even exist yet, i.e. they’re not coming from the universities, which is why we started training them ourselves with our Fashiontech Academy. That means we always have to first take a few steps back before we can move forward because we have to train the people first.
And then in terms of scaling and manufacturing, there is another key challenge in that many big companies are deterred by the fact that there aren’t any manufacturing standards for fashiontech. But I’m currently developing the first concepts with the German Institute for Standardisation and the European Union.
Is Berlin a suitable location for smart fashion and fashion tech?
Yes, of course. Everything goes here. The good thing is that the ivory towers aren’t as high as elsewhere. Generating an innovation in fashion and materials is quite a bit more difficult in Milan, New York or London because there is no access to it there. In Berlin everything is punk rock, basically everything is amazing to begin with and everyone is super creative for some reason. Berlin’s advantage is that it’s not “the” fashion or technology metropolis.
Let’s talk about the collection you’re exhibiting at Bikini Berlin during Fashion Week. What can we expect to see there?
We’ll be showing a varied selection of different designs from all over the world to present the complexity of fashiontech. After all, everyone has their own unique response to it. And that’s the wonderful thing about it, that everyone can tell their own story. On the one hand, we have the Marlene Dietrich dress, of course.
But I’m also very proud of our three guest designers from Bangkok. Together with the Goethe Institute Thailand we trained the first generation of fashiontech designers last year and the top three received a grant to exhibit their designs here in Berlin. Their handiwork in combination with technology is pretty incredible. And there are also natural textile innovations on show too of course, such as an interactive dress with 3D print. We just want to show the huge bandwidth and the different styles of fashiontech as best we can. And finally, once again anything goes in the world of fashion!