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Highlighting high-tech couture

Fashiontech Festival, organized by three-time Concordia grad Valérie Lamontagne, integrates the worlds of technology and fashion
May 18, 2017
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By Lucas Napier-Macdonald

The world of fashion and high tech will come together in Montreal at the end of May thanks in large part to Valérie Lamontagne, BFA 93, MFA 01, PhD 17.

Valérie Lamontagne Valérie Lamontagne earned a PhD in wearables from Concordia’s individualized program, which allows students to complete their higher education in a flexible and interdisciplinary framework. | Photo: Dominique Lafond

Lamontagne is director of the Fashiontech Festival, which will be held from May 26 to 28.

The Fashiontech Festival, as its website describes, “is an international event bringing together fashion designers, engineers, start-ups, and major IT companies invested in developing the future of design for smart clothing and accessories.”

“Fashiontech has a focus on garments that would be fashionable and connected with the fashion community, rather than garments for health, security or wellbeing,” Lamontagne says. “It’s integration of technology into clothes that we’d wear every day.”

What to expect of the event

The first day of the festival, held at Montreal’s McCord Museum, will host a conference with talks delivered by some 30 local experts.

Concordia’s resident wearable technology authority, Joanna Berzowska, associate dean of Research in the Faculty of Fine Arts, will be the keynote speaker. Berzowska is founder and research director of XS Labs, a design research studio focusing on electronic textiles and reactive garments.

The Fashiontech Festival The Fashiontech Festival will take place in Montreal from May 26 to 28, 2017.

The next two days will feature a hackathon across town at Espace Infopresse. The hackathon’s goal is to get participants of varying experience to complete a fully prototyped fashion tech design. By the end of the two days, participants should have a fashion-forward “wearable” that also has a functioning electronic component.

To help them along, the Fashiontech hackers will have access to mentors from both the artsy and tech sides of things, as well as plenty of onsite tools and materials.

Democratizing knowledge

Lamontagne, who earned her PhD in wearables, explains that fashiontech is a field still mostly found in the academy. It requires disparate talents that one person seldom possesses, including garment construction, engineering and programming.

The Fashiontech Festival will allow experts from these fields to meet outside of academia and ultimately form new enterprises.

“We wanted to create a platform for people to exchange interests and keep sharing ideas above and beyond the three-day event,” Lamontagne says. “Montreal has all kinds of things happening, but they’re often scattered, and people don’t necessarily talk to each other.”

Addressing this, she reached out to Montreal’s metropolitan fashion cluster, mmode, and Groupe Sensation Mode, responsible for the city’s yearly Festival Mode and Design. She also brought in fashiontech startups, local craft schools and established designers from around the city.

By the time Fashiontech comes to a close, participants will be awash in one another’s expertise and inspired to start creating.

Tickets to the Fashiontech Festival are available here.

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