September 30, 2018

Paola Guimeráns: design, smart fabrics and education

We interviewed for the first time Paola Guimeráns, specialist in education in the area of e-textiles and an expert in Wearable Technology. 

Words such as 3D printing, intelligent textiles or digital manufacturing are common in fashion magazines, seminars, workshops, etc … But.. are consumers prepared for this revolution?

A: Although it has not yet become mainstream, the ecosystem is being created so that future generations, who are now in school, perceive intelligent and biodegradable garments as something normal. Contemporary society is experiencing a very peculiar phenomenon, characterized by the socialization of technology. Thanks to the maker culture and the DIY philosophy, both 3D printing and smart textiles are areas of knowledge that are now available and accessible to all audiences. However, the development of new products is in an experimental phase, which makes, in my opinion, a very attractive sector.

What do smart textiles contribute to conventional ones? How can technology help the fashion industry?

A: The binomial technology and fashion is not new. Now, when we speak of intelligent textiles we refer to fabrics that have built-in electronic components. That is to say, these textiles belong to a multidisciplinary area in whose development different profiles participate: chemists, physicists, biologists, material scientists, computer scientists, artists or specialists in textiles. This connection between disciplines is what makes it a perfect field to innovate.

Smart textiles, also known as e-textiles, wearables or wearable technology, among other terms, are suitable to produce fashion products with a high added value. In other words, they offer the designer the opportunity to create clothes or accessories that incorporate small sensors and almost invisible computers, they become intelligent devices capable of interacting with the environment and improving our quality of life.

We must not forget that we are a society in which everything is connected to the Internet, which makes it possible to produce this symbiosis between fashion and technology. In fact, the functionality of these garments goes far beyond designing clothes whose textiles are capable of collecting biometric indicators. Smart textiles provide clothing that offers people new ways of expressing themselves, communicating with each other and interacting with the world around them. An example is found in the collection that has recently launched the signature of the designer Constanza + LAB. The QUANTUM collection is a line of innovative designs with superpowers that express feelings and the mood of the person who saw it.

As an expert in fashion technology, how do you see designers / companies from the Basque Country in the application of technology to their garments compared to other countries?

A: Although other European countries have an advantage, the Basque Country has great potential to innovate in this emerging sector. In 2015, thanks to a pioneering initiative promoted by Bilbao Ekintza, I had the opportunity to lead a nine-month program where I could advise and train local designers and companies in the field of fashion and technology. One of these designers, Berni González de Zárate, after passing through this program, besides creating his own company, has started a very promising educational project. The project consists of forming two multidisciplinary teams formed by students of Fashion, Engineering and Industrial Design who, with the help of the latest technology from IBM, will be responsible for creating innovative wearables that aim to improve the lives of people. Undoubtedly, ensuring the adequate training of new generations and encouraging them to collaborate with professionals from other areas is the key to making the Basque Country stand out in this emerging sector.

Tell us what the designers registered for the “Fashion and Technology” workshops will discover and learn at the Balenciaga Museum

A: In this workshop, the participants will learn to integrate electronics responsibly and sustainably into different fabrics and materials, as well as to develop their creativity by devising practical and original devices, without losing sight of the value of design. Likewise, they will know the possibilities offered by digital manufacturing applied to textiles, and the fundamentals of development, and prototyping phases, of an electronic and / or intelligent garment or accessory.

In this workshop we will have as a guest in the fourth session a person in charge of the Material ConneXion Bilbao team that will show the students their collection of innovative, sustainable and biodegradable materials. This participation is very important since this center offers access to the largest library of materials in the world. For those who want to participate in the workshop, the sessions will take place on Saturdays and Sundays from October 13 to 28, 2018. Registrations will be open until October 7 and to register you must fill out the online registration form of the Museum.


One of the topics of this crash course is “Smart Textiles” focusing on nitinol and / or thermochromatic inks … 

A: Intelligent materials are materials that are characterized by their ability to respond to an external change or stimulus. Nitinol, for example, is a superelastic material, in the form of wire, which has the property of “remembering” its shape and is able to return to that shape after being deformed. This memory effect can be produced by thermal or magnetic change. The interesting thing is that nitinol has been used since the 60s in a variety of applications in fields such as medicine or robotics. It has been recently, especially with the rise of the maker culture, when they have begun to use fashion designers. An example of the use of this material is found in the work of designer Ying Gao. She includes nitinol in some of her garments and “programs” this material, in its purpose, to question the assumptions that society has in front of the garment and what it represents. Another example of a garment where this material is used is found in the “Caress of the Gaze” proposal by the architect and designer Behnaz Farahi. This garment, which you can make yourself following this tutorial ( depending on the person who observe, modify its form.

Thermochromatic inks, although not intelligent, are considered of this category since they change color depending on the temperature in which they are. Depending on whether the temperature rises or falls, the color appears, disappears or changes to another color. We find an example of the use of these materials in the “Fetes Chameleon” collection by Alexander Wang.

During the prototyping phase thanks to design thinking you will approach concepts such as functionality, aesthetics and sustainability. What is the relationship between technology and sustainability in fashion?

A: The current environment requires the fashion industry to acquire a strategic plan and a commitment to be more sustainable and reduce its environmental impact. For this purpose, it will help science and technology. That is why during the workshop the participants will be encouraged to reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of integrating new materials and technology in their prototypes. In my opinion, it is very important to create new consumer habits in fashion and to start training a new generation of professionals who develop critical thinking and acquire an ethical commitment to this change.