»Fashionable Technology«

Sabine Seymour interviewed by Ulrike Reinhard, Dec. 2006

»Quickies«:

Sabine-Seymour-kleinMotto of your life: Freedom
Motto of your work: Professionalism
Career aspiration at the age of 12: Actress

Most favorite technology: Internet – not a single technology but my favorite achievement of technology in the near past. And I was lucky enough to be working with the first GUI (Graphical User Interface) in 1994.
Role models: Women in research (e.g. Curie)
Heroes in your youth: ?

Interview:Sabine, you are travelling between two cultures – USA and Europe. Do you feel it is important for your work?Sabine-Seymour-klein»Fashionable Technology« includes a breath of various design disciplines and industries primarily textile research, material science, and wireless and wearable technologies. The combination of knowhow from two continents seems natural to me. Paris is famous for fashion, to become a ‘nose’ one studies in Geneva, branding is best learned on Madison Avenue (in New York), and Silicon Valley (in Northern California) is still a synonym for digital technology. I am recently more in Europe than in the USA and I am learning more about the differences apart from the usual preconceptions.

Europe’s diverse design sensibilities differ from a more coherent one in the USA. One of the most important fashion shows, however, is in New York. New York and its spirit of freedom allows for imagination. At the same time the USA is a great place to learn about the economics of realizing ones dream. Europe, however, offers diverse aesthetics and design sensibilities from Finnish interiors to Belgium fashion to Estonian textile art. In addition the knowledge of the craft and the precise construction astonishes me. As well as the often very thoughful process from the idea to the final product – though, sometimes too slow for my NYC pace. I believe it is an important trade to understand both »worlds«.

The decision to be based in Austria has many facets. Since Moondial and most of its clients are operating internationally the location is less of an issue. It is all about fruitful collaborations, visionary clients, and the essential research funding. One asset in Austria is the Ars Electronica Center, the internationally renowned icon of the New Media scene in Linz. In addition I initiated the unique collaboration of the departments Interface Cultures and Textile Art/Design at the University of Arts and Industrial Design in Linz for the research of electronic textiles. The research project with a planned collaboration with Parsons is now due for funding. Your porfolio includes »fashionable wearables«, »strategy and branding«, and «smart spaces«. What is the concept of »Fashionable Technology«?Sabine-Seymour-kleinWhen designing fashionable wearables we look at the end users as fashionable beings, attentive to style, aesthetics, and branding. In referring to »Fashionable Technology« we look in particular to harvest the expressive potential of wearable technologies. Such technologies enable the actual realization of the stories we defined for the technically enhanced products we design. I define fashionable wearables as design objects that are combine aesthetics, wearability, and to some degree mobility. In a stationary context »Fashionable Technology« represents objects that deal with dynamic interfaces, in particular referring to interior design objects. We reference this as smart spaces. It includes experiments with enhanced materials, technologies, or electronic textiles and testing the effects of the interaction with the objects.

The applications for »Fashionable Technology« products are countless. Strategies and concepts are the first step to evaluate the innovative potential and to adjust it to the client’s business structure. It results in branding these new products. Throughout this development process the economic viability, user aspiration, and the technical feasibility are constantly evaluated. The process goes from idea, to innovation, and finally to identity, the brand experience. In this combination you are almost »unique«. How did this develop?Sabine-Seymour-kleinThrough my diverse studies focusing on economics, communication, technology, and design I was able to create my own disposition. Besides my studies my professional career enabled me to diversify my knowledge and to create my own – if you will – USP (unique selling point). That also enabled the coexistence of research, teaching, and entrepreneurship, which allows me to mediate between the various cultures. What do we need »Fashionable Technology« for? Who are the consumers?Sabine-Seymour-kleinCurrently the main applications are in particular in medicine, rescue services and work wear. Products used for high performance sports for example are adopted for medical purposes, e.g. for monitoring or rehabilitation. Work wear with special safety features can recognize poisonous chemicals and communicate it in time to reduce the collapse of expensive, qualified staff.

Today new developments are mostly visible in the consumer sports market. Since consumers are conditioned to spend larger amounts on functionality in sports products these are the initial drivers of the industry. Through the products advertised by large sports companies the term intelligent clothes became known to the public and to venture capitalists. Future »Fashionable Technology« products will be developed for a specific context of use and for novel currently unimaginable applications. Consumers will be as diverse as the various uses. Sucessful new developments will have the human user and economic benefits in mind. What means web 2.0 to you? Sabine-Seymour-kleinThe use of networking technologies becomes more and more intense, especially for international companies. This goes along with the fact, that collaborations and knowledge management become more interdisciplinary. As a researcher and academic I particularly appreciate the diversity of knowledge and the vast possibilities of its distribution through digital media.

A little anecdote might show the difference between the generations. A friend’s son, 17 years old, was very astonished when I found the bug in the software of his MPS2. My friends explained to his son that I was heavily involved in the Internet and thus understand a great deal about it. His son’s response: »There was a time without the internet?«

Maybe questions we are asking ourselves now are irrelevant for the generation growing up with the Internet.

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Sabine-Seymour-kleinSabine Seymour focuses on »the next generation wearables« and the intertwining of aesthetics and function. She is described as being an innovator, visionary, trend setting, holistic in her approach, and a lateral thinker. In 1998 Sabine found Moondial Inc in New York, which resulted from her research and role as an educator, and her engagements with Razorfish, R/GA, and Hewlett-Packard. Since 2005 Moondial is primarily based in Austria. Sabine introduced the course »Fashionable Technology« at Parsons School of Design in New York in 2001 and joined the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz in 2005.

Sabine is currently writing her PhD dissertation dealing with research and innovation in smart textiles/wearables. She received a Master of Social and Economic Sciences from the University of Economics in Vienna and Columbia University’s MBA program in New York and an MPS in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU’S Tisch School of the Arts.

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