On the run up to Women’s Day on the 8th March, we are paying homage to 7 women who have made a name for themselves in the world of technology. The names behind the women we are honoring might not be commonly known, but there is no denying that they are quietly making a difference in their field. In this series, the women personally share their experiences and challenges whilst also giving us a glimpse into the lessons that they have learnt along the way. In her own words, Renata De Carvalho Gaui shares her story.
Family has always been the strongest bond and growing up close to creative relatives had a great influence on the paths I chose to follow career wise. My grandfather, an architect, would let me use all of his work tools and my mom would always encourage me to do different kinds of crafts whichever way I felt most comfortable with. Later on, I decided I wanted to pursue a career within a creative field and did an undergraduate Design – Digital Media program in my hometown, Rio de Janeiro. While I was still in undergrad, I was able to get professional experience within different areas of design: 3D modeling, motion graphics, art direction and finally ending up in creative coding/physical computing. The closest I got to make interactive projects was making my own personal work using Arduino. So I decided to go to the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU, a 02 year professional masters focused on instigating students to design creative applications for emerging technologies. In addition, ITP is a very diverse community, so you can imagine how this reflects on the body of work from the students – and in that environment I discovered my passion towards wearable technology and I was fortunate enough to get to work with strong women that are in this specific creative technology niche.
Even though after graduation, I worked mostly as a graphic designer, I always felt like something was missing on the stillness of my work and how it relied mostly on sight to be experienced. My work at ITP has been focused on non-visual representations/ physical representation of female empowerment. I ended up taking a wearables technology class in which our professor (and currently my boss) Despina Papadopoulos guided us in a very explorative design process to create wearable devices. I was so instigated about the topic that I decided to dive deep into research and make a trend report regarding wearables technology and e-textiles for another class, always in conversation with Despina of what is the next step within it. With the research, I started seeing that there is so much yet to be explored on fashion innovation and that’s how I decided to pursue a career within wearables technology.
I am currently a design assistant at Principled Design studio. This means that I do a bit of graphic design + web design and a lot of wearables research and prototyping. My first big project at ITP was a weaving loom that weaved during the day and unweave during the night, a homage to The Odyssey’s Penelope, a female character that controlled time despite being in a mythological and mysoginistic context. Through that work I got to know Pamela Liou, artist, ITP alumni and weaver, who I assisted during her residency at the Eyebeam. Working with her made me see how important it is to work with strong women and also how there is a big opportunity within textiles and technology. During last summer I worked with Despina at her design, Principled Design, on a trend research and since then I’ve assisted her on other wearables research and development projects. I think in the end, what it takes is to feel you are interested in the topic, always updating yourself with what is happening in the world, trying to experiment with what is available on the market and also reaching out to people you believe are on the path you’d like to be.
On a personal scale, my biggest challenge is to find where within wearables I fit in. My personal work is more functional–artistic objects, while my professional work is focused on the technological research for development & implementation. I think that I struggle to find a balance between them because for my artwork I’m always looking for innovative technologies I can implement – and on the professional research there are a lot of art projects that give clues about what will be the next innovations. On an industry scale, I believe the biggest challenge is to be attentive to everything that is happening inside and outside fashion tech to see what can we re-purposed and push wearables to the next step. In example there are so many other fields working with nanotechnology is important that we don’t keep ourselves exclusively focused on who is working directly to textiles
When it comes to lessons that I would like to pass on, the first would be don’t be afraid of experimenting and conquering knowledge and space in the industry. Secondly, take ownership of what you learned and don’t be afraid to reach out to people if you need help, if you want to collaborate or if you just want to compliment them. Worse case scenario, they’ll say no and life goes on. Lastly, it’s very important we keep our community strong and getting in touch to exchange experiences is the best we can do to keep it alive.
As a woman in tech, I am always looking for inspiration in strong women in the industry. Despina Papadopoulos showed me through her class & work the wearables path; Pamela Liou, who is working on a different approach of the fashion industry – through her weaving loom Doti – made me rethink the way we consume garments; Jingwen Zhu does IoT wearables devices that stimulate users to put themselves into their clothing; Grace Jun and her Open Style Lab are making assistive fashion that is elegant and far from being bulky; Ying Gao is an artist that designs interactive clothing in which the technology is beautifully seamless.