Interview with Model and Inventor Anina Net
Robots” and “fashion” don’t often come up in the same conversation … unless you’re model/inventor Anina Net, that is.
This American-born, German international fashion model, conference speaker, blogger, fashion technology innovator, wearables developer, and event producer is is listed as #7 in Top 100 Women in Wearable and Consumer Tech.
With 360fash, she’s created fashion tech kits that enable anyone to create mechanical clothing. (You can see (and buy) some of this new wearable tech at the Robotic Dress Exhibition this NYFW.)
But more importantly, she’s on a mission: to influence women worldwide to enter a career in technology.
Q: Tell us about your current projects this New York Fashion Week. What can we expect to see, on and off the runway? And how can people be a part?
I am thrilled to be showcasing the first designers to create robotic dresses using our 360Fash Tech Kits, launch my women’s wearable tech, and have a special guest appearance by Sophia the Robot at our panel discussion.
No longer do robotics remain in the “robotic couture” arena — now, with our fashion tech kits, everyone can create a mechanical piece of clothing.
with our fashion tech kits, everyone can create a mechanical piece of clothing
This season I thought really hard about what message I wanted to bring to the fashion and tech industries. I drew upon my own story as a woman in tech and decided to champion diversity, inclusion, and giving the opportunity to underrepresented minorities to come in contact with high technology.
My own story shows what happens when you give access to information, training and technology to the most unlikely persons with big vision.
Creatives need better tools with which to create wearable tech and fashion technology. I have attempted to solve this problem using our kits. The feedback from the first designers is really valuable and appreciated to make it easier and create better online courses to teach and train the next generation of fashion designers. It’s my way of giving back in hopes of attracting more women to create technology. I’m very honored to work with a few of the most open and talented designers to technology on these robotic dresses and IoT clothing: Clare Tattersall, Azrael Yang, Michal Starost, and Wu Yingnan to create these tech-enabled garments.
I am also excited to bring my own women’s wearable tech to the market and let people buy them at the Robotic Dress Exhibition.
We even created some incredible t-shirts with embedded electronics with the designs from MindSmack, that are going to blow people’s minds as to what can really be worn and not look out of place.
I believe our products bring a new aesthetic to fashion technology.
Q: Tell me about your background. How did you get interested in the mechanical aspects of what you’re doing?
I grew up in a family of computer engineers and luckily I was never excluded from the “boyish” things my brothers did.
I’ve always been in love with robotic dresses and the future. When my brothers had coding at camp, I had it too. When my dad made things in the shop, we did, too. When my stepdad tore the engine of a car apart and changed the brakes, I was under there, too.
When my stepdad tore the engine of a car apart, I was under there, too
They never excluded me because I was a girl and never made me feel like I could not do it. Later, however, when I took a left at the Paris catwalks, to their horror I became a fashion model with a big dream to become a top model, as many girls dream of, but I used technology to get ahead — network faster, email and configure my phone, and even hand-coded a web page “blog” which later would lead me to become the first “model blogger” on Google.
When I got too many “no”s in modeling, I’d put my head in the computer to create programs or animations, or try to break things with other people in secret IRC chat channels online.
I found friends who accepted me in those groups for my mind, when I couldn’t find acceptance in the real world. Modeling gave me all the skills I needed to become an entrepreneur, and when I stepped out from in front of the camera to become a CEO, it was with the desire to become a super role model and make tech cool in order to attract more women to creating tech.
Modeling gave me all the skills I needed to become an entrepreneur
It’s my main mission to influence women worldwide to enter a career in technology. I’m tired of being outnumbered and alone. Nokia Corp played a vital role in me becoming who I am today. Finnish society doesn’t have a discrimination between men and women as wide as others so when they saw how I was using and creating technology the educated me, the fostered me, the brought me to conferences and gave me resources. The Nokia Champion program was created by Lee Epting, and it was an award given to 50 developers out of 2million every year—I won it for 8 years in a row until Nokia imploded. It gave promotion, first access, and direct connection inside of the organization to build your business. I think these types of programs are essential to the success of companies and to building up women.
It’s my main mission to influence women worldwide to enter a career in technology
Q: How about the fashion aspect? Were you always interested in fashion? How did you start combining the two ideas?
Modeling has always been and remains my passion. I just model my own products now and work with clients and professionals who I love.
It always gives me confidence because I’m extremely good at it. I developed my fashion tech products out of my own needs: charging wallets because I’m always out of battery, iLLUMINATED jewelry chokers and bracelets for that Blade Runner, high-fashion touch, MetaGem smart safety ring because I travel all over the world alone, and IoT cloud connected clothing for my health and well being.
Each product serves my lifestyle — but they just look like beautiful fashion that women would want to wear.
Q: What is the name of your current company? How did you begin your most recent project? What is its goal and mission?
360Fashion Network is a network of fashion and technology professionals excelling in innovation. Lead by myself, Anina Net, and surrounded by people who are incredibly talented, we create wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT clothing, events, and more.
In 2015 I produced a huge fashion tech runway show with IBM presenting, and I worked 10 weeks in advance with students to create clothing concepts based on technology keywords.
We presented them in an exhibition and paired them up with startups to foster innovation. I looked around and could not find many designers who were creating tech-enabled fashion, so I set off on a mission to find a way to make it easier to make.
I set off on a mission to make fashion tech easier to make
I created the 360Fash Tech Kits and this NYFW we will be presenting the first three designers to create robotic dresses using those kits.
We will showcase them and our new high-tech women’s wearables on Sept 8-9th at Knotel near Union Square, in an innovative exhibition dedicated to diversity and inclusion.
As a woman in tech I’m often alone at the table and would like to use my name and image to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs and enter a career in technology.
Q: What excites you about the nexus of fashion and technology in terms of possibilities?
Educating fashion designers to integrate electronics into clothing, because it will help them to have more jobs doing what they love.
it will help them to have more jobs doing what they love
I created the 360Fash Tech Kits to be able to do that. I have also started an online school and with Emmi Harijuniemi we are launching the first course to create e-textile switches. I think this is an amazing opportunity to highlight some of the most creative people doing fashion tech, even if they are in the most hard to reach areas. Emmi is in Lapland!
At the exhibition you will see a pillow she created with the switches in order to show the final results.
Q: What’s most challenging about combining fashion and technology? What’s most rewarding?
Fashion designers find the current sensors and parts too big to put into clothing.
I can’t tell you how many heated discussions we’ve had with Azrael Yang — a true fashion craftsperson — on how to hide those servo motors in the dresses, make it look beautiful, and fit comfortably to the body.
It is a real challenge.
We are working on better tools and solution for fashion.
I really enjoy also the cooperation with MindSmack; I love the New York T-shirt designs combined with our electronics integration.
The new cool fashion arenas are festivals and concerts — our LED t-shirts bring a new style that is fresh but not blinky-blinky.
The new cool fashion arenas are festivals and concerts
Q: What would the ultimate expression of fashion + technology be for you?
It would be to be walking down the street or go into a party and see someone using, wearing, owning some of our products.
I get a thrill when I hear people say they saw our chokers being worn by guests at Burning Man. That thrills me.
I would love to see a big exhibition of robotic dresses and to have a huge fashion tech hackathon. I’m working on that now for next season.
I want to see fashion designers doing what they love and bringing the industry and world into the future. I have so many ideas of what to do with technology, it will take my whole lifetime to build them all!
I’m really excited for our 360Fashion & Tech Exhibition days because Pablo Starr will be reading from his book RNWY, a novel about the future of fashion in an intergalactic arena.
I believe that story telling is a way for us to imagine the future together and to bring innovation. The flip phone came out of Star Trek!
The flip phone came out of Star Trek!
I want Samantha’s ray gun with compartment for tissues and earrings to be real!
This image of a strong, capable, kind, and technological woman is so important to put out into the world. If I had characters or role models like that when I was making my way in the world, I think it would have been less like being blind and in the dark, and rather like “aaah that’s what I can be!”
We need more women role models out there in the world. I hope that my contribution to make tech fashionable, techy and cool will inspire more young girls and women to get into tech.
We need more women role models out there in the world
It’s my life’s mission!