You can’t put Madison Maxey in a box. She blurs that line between technology and fashion. An entrepreneur, futurist, and creative, she’s creates things that don’t seem possible. A programmable LED matrix dress and a 3D printed EKG monitor, for example.
Mixing fabrication, computer software, and design put Maddy was on the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 List. Her list of accomplishments and collaborations is long. With her, the future seems bright.
As Maddy pushes the future of fabrics, we wanted to know more. So we asked.
You’re a creative technologist. How do you describe what you do to a person you’ve just met?
I think that creative technology is all about uniting logos and pathos to create and innovate. It’s about having a toolbelt full of technical hammers and using them to assemble imaginative furniture. I enjoy doing this with electronics and textiles and code and graphics, but some people I know do this by giving machines clever personalities or coding the rainbow or 3D printing cleverly scripted products. The sky is the limit!
How did you become a creative technologist? Did you learn how to code as a kid? Have you always have an eye for fashion?
Creative technologist seems to best capture what I do, but at heart, I identify as a maker of things and I’ve always been hungry to learn how things work. Have you ever looked at a fork and thought about how it came to be? Have you ever wondered how a glass windowpane is made? The objects around us are all little miracles of ingenuity and creativity and I simply can’t resist the urge to investigate how these miracles came to be. Curiosity often leads to skill, which is how I’ve picked up technology in general.
As a whole, I think making things is good for the heart, the mind and the body and creative work brings out the inner child. I’ve always had a connection to acts of creation and making clothing is a great way to get started with a small budget and little talent. I started sewing when I was 8 and began working in fashion once I realized there was a strong industry around the making of clothing. I learned to code as a teenager and both coding and crafting clothing requires the same love of creative thinking and a dedication to good construction.
How would you describe the relationship between the fashion industry and the technology industry? Is that relationship changing?
The relationship is absolutely changing! Fashion is starting to look at technology to better understand their customers and stay relevant and technology is looking at fashion in terms of creativity, design and brand development. Where industries converge is where the magic happens.
The Crated, the company you founded in 2013, was just renamed Loomia. Why the change of name?
We found that The Crated sounded boxed in and restricted when, in reality, our team and feeling about the future is quite the opposite! Our new brand is colorful, fun and captures the way we feel about the future of soft circuitry and wearables. We love the way the new name sounds when you say LooooOOOOooooMia!
Which is more difficult: managing a small business or making wearables more wearable?
In the valley, investors categorize founders into different focuses. I’m certainly a more product focused founder, so I find it more easier to focus on the technical problems we’re trying to solve. However, I love working with a team towards a common problem, so managing the business is part of improving wearables is a more effective way! One feeds the other.
What are the common obstacles Loomia faces when working with a brand to adopt your technology?
Oh, I appreciate this question because we find that language is often the largest challenge for communicating with brands! Technically, our materials support e-textiles and soft circuitry, but these terms can be confusing to people who work exclusively with soft goods. We are constantly working hard to find words that are intuitive to designers and retailers to help them understand and visualize what we do.
There’s been excitement about wearables for years. Everyone’s aunt now has a FitBit. What are your predictions for the next ubiquitous wearable?
This is the million dollar question! Before use cases, I think it’s important to develop very effective enabling technologies. The iPhone is a beautifully designed product, but the enabling technology that makes an iPhone so stunning is Gorilla glass capacitive touch screens. So, I give you back this question — what enabling technology will change the way we make wearables, allowing the most ubiquitous use case to shine though?
What’s your vision for mass-market smart apparel? How far are we from that vision?
I think that mass-market smart apparel is closer than many consumers realize. Enabling technologies predict what an industry is capable of, and many of the pieces are available for making mass-market smart apparel. As one of our advisors says, “ the race to cheaper COGs is over and now innovation is the new fast fashion”. I think mass-market smart apparel is about having garments and soft goods products that make our lives easier and better so we can better enjoy our lives in meatspace.
Absolutely! Generally when an artist makes a painting, they make one painting by hand and need to start from the beginning to make new one.
When you are making patterns with code, you make a “machine” that makes the “paintings” for you! You can then instruct the machine to change small things like color and spacing. I think generative design creates a new era for artists and designers where you can be more creative by outsourcing the labor to code.
Madison’s curiosity is contagious. We at Polartec can’t wait to see how she influences the future of fabrics. What do you think the future of wearables to look like?