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Top fashion tech expert Lisa Lang is a fan of Estonian design

From Roberta Einer's dresses worn by Rihanna and Lady Gaga to Liina Stein's fabulous evening gowns, Kriss Soonik's wild lingerie to dolly Tallinn Dolls - Estonian fashion has plenty of exclusivity. Now Lisa Lang brings tech into the "boring" fashion sector.

Lisa Lang, a German entrepreneur, technologist and speaker, is one of Europe’s most influential people in fashion tech.  She features on Forbes’ list of Europe’s top 50 women in tech. Since the beginning of this year, she has been working together with the skilled Estonian pearl embroidery designer Siret Esko. Lisa was in Tallinn this March to present the results of their collaboration.

If the Internet hadn’t happened, Lisa would have become a carpenter. Being a millennial, Lisa is just old enough to remember the time before mobile phones but among the first to have studied web design and software at a German university. Before jumping into the world of fashion tech, she worked in software engineering for a long time, so she knows everything about tech.

Cooperation with Siret Esko

Lisa and Siret met at the Tallinn Creative Incubator. Siret’s biggest passion is fine handicraft and pearl embroidery. Lisa’s passion is tech. It was easy to join fashion tech with pearls, so the two instantaneously clicked and the work was ready in less than two months. Lisa loves the quality Siret provides and she is happy that their work comes from within the EU. Siret loves how the lit-up diamonds add double luxury to the already luxurious pearl embroidery.

The cooperation is currently on hold since Siret’s company Siret Design recently signed a deal with Chinese investors to promote her work in the Chinese market. Investors picked out Siret Design from among small European enterprises because her work matches the taste of Chinese consumers. For the time being, Siret is moving her production over to China and focuses all of her resources on this major opportunity.

What is fashion tech?

Fashion tech is technology that is wearable or somehow attached to your body. Lisa explains that fashion tech is a great opportunity for young designers.

‘It’s experimental. Everything in design seems to be done already – in the last thirty years not much interesting has happened in the fashion industry. Fashion tech is changing that,’ she says.

In fashion tech you can use technology to make clothes both more beautiful and more useful. Lisa and Siret use LED lights to make dresses glow. Sensors are also great devices.

‘You can make clothes change colours, add mood sensors, and make smart and useful gadgets,’ says Lisa.

Electric couture – for the woman who wants to sparkle

During her presentation, Lisa enlightens her audience on the topic of lights.

‘Technology can be made to look pretty and that can easily be done with light. Light makes us happy. In a time of digital revolution, design is especially important. It makes technology more emotional and accessible,’ she explains. Lisa describes how diamonds, crystals, pearls and light go well together, especially on a dress. If the wearer moves, reflections of the light change the way the dress looks.

We tend to think of LEDs as something hard and rigid, but Lisa and Siret demonstrate how they can be soft instead. Their dress obviously has pockets for storing batteries and switching the lights on and off.

It’s easy to move in the dress and go anywhere (although Lisa wouldn’t recommend swimming). ‘You can wear it, wash it, recharge it. For the woman who wants to sparkle!’ she adds.

Being a woman in tech

When she started her studies in technology, it was a male dominated world. Lisa explains how she has always made sure that being a woman in tech is not a disadvantage.

‘I turn it into an advantage instead. I have different kinds of tools. The best thing to happen is to be underestimated,’ Lisa says.

Lisa thinks the most important requirement in the creation of an ecosystem that supports women in Estonia is that women and girls trust in themselves. ‘Don’t be afraid to ask for something: go and get it. Look at the role models. Some men can be biased, we need to be conscious and give feedback,’ she says, adding that it’s important to try to be blind to gender.

‘Being an entrepreneur, it is normal to not feel safe all the time. It is normal to be afraid. But you can overcome it. Do it anyway!’ she adds.

Bring digital to design: tips for Estonia

‘[Estonia] is in the middle of a big change. Change doesn’t happen quickly. People don’t starve and freeze anymore, but there are social challenges,’ Lisa says.

She likes Estonian design and tells me that she is a huge fan of the Estonian designer clothing brand Tallinn Dolls. Lisa believes that Estonia has huge potential and that Estonians are achievers. Always being able to tell where a design comes from by the look of it, she also sees specific “Estonian traits” in Estonian design. She says Estonian design is clean and simple, but has a whimsical touch, which gives it personality. Lisa says simple design is one of the hardest things to achieve.

‘Every country needs an identity. Estonian identity is very well visible through all of your amazing designers. Your design is connected to your cultural heritage and handicraft. Estonia has a long tradition of high quality manufacturing. Now the question is: how to connect good craftsmanship with tech?’

‘You have the old manufacturing industry and the skilled craftsmen on the one hand and the digital know-how on the other,’ she says, explaining that our new generation is expert in e-commerce and digitalisation. ‘Two bubbles are floating around in the same country, and they should meet. Go to your parents and grandparents to learn the manufacturing from them. Look around and use your assets. Trust yourself and be brave!’

On the cover: Liina Stein dress from Swan Collection.

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