After a chat with Fashiontech Festival director Valérie Lamontagne, we’re certain this weekend’s event will provoke real, meaningful discussion. Discussion about how we might not have actually scratched the surface in terms of fashion and technology’s potential.
The festival begins this Friday May 26 and runs until Sunday. It seeks to bring together fashion designers, engineers, start-ups and major IT companies invested in developing the future of design for smart clothing and accessories.
FTF will feature conferences, exhibitions, and a fashiontech hackathon mentored by a panel of international experts. The hackathon runs Saturday to Sunday, challenging engineers and techies to work together with fashion designers to develop an etextile wearable.
“I think we’re just starting to really be engaged in products,” Lamontagne told MTLinTECH. The PhD graduate in wearable technology also heads up a design company called 3lectromode (pronounced “electromode”) as well as a Tokyo-based fashiontech startup, Art and Program.
For the director Lamontagne there’s a big difference between wearable technology and fashiontech. Montreal has historically carried its weight in wearable technologies. Some of the more well-known companies recently making noise include OMSignal, Hexoskin and Heddoko, but the city’s talent certainly doesn’t stop there.
However, Lamontagne says in terms of actual fashiontech, there’s room to improve. That’s both in Montreal and Canada.
“I think most of the big fashion brands in Montreal right now don’t have access to R&D. It’s not really a part of their economic structure to be able to facilitate that, so I think that’s why we have to think of new ways of developing tech for fashion.”
Wearables and connected devices? No problem.
But the director said Montreal lacks a significant presence in fashiontech companies. And given Lamontagne’s impressive resume both in academics and industry, her words carry weight.
“It’s all on the way, for sure. We have all the building blocks but there’s still some connections that need to be made between the different industries. There’s all kinds of people thinking along the same lines so I think it’s just around the corner,” said Lamontagne.
Of course this weekend’s Fashiontech Festival should help facilitate those conversations.
But when Lamontagne talks of “Fashiontech,” and how the space needs improvement, what is she specifically talking about?
Well, nearly everything that revolves around a garment.
Historically when one hears the term fashiontech, generally it’s about integrating tech in fashion garments, which is a “very structural” understanding of it. But fashion doesn’t exist without things like videography, photography, branding, ecommerce, shipping logistics and more. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that technology plays a central role in all of the above.
“Tech in fashion happens in all kinds of areas. If you think about it in a very holistic sense, tech is in the fibres, in the branding, in the distribution, it’s a really big part of fashion and I think that’s a very exciting part,” said Lamontagne.
“Many of these things will be more interconnected in the chain of development. So we can know when a garment is being shipped, where it is, who’s worn it and how it’s being made. There’s all kinds of stories that will be told through those technologies.”
In terms of the discussions that will take place at the conference, Lamontagne says there’s a need to restructure the industry to make new tech available for the production and development of fashion. Because fashion is often manufactured abroad, the R&D ramp-up can be quite costly when startups want to integrate tech into a garment.
“These are some of the conversations I hope we’ll be having Friday when we have people from tech, fashion, arts and crafts and industry. We want brains to come together and think of solutions going forward.”
Lamontagne’s resume within fashiontech is accomplished. She curated the McCord Museum’s Digital Spring opening night in April, when hundreds packed the floor for an inspiring night. She has also curated exhibitions in Singapore, and Canada for the Olympics, and has consulted for companies and government.
She’s particularly excited for the hackathon on Saturday and Sunday. Judges and mentors include Marilyne Baril, founder of the fashion brand Marigold, fashion designer Sonia Paradis, founder of La Fabrique éthique and Danielle Martin, a teacher, researcher and fashion designer. Also judging will be Carol Ribeiro, a fashion designer and a videographer, and Tricia Crivellaro, a designer and graduate of the École supérieure de mode ESG UQAM.
“This will be an incredible meeting point for any engineers interested in meeting fashion designers and vice-versa, and it will have all kinds of components and conductive materials,” said Lamontagne.
“We’ll see what happens with it. It’s kind of a leap of faith but I think we’ve got the right community for it. Im looking forward to seeing what people make.”
Tickets can be bought here.