Kristina Dimitrova and Karina Abu Eshe are two of three founders of the recently formed #fashiontech focused organization, INTERLACED. In what is a relatively new market, Dimitrova & Abu Eshe have created a platform with a trifold purpose: to help inspire and educate developments around the new wave of fashion, that which combines fashion with tech; fuel and support fashion houses in adopting new innovative tech in this space; and accelerate consumer adoption of wearable technology fashion and smart clothing.
Establishing themselves early on in this industry has made these two inspiring ladies the go-to women of this space – they’re based in London and New York, respectively and manage a globally distributed team, all while in full-time employment. This is also an incredibly busy year for them as they host their inaugural 2015 conference launching Sept 3rd that aims to bring together likeminded individuals in the area of fashion-tech and also inspire others in a space where wearables go beyond the device. Naturally, we wanted to get to the bottom of their super-human time-management abilities and find out from the experts what their thoughts are on the future of fashion tech…
If you missed Part Two, you can read all about Dimitrova & Abu Eshe’s thoughts on starting up & beginnings here.
Hi ladies, can you tell us a little about what you do, and what your roles are within INTERLACED?
KD: Within INTERLACED, my role is to set the strategy, vision and ultimately, the direction of the company. That said, we are three co-founders, so it’s all a very collaborative effort. Having different backgrounds really helps because we approach every idea from a different point of view. My role is to oversee the activities of the rest of the team, make sure they’re happy and that we’re operating within timeline.
KA: While Kristina became the person who unites us as a team, we all have different strength to contribute to INTERLACED. My main role is to drive INTERLACED towards achieving our set goals and objectives along with delivering creativity in the design work. We understand the importance of design on businesses and I hope our approach will help us thrive.
How did you first meet, and what made you start INTERLACED?
KD: It’s funny, we’re actually from the same city in Bulgaria and first met at dance school. I think I was 16 back then. We knew each other but have never been close or kept in touch. In September last year, we met again when I was first in New York and Karina had just moved there from Manchester to start her placement and really clicked. I had the idea in my mind about making a fashion tech showcase and was trying to figure out how to make it happen. When I visited New York again in December I shared it with Kari and she jumped on the opportunity. Since then the concept of INTERLACED has evolved a lot.
KA: Yes, we are from the same city but back then we didn’t have any common interests. People grow and when we met again we created a strong relationship. I’m delighted to reconnect with Kristina even after such a long time and to build not only a professional relationship but a friendship. However, INTERLACED became a whole once we connected with our third co-founder Hristyan.
Why is pushing this message important to you? What would you like to see happen?
KD: My background is marketing and communications so at the conferences I’ve attended over the last couple of years everyone was talking about “big data” and “wearables” after which they were showing another fitness tracker. That didn’t really excite me. Then I started seeing the likes of Studio XO, The Unseen and Cute Circuit emerging and I was fascinated with how this concept of fashion tech can really transform the industry. I started researching, writing and talking to people about it. The problem was that when I was talking to my friends about it they looked at me like I was some crazy person. I feel it’s important to push the notion of fashion tech to the wider public to show them that wearables are not only about smartwatches and fitness trackers. And that you don’t have to feel like a robot wearing smart clothes. I would love to see more meaningful collaboration between pioneers in the field and the companies that have the resources to scale these products as well as companies making wearables not only because they can but because they’re solving a problem or make the wearer feel good.
KA: Have you heard of architecture in fashion? [JR: No?] I’ve always had interest in those innovative pieces and the idea of a new fashion/ design world with no limits. While I had some knowledge on fashion tech, Kristina introduced me to the insights of smart clothing and I felt that this would be an exciting future. My architectural background has made me a problem solver and visionary with particular perspectives in solving issues; that said, for me it’s important to resolve initial problems around wearables – lack of communication with the wider public and the importance of designing with the consumer in mind. INTERLACED would push pioneers and emerging talents towards exploring new possibilities in the wearable technology field and lets see if one day smart clothing would empower humanity.
You’re both located in two different cities – New York and London. Are you finding there are differences in how each city views and adopts wearable tech and smart clothing?
KD: From what I’ve seen I think they are quite similar but, probably on contrary belief, I feel like London has a better potential of becoming the fashion tech capital of the world because the crowd here really understand the value of aesthetics. I think the creatives here know that your wearable doesn’t necessarily have to do something, it can just complement your lifestyle or personality. London is also better connected to other fashion tech hubs such as Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin.
That said, raising funds is currently easier in the US. New York is also leading when it comes to supporting emerging talent. The work of Manufacture New York and Brooklyn’s Fashion + Design Accelerator is fantastic.
KA: In terms of wearables, both cities are still in a stage of exploring the meaning behind fashion tech. Of course, there are some established designers but I believe that they are equally distributed around the major cities and only future will show the winning location.
That said, New York supports innovation in all forms and is still a place with a lot of opportunities. For instance, Brooklyn is becoming a leading design center. On the other hand, I believe that Europe is a diversity of creative minds with the potential to succeed in every design approach.
You’re becoming a resource for the industry and consumers. But how do you both stay in tune with what’s going on?
KD: Attending and taking part in events is a great opportunity to keep up to date with the latest happenings in the industry and connect with people. We try to cover as much as we can from the events for our readers too. Keep an eye for event reports from Creative Futures, Digital Shoreditch and the 3D Print Show. Some of my favourite online resources are Trend Tablet, JWT Intelligence, iQ by Intel, The Business of Fashion and WGSN’s blog.
KA: Connecting with people through events is the best way to understand the industry from the inside. However, we both work full time and sometimes this stops us from attending events but we try to read and research them afterwards.
My top online resources are Dezeen, Clausette Magazine, iQ by Intel and Not Just a Label.
This interview is part 1 of our chat with the girl bosses of INTERLACED. You can read part TWO of the interview here.