Time for Instagram takeovers by designers who where part of State of Fashion 2018 | searching for the new luxury. Get a look behind the scenes in the daily life of a designer. We offer you some inspiration and to show you how sustainability is implemented in design and fashion.
Fashion designer Pauline van Dongen will take over our Instagram the next coming days until 16th of June.
Pauline van Dongen is a Dutch fashion designer specialised in wearable technology. As a creator intrigued by the notion of interactivity in fashion, she researches the human body in relation to its surroundings. She is fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception, as she believes the future of fashion lies in its premise to be dynamic and changing.
During STOF2018, a series of projects from Pauline including the Solar Shirt, Issho and the solar backpack Radius, were exhibited. These projects derived from her PhD research, which is part of the Crafting Wearables project funded by NWO. The project is a collaboration between Eindhoven University of Technology, Radboud University and ArtEZ. In addition, she organized a dinner during the Whataboutery evening and presented her research.
How do you look back on STOF2018?
I was very happy with the theme "Searching for the new Luxury", because it fits well with my own vision. On the one hand it concerns critical thinking about sustainability in the fashion industry and on the other hand it is about the relationship we have with our clothes. The chosen projects were unique, because you regularly see the work of the same people. STOF2018 managed to present its own perspective. As a designer, I think it can be even more critical, but it also remains a challenge to reach a large audience.
Can you tell me something about your current projects?
I have just completed my dissertation and am now working at Holst Centre, which is part of TNO. Holst Centre develops printed electronics. Among other things, I have developed a headband here. The band which you wear over your forehead contains infrared LEDs. When the light shines on your forehead, it penetrates through your skin and causes a response in certain cells of the brain, which can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. The product is based on various scientific studies and is now being medically tested. The challenge was how to integrate those LEDs into textiles. And at the same time ensure robustness and comfort.
How does sustainability play a role in your work?
For me it is mainly about how you create alternatives for the current system. Sustainability is now such a trend that green washing is always a risk. Because even if you buy something that is sustainable, the speed at which we consume fashion is still too fast. I find that very difficult. It's not just about making processes circular. It is also about the experience and value of clothes. How can a garment you wear tell you something? We often see clothes as something passive. It becomes a different story as technology increases the agency of that garment, which gives you the feeling that you have a real relationship with it.
However, integrating electronics into textiles is not necessarily sustainable at the moment. First, you have to design something that will last over a long time. And second: how do you ensure that electronics and textiles can be easily separated? The interesting thing about printed electronics is that you can recycle it. You laminate the electronics on the fabric with a heat press, so that you can easily separate the technology and the textile again by "delaminating".
How do you see the future?
I am optimistic, otherwise I wouldn’t do what I am doing now. I think we have reached a point where a critical mass in the fashion industry can make a big difference together. While 5 or 10 years ago, everyone in the fashion industry was operating on their own. Now we have reached the moment when people are more and more convinced that we have to do it together, otherwise we will not make it. At first, sustainability was something you could do to distinguish yourself, but now you are not "cool" if you are not working in a sustainable way. The attitude and expectations of consumers have also changed in that regard.
What are your plans for the future?
The most important thing on my agenda is my promotion in October. My dissertation has been approved by my committee. Catalogtree, a design studio from Arnhem, is now turning it into a beautifully designed book that is published by ArtEZ press. I am very happy with that, because I wrote it for designers to read. The title of the book is: "A designer’s material aesthetics reflections on fashion and technology." The book will be released on October 4 during my defence at the TU in Eindhoven. And in October I am going to the World Solar Challenge in Australia. The Dutch embassy has invited me to give a workshop. So I am going to work with designers on solar cells.
Photography: Liselotte Fleur