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You founded the smart-textile startup LOOMIA. How did you discover your passion for e-textiles and learn the necessary skills? I was excited about the intersection of design and technology, and I realized that e-textiles are nestled at this intersection. I learned the necessary skills simply by making things. Learning something is about putting in the time and focus. With that, anything is learnable!

How has your interest in fashion informed your work as a creative technologist and entrepreneur? I’ve always been interested in garment construction, and I think the curiosity that goes into learning how a garment is made is the same curiousness required to make other products. My work is largely driven by curiosity.

What opportunities does flexible, soft circuitry provide brands? Soft, flexible circuitry can provide functions such as heating, lighting and sensing to brands. This can make a warm jacket warmer, a construction vest more visible, or even textile products like a sheet able to sense information about a person sleeping on top of it.

What challenges do smart-clothing makers need to overcome? Manufacturing and standardization are our two biggest challenges. Until there are clear design and engineering practices that are designed for manufacturing, it’s very hard for these products to get to market.

I hope we’re moving towards a future of enchanted objects instead of a world of screen-based devices.”
 
What’s the most exciting work in wearables that you’ve seen recently? I think foundational technologies around connectors and conductors are exciting. With that in mind, I think the most exciting work is happening inside of the standards and organizations that are building documents to guide the future of e-textiles and garment-based wearables. Groups like IPC, the Association Connecting Electronics Industries; the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists; and ASTM International are doing great work. I’m also very excited about what’s happening at Jess Jur’s Nano-EXtended Textiles research group at North Carolina State University.

How will blockchain shake up business as we know it? I tend to be less of a sensationalist, so I don’t know if it will shake up everything, but I do think blockchain is exciting in terms of a decentralized system of sharing information. I think it allows companies an alternative to owning customer data if they wish. It also can support supply-chain transparency.

How can companies balance innovation and privacy? Unless your business is to sell people’s data, there’s always a way to incorporate privacy into products. I think it’s really about deciding your values and then building a product that reflects these.

How will user experience design evolve as products become “smarter”? I think we will start incorporating more of a screenless aesthetic. I hope we’re moving towards a future of enchanted objects instead of a world of screen-based devices.

Madison Maxey has pioneered work in bringing flexible, robust circuitry (e-textiles) to scale as founder and technical lead at LOOMIA (previously The Crated). Throughout the course of her work at LOOMIA, she has done e-textile work and education for companies like adidas, Corning, Flextronics, Google, The North Face and PVH. Maxey’s work has built the foundation for several pending patents and has led to invited lectures at universities such as Columbia University, New York University, Parsons School of Design and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. In addition to e-textiles, Maxey has done computational design and physical computing work for the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Forbes Under 30 Summit, CNBC’s Jump Jive and Thrive, and Google Creative Lab. She has also held creative technology residences at the School of Visual Arts; Autodesk; and Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, where she won the BF+DA Technology Innovation Award.

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