What truly matters? A conversation with Elena Corchero.
Back in 2011 I met Elena Corchero for Vague Terrain Magazine. Here is what we talked about.
Founder of Lost Values, Elena Corchero, envisions a future where technology helps us become more human and less machine-like. She focuses on lifestyle products that embrace craft and tradition as well as new technologies and innovative materials.
Corchero studied Fine Arts in Spain and Germany, and at the Textile Futures Masters at CSM in London. Interested in the power of fashion to reach people, she decided to explore wearable technology as a research associate at MIT Media Lab Europe. Determined to make sustainability one of the major driving forces in her work and after various international exhibitions, publications and awards; Elena joined Distance Lab as a Senior Researcher and in 2008 Lost Values was formed with their support.
Ricardo O’Nascimento: What is your educational background?
Elena Corchero: I consider studies and experience at a similar level. For me, it all started from a very early age learning from my mother in her Spanish Tailoring Studio. I decided to study Art after a difficult decision to not follow my father’s footsteps as a lawyer … in any case, it is my law background what also makes me being so keen for social issues and Design Activism. My final year of Art took place in Germany where I specialized in multimedia and new technologies. I worked then in Haute Couture and later on MIT Media Lab Europe. After it’s closure in 2005, I joined the MA Textile Futures from Central Saint Martins in London.
O’N: How did you start to work with wearables?
E C: My love for craft and Haute Couture and my admiration for new technologies lead me to apply at MIT Media Lab Europe where I had the chance for the first time to share space with a multidisciplinary team and learn much more about technology and electronics. That is where it all started. I was very inspired by an article in National Geographic called “Dream Weavers.” I was also fascinated by Biomimicry materials.
O’N: What is your inspiration?
E C: Each project is different; I believe there are only two general approaches. 1 An idea that you believe in, and despite not knowing how to make it come true, you want to pursue, and finally somehow it does become a reality, as I learned at Media Lab, ‘in a world were everything is possible … what is it that truly matters?’ If we question this, we can truly achieve relevant work. The 2nd approach is to be fascinated by technology or material, and try to find a meaningful and innovative use of it. For the work I develop at Lost Values, my initial ground is to ensure qualities for every project, to be sustainable and emotional yet smart and playful.
O’N: Why do you think is important to make intelligent clothes?
E C: Because in the world we live today we must acknowledge the intelligent consumer out there. People are more and more demanding, curious, agile with technologies, active and also nomadic. Clothing and other accessories are what follows us wherever we go and stays close to our body. By this I don’t mean that everything we wear must contain technology though, some ancient materials such as the use of wool, are much more intelligent than anything man has created in a laboratory … yet. I like to believe that materials we wear can provide us with the qualities that nature did not give us, but perhaps did give to other animals, and this can mean anything from healing properties to weather resistance to communication, glowing, morphing, energy production, invisibility? What intrigues me the most is to believe that intelligent clothing might be just a field of experimentation until human skills, technology and tabus lead us actually to integrate all of this possibilities into our bodies. That is a whole new discussion though.
O’N: Do you intend to commercialize your work?
E C: I commercialize my work since 2008 through commissions, retail and an online boutique at www.lostvalues.com. Retail includes the London Design Museum.
O’N: How do you predict the future of wearable technology?
E C: Nothing is predictable, but one can only believe to have a good eye/intuition and social/human understanding as well as feeding the precious with constant observation to both the simple things that happen in your every day and keeping up with the big advances and discoveries in science and technology. But as previously said it is not just what is possible that matters but what it is significant is what will prevail. It has not been so for the long years of mass consumption. But with people’s awareness and new manufacture methods such as rapid prototyping tools, people can be more individual, trust their criteria and choices as well as be more proactive and involved in processes, customizing to their needs and even merely diving into DIY… Designing intelligent clothing is essential, but even more, it is designing intelligent ways for people to customize these to their own needs.
O’N: Do you see yourself as an artist or a designer?
E C: Art and Design are merging, and it would be a whole new discussion to try and draw their boundaries, even harder now that sciences have been added to the equation. So I might say like John Maeda, I believe to be an ‘Ideas’ person, the outcome of these ideas varies and their impact and reach as well. I like my work to communicate and inspire as well as have a function and be the answer to some issue I consider relevant for today’s world.
Update: We were discussing what should be the best term to describe Elena’s work and after some time she found a beautiful word: Technology Artisan. I found this very interesting once it put together the traditional with the novelty, technology with kraft. Very appropriate indeed.
This interview made in 2011 for the Vague Terrain online magazine.