Tlo Interviews Dirty Diana Eng
Diana Eng, the squeaky, geeky girl from Season 2 of Project Runway, has a new book out called Fashion Geek. She was sweet enough to send us a couple copies and we have to say, it’s a cute little how-to book that teaches the reader how to incorporate technology into fashion, with fun projects like the hoodie with the headphones built into it or the petal purse that lights up. It’s the perfect book for the DIY hipster nerd.
Hi Diana, let’s start with the obvious question. What have you been doing since Project Runway?
I co-founded an art/electronic group called NYC Resistor and I’m working on starting up my website which is going to be fashionnews.com and it’s going to sell accessories and printable fashions that you can print out and assemble yourself.
You also contributed to Craft Magazine, right?
Yes, I also contributed to Craft Magazine and I worked for Victoria’s Secret in the R&D department for a little while.
Oh, that’s awesome. Tell us about the Victoria’s Secret stuff.
We created the new technologies for the bras because a lot of the bras have patents in the technology behind them. You really don’t think they do, but they actually have several patents behind a lot of the technology in the bras. I can’t really mention the projects I was involved with, but it was a lot of fun incorporating technology with the latest fashions.
You don’t really think about it, but there is a lot of technology involved in the structure of it.
Yes, it is so much more complicated than it seems. Sportswear has a lot of technology in it and bras are actually so much more complicated than sportswear. Normal clothing might have ten components, but bras have at least thirty components in them.
Thirty components? Wow! We had no idea.
Well, you probably haven’t worn a bra ever. [Laughs] You don’t have much to support. Breasts can weigh between five and twenty pounds. That’s a lot to support there.
What was your motivation to combine technology and fashion?
I really think that technology is the future of fashion. We use it all the time now. For example, you wear your headphones, and why can’t they be accessories? You wear them all the time, they’re kind of ugly, you might as well make them accessories and incorporate them; it could be a hat, which is on the cover of my book; it could be a hoodie, or it could just be part of the clothing that you wear or you could have them as earrings.
We’ve seen some designers like Issey Miyake using technology in fashion.
Right, in the other end of the spectrum there’s the fact that we have all this new technology but we’ve kind of been treating fashion in the same way for a while. There’s a digital locket in my book that holds digital photos in it. You can have hundreds of photos in your locket and display them all as opposed to the traditional locket, probably a family heirloom from your grandmother.
Take advantage of what you can do with technology if you’re going to make a locket or something.
Do you think people are more open to wearable technology?
I think it’s getting better. A lot of the things in the book you can’t mass produce because technology is not quite there yet. It’s not machine washable with all the electronic components. With the book, you are able to make all these different designs that can’t be mass produced yet and you can make it yourself.
What are your sources of inspiration when you design something combined with technology?
I really think about the actual function of the garment and the actual function of the technology. When I combine both, I want to bring the best out of both. I want them to be better. For example, the hoodie with the headphones, you can listen to music in the hoodie, so you don’t have to worry about carrying your headphones because it’s actually part of the hoodie. Also the light-up shoes. The whole bottom is lit up. I was thinking of the cars that have underlighting. I thought it would be neat to have that for your shoes. You walk around with the lighting. There’s a little bit of tongue and cheek there. In terms of style, I am inspired by Japanese pop culture.
Do you think there’s a fine line between gimmicky and actual designs when it comes to incorporating technology in fashion?
Yes, there is. The audience for this book is younger people, so a lot of the designs are geared towards them, like the light-up shoes. I try to appeal to young people because I think most of them don’t realize that technology and electronics can be used in a fun way. I’m trying to kick in their interest at a young age. A lot of the projects in my book are geared to the teen groups.
So, let’s talk about your book. It’s called “Fashion Geek”.
The book has thirteen different projects in it. It has the instructions on how to make all the different projects and it also has a section in the beginning that teaches basic sewing techniques and basic soldering and electronic techniques. It talks a lot about the use of conductive thread. It can basically replace wires which are very thick and uncomfortable to wear and the conductive thread is actually machine washable and it’s something you can use as embroidery, for example.
How do you see the future of wearable technology?
I guess it’s going to depend on how quickly technology can be adapted because a lot of the things aren’t machine washable yet. It’s slowly getting there. They now have screen-printable conductive ink and that’s actually almost as deep as screen printing a t-shirt, so that’s going to be really neat.
The question is ‘is it going to be gimmicky or not?’ Kanye West wears all these el-wire things all the time and el-wire is basically electronic luminescent wire and it glows. Is that going to be accepted as fashion or is it going to be gimmicky? It could easily go both ways. It depends on how well it’s done. Like the light-up shoes, for example. It can be really fashionable if you’re like a hipster and you’re going to a party with the Heatherette crowd. And if you’re talking high fashion and couture, probably not for them, but it could be adapted to them if it’s done differently.