Pauline van Dongen experiments with the behaviour of high-tech materials, combining new technologies with traditional ways to constantly renovate craftsmanship. After graduating from ArtEZ, Academy of the Arts in Arnhem, the Netherlands, she started her own womenswear label in 2010. Working closely with companies from the fields of science and innovation, van Dongen aims to merge fashion and technology giving life to scientific creations.
Volt Café: How would you describe your design studio in three words?
Pauline van Dongen: Innovative, cross-disciplinary collaboration, technological aesthetics
VC: What is your brand philosophy?
PvD: There is nothing natural in nature; technology makes our humanness giving form to our surroundings. The human habitat reveals a techno-morphed structure that can no longer be hidden behind the vestiges of a natural world: technology has to be naturalized.
VC: In what way do you naturalize technology?
PvD: People often look at technology as something opposite from nature – something that creates a distance between the human and its surroundings. However, I believe that technology is part of our nature. I thus aim to make technology soft, intimate and intuitive. By combining textiles and technology, I aim to create new types of behaviour and interaction, which can contribute to the way we experience our environment and that extends human capabilities.
‘Technology is part of our nature’
VC: Do you think wearable technology is the future?
PvD: We are now at a point where we are redefining our fashion system and look into ways to create new values for fashion, and I believe technology plays a big role in this development. New technologies, both relating to hardware as well as software, allow us to make fashion ultra-personalized and produce fashion more efficiently and sustainable. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Fashion is all about the new, but the industry has been the same for decades, so it is time that something is being changed.
VC: What is the ‘Solar shirt’ you created?
PvD: The Solar Shirt is the result of our collaboration with Holst Centre, an independent research and development centre from Eindhoven. Holst Centre specializes in stretchable electronics, which can be integrated in textile by means of a lamination process. My aim was to integrate solar technology into the textile in both a functional as well as an aesthetically pleasing way. To me the desirability of a design is very important; if you don’t make this your ‘top priority’ it will always result in a gadget. Also I wanted to show that the technology is becoming accessible when used in a T-shirt and is the concept is not a far-fetched idea, but something that can already be made on a larger scale in the very near future. The solar cells are laminated onto the shirt as a graphic print. When worn in the sun the shirt is able to charge an average smartphone in about two hours. We created this shirt as a sustainable answer to the connected society who is coping with problems concerning batteries.
‘The shirt is able to charge an average smartphone in about two hours’
VC: Which is your favourite work so far?
PvD: Wearable Solar is the most well known project, which has grown into a collection over the past years. With the experience of working with solar in fashion I enjoy how it’s becoming a very specific expertise within the studio. Though, I can’t say I prefer it over the other projects. What I enjoy most is to collaborate with different partners and in every project I learn something new about how new materials, circuits, sensors and digital design can be crafted into my work and how these processes enrich my design process and thinking in surprising ways.
VC: What is your source of Inspiration?
PvD: The human body has always fascinated me. When I was younger, I wanted to become a doctor and I was always fascinated by biology, physics and chemistry. Innovations within these fields are still my biggest inspirations. New materials, new types of behaviour and bodily sensations, new technologies; I am constantly thinking about how to innovate the concept of fashion.
VC: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
PvD: My dream is to show that clothing can be more valuable to us than we perceive it nowadays, that it can enrich our way of living in previously unforeseen ways. We are always in contact with our clothing – it’s such a powerful medium – which makes it a great platform to integrate technology and to create valuable new ways of embodied experience. I would like to get away from the ‘gadget-y’ feeling wearable technology has. Now that technology is becoming smaller, more flexible and almost invisible, it can contribute also to the aesthetics of a design. That’s where I’d like to go.
Check out more of Pauline’s designs on www.paulinevandongen.nl
Words by Sophie van Hasselt