Verge connects founders, developers, and investors with resources and tools to grow their startups.

Alec Synnestvedt

Two Entrepreneurs Explore the Intersection of Technology, Fashion and Design

Pattern is a community for fashion in Indianapolis with more than 800 members. They care about the business of fashion and design, and many Verge entrepreneurs also attend Pattern meetups. The design community in Indianapolis is propelled by the talented members of these two groups, so this month we’re joining up to celebrate technology, fashion and design together.
Two rising stars in both worlds, Maddy Maxey and Mari Kussman, will be joining us from New York, and Verge and Pattern caught up with both of them to chat before the event on the 29th. We’re thrilled to share their knowledge and experiences with you–as fashion designers in technology and tech entrepreneurs in fashion.
Maddy Maxey

Maddy Maxey: Thiel Fellow, Fashion Designer, Technology Entrepreneur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maddy, obviously you’ve had a lot of experience in the fashion industry – everything from producing your own line to blogging and attending fashion shows. Tell us a little bit about your blazer line, Madison Maxey – what were some of your big takeaways? And, how did attending Parsons and your early career in fashion design lead you to your current projects in technology? 

I started the blazer company when I was 18 and I was so in over my head. I had no idea what I was doing – but I learned and I grew as a person in ways I hadn’t previously imagined possible. Above all, I learned how to balance life and work and how to be self directed. I would recommended starting a business to anyone who wants an immense challenge and who wants to get to know themselves better.

Parsons is a fantastic school, but unfortunately was not a great fit for me. However, if I didn’t leave school, I never would have started my own business and it was truly entrepreneurship that brought me into the technology space. I realized that I would never be independent if I didn’t learn programming and even more so, I realized that technology is a fantastic industry that provides opportunities that fashion simply cannot.

How is your Thiel Fellowship project–technology for manufacturers to ensure better fitting clothes–coming along? What have you learned so far? 

The Thiel Fllowship project is making great progress and we’re excited to dig deeper into the research when I return to NY and can work with Mari in person. We’re currently keeping details of the project under wraps, but are looking for sponsorship for our research!

Your newest project, CRATED, sounds awesome! Tell us a little bit about how it came about and the team behind it. What are your plans for it?

CRATED is a multifaceted project, featuring a front facing digital content site for user engagement and a fashion and technology lab in order to lead innovation in the garment manufacturing process. We focus primarily on research in textile and pattern manipulation and are currently developing our pilot product- MELD. MELD is an B2B solution that aims to revolutionize the garment manufacturing process.

What would you consider to be your “big break?”

I think my big break was when I was 16 and started a fashion blog in France that took my co-founder and I to fashion shows and events in Berlin and Paris as press. This moment was absolutely pivotal as it made me realize that rules can be broken and that the sky is the limit if you’re willing to work hard and dream big. 

Do you have any words of wisdom for young or recent entrepreneurs and designers out there, in fashion, tech, or fashion tech? 

I would say that anyone who aspires to make an impact must know that they are capable of absolutely anything. You can learn to program, learn about textiles, learn how to pitch to VCs – even learn smaller things like how to cook to souffle  – if you believe that you can and if you put the time and effort into it.

What’s a strategy or tactic that’s working really well for you right now? 

Go forth with confidence. I’ve noticed that when ideas and plans are presented with a sense of confidence, everyone is more inspired – including yourself.

What is your guiding principle for design?

A touch of whimsicality is essential for every design I create. It’s important to me that there’s a bit of wonder in everything, whether that be a unique color palette or a surprising silhouette.

What’s next for you? 

I feel as though the future can be best described as adventuring into the land of rule breaking. I’m not sure what’s next but it’s going to be something great and hopefully involve experimentation in textiles and patternmaking.

MariKussman

Mari Kussman: Fashion Designer, Co-Founder of Crated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mari, You have done some really great work with 3D printing. Why did you choose to work in this new medium? What have you learned about it? Why jewelry?

While putting together the inspiration for the Kimberly Ovitz Fall 2013 season, we were drawing a lot of inspiration from “natural defense mechanisms”. This meant poisonous frogs, microscale views of venom, and exoskeletons. Seeing as the inspiration for the collection was nature, it was almost uncomfortable to not attempt a “zero waste” approach. 3d printing was the obvious choice and had been on my radar for some time.

I have since learned that 3d printing is still in its infancy, despite all of the hype- there is so much further to go! The list of printable materials is expanding rapidly, and the possibilities for consumer engagement through customization are endless.

Did you work with Shapeways? What was that like? How did you choose your partners?

Shapeways was our collaborator in this particular jewelry collection. They are extremely accommodating and easy to work with. Through their forums- designers and 3d modellers can connect to work on projects together. This way, a designer at any skill level is able to hire a modeller to execute their design. For our collaboration we worked with an very talented architect Kostika Spaho, who has received a great deal of press through his early collaborations in 3d printed shoes.

How does your interest in fashion tech play into your role at Kimberly Ovitz, and/or past ones at Helmut Lang, Alvin Valley, and Chado Ralph Rucci?

Well, this is interesting as I would say that my interest in innovation is reactionary to what I experienced in contemporary garment manufacturing. There are so many possibilities for automation in the fashion industry that have not at all been explored, which would not only allow for designers to concentrate more on designing, but increase the efficiency in the concept to landing products as well as generate humane factory working conditions.

What would you consider to be your “big break?”

Oddly enough, I think this would be my early experience working as an assistant perfumer to Christoper Brosius of “CB I hate perfume”. Christopher was a great influence on my life, as his passion was to create “experiential perfumes”. This meant tapping into the most primal sense we have as humans: the olfactory bulb, which can evoke the most visceral memories. I learned through this experience the importance of a product feeling personal and the intimacy of customization which is the big picture trajectory of CRATED.

What excites you about working at the intersection of fashion and technology?

EVERYTHING. Ahem. Though truthfully, it is the confluence of my greatest passions merged into one. There is a tendency to assume that caring about the way that you look is materialistic, though we all wear clothes and make these daily aesthetic decisions. Why is it that we are not using this medium to communicate our specific ideologies as well as diversity through customization?

What does the future of your field look like?

I would hope that we can begin to confront the issues of image vs. reality. This pertains to brand vanity sizing, photoshopping to unrealistic ideals of beauty etc. We should also be striving for sustainably produced longer lasting products with attainable price points.

What is your guiding principle for design?

Is it timeless? Is it inclusionary? Does it contribute to the dialogue of culture?

 

Follow Pattern and Join us on August 29th to catch Maddy’s keynote and a panel with Maddy, Mari, and more action as we celebrate learning from technology, fashion and design.

 

About Alec Synnestvedt

Executive Director at Verge. Circle city enthusiast. Connector of dots and people. Writer of songs, non/fiction and, I hope, the future.

Verge Twitter Stream