Interview: Designing Products That Do More For Us

Interview: Designing Products That Do More For Us
Design

PSFK caught up with Janett Liriano and Madison Maxey, the visionaries behind fabrics that can heat, light, sense and gather data

PSFK
  • 15 may 2018

Momentum has been building, in fashion and beyond, for textiles that can do most of the things a phone can—possibly more—but feel and move just like the clothes consumers have been wearing for decades. Think: a jacket that lights up a cyclist’s silhouette at night or a boot that warms the wearer’s toes in winter, without the trouble of complex gadgetry.

The New York startup LOOMIA is on the forefront of this technology. Founder and technical lead Madison Maxey and CEO Janett Liriano will take the stage together at our CXI 2018 conference on May 18 to speak about their work and demonstrate the product in action: the LOOMIA Electronic Layer, a soft flexible circuit that is capable of heating, lighting, sensing and data tracking. On top of that, the team is developing a blockchain-based system, known as TILE, that allows users to collect their own data and, if they choose, sell it to brands in exchange for benefits.

Ahead of the event, PSFK caught up with Janett to talk about LOOMIA’s latest news and designing products that do more for us.

PSFK: What’s been happening in the world of LOOMIA since we last spoke in 2017?

Janett Liriano: Truth is, we are about to break the surface. We’ve quietly been focused on our go-to markets in 2018 with major brands and are so excited to share with everyone what’s around the corner. Our singular focus on making textiles the active circuit has really paid off in beautiful, robust and scalable integrations. Some hard engineering dollars were spent to advance our IP, and it was worth it.

In the last few months, we’ve ramped up production capacity to meet needed volumes for 2019 and refined our LEL (LOOMIA Electronic Layer). Our TILEtag has shrunk down to weighing a little over a quarter and no longer needs to be charged, and it can be sewn directly into garments and products. Our application is in development and we’ll have an alpha of the app and our first production run of the TILEtag this summer. It’s a magical time. We’ve teamed up with the best in the space—Bancor, STORJ, Fueled—and cant wait to show folks what we’ve been up to.

What are some of the biggest trends you’re seeing in product design, either in fashion and textiles or more broadly?

LOOMIA has never been too focused on trends, and in general we like to think we are pushing forward in new directions and trust that industry will come around. With that being said, we are seeing that brands have finally understood the value of putting their customer at the heart of any design process, and applying technology thoughtfully and not in a buzzy way.

There’s been a revival around function, which is something we’ve been advocating for from day one: in order for your customers to connect more closely to the products they buy, it really does need to do something for them. I think the success of athleisure nests into that quite well. There’s a strong drive to create bespoke or personalized experiences as well, and a strong focus on data to ensure that those tailored experiences are speaking to the right audiences.

How are LOOMIA fabrics—which can light up, change colors, gather ambient data, and heat or cool—being applied to clothing? Would you say early adoption has focused more on function or aesthetics (à la wearable art)?

Our business model has always been twofold in terms of use case approach: simplify and scale integrating heating, lighting, sensing, and data into soft goods and apparel through elegant and robust IP (and ensure that the cost is accessible), and create aspirational and inspirational pieces that aren’t necessarily ready for mass production to excite the imagination.

Through the LOOMIA LAB, which is how LOOMIA gets brands from concept to commercialization with our technology, we are working on a wide variety of products, some of which are coming to market this year:

  • Heated Garments (and not puffy overcoats!): We are integrating our LEL elegantly into close-fitting items and are really excited to bring functionality beyond outerwear.
  • Heated Shoes, with no wires to charge: We’ve refined an elegant heated shoe integration that eliminates awkward wires and cables. The shoe charges via induction and looks like any other.
  • Lighting applications for safety and convenience: We are developing some pretty exciting use cases that bring safety and convenience to several product categories.
  • TILE: We are excited to be getting into production and piloting TILE.

In terms of aspirational pieces that show the way of what we’ll be bringing to market further afield, check out the Julianna Bass color-changing dress that walked New York Fashion Week. The fabric itself changed color on demand. We’re always up to something!

One of your big initiatives is the LOOMIA TILEtag, which has to do with personal data and the blockchain. Given the conversation surrounding Facebook, data and privacy right now, could you break down exactly what that system has to offer the consumer experience?

Data sovereignty is at the heart of the TILE platform. It feels a little prescient of us as it relates to charging down to develop a platform that was built to put users in control of their information, given all the data drama we are now seeing. TILE allows consumers to benefit from the value they create, while providing critical and needed direct information to brands and market researchers.

We are giving the everyday user the right to own, control and benefit from the data they choose to share with brands. The data stays on the device and can only be transferred when a user chooses to (1) download the TILE application, (2) create an account, which does not require any personal or identifying information, (3) register their device, and (4) opt to scan their device in order to exchange it for rewards. The TILEtag can only get data off of itself if the user chooses to scan it, leveraging NFC.

We’ve now put control, transparency and earning potential at the center of the user’s experience. Brands, on the other hand, get to directly market and target willing participants on the platform and differentiate the rewards they offer in exchange for that data. Its a fully mutually beneficial system that relies on transparency and consent.

The benefits are that it creates data that is vital and missing from several industries (which can reduce waste, improve trendspotting and planning, while closing the product feedback loop), and puts the creator of that data at the center of any transactions and cuts out the middleman. The TILE platform allows brands to connect directly with their customers and others in a mutually beneficial exchange.

Can you give us a hint as to what you will be sharing with the CXI 2018 audience?

Some real live product demonstrations, a whip-fast but thorough discussion on blockchain and TILE, our vision for the future and some other gems… but we all like surprises, don’t we? We can’t wait to share what we’ve been building with the PSFK community.

Join Janett, Madison and other pioneering speakers for CXI 2018 on May 18 in New York City—details and tickets available here.

Momentum has been building, in fashion and beyond, for textiles that can do most of the things a phone can—possibly more—but feel and move just like the clothes consumers have been wearing for decades. Think: a jacket that lights up a cyclist’s silhouette at night or a boot that warms the wearer’s toes in winter, without the trouble of complex gadgetry.

+apparel
+children
+CXI 2018
+Design
+Facebook
+Fashion
+fashion / apparel
+Frictionless Transaction
+Interview
+mobile
+product experience
+Public
+retail
+Smart Textiles
+technology
+Transactions & Payments
+USA
+work

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