Interview with Erich Zainziger a.k.a. talk2myShirt, part 2: Let’s electrify yarn and fabrics!

March 29, 2011

This is the second part of the interview with Erich Zainziger a.k.a. talk2myShirt. Read the first part hereHooked up to wearable electronics


Photo: Erich Zainziger, from private album via F-book

What would you say is wearable technology scene’s point of difference compared to other techie fields? Also, we might make a reference to fashion, but also to differentiate the scene from fashion, too…

EZ: For me, conventional tech is about function and features, wearable tech is about aesthetics and emotions.

In fashion it is all about static, once a cut/color is selected you get stuck with it ‘forever’. Wearable tech can replace the countless trimming elements designer use to reflect light with tech elements that emit light. Zipper can one day be replaced with other options to close/open pockets and clothing can extend our digital online persons into the real world by interacting with our online existence.

Wearable tech is adding option but not replacing conventional tech nor clothing – it is adding another layer of personalization and individualism to our life.


Anouk Wipprecht and Maartje Dijkstra (c)

Your blog talk2myShirt is very important resource for wearable technology community and smart textiles scene…

EZ: Oh, thanks for the flower. My aim from the beginning onwards was to create a place for wearable tech interested people to get informed and updated. When I started talk2myShirt back in 2006 there was very little info available and the little there was has been spread out over different places.

Fortunately more of such virtual places exist now and it makes more fun to compare and to read other opinions as well 🙂

Hussein Chalayan: Transsformer Dress

Recently you have started a company Elextile… What’s the company’s aim and what would you like to achieve within this framework? Was starting your own business something you always desired to do?

EZ: Based on the organizational limitations I have found myself into at my employment I decided to start my own business to be able to serve the wearable tech initiative in an unlimited way via a consulting service.

Basically I offer my service to companies that would like to design and bring wearable tech enabled clothing to the market. Based on my experience and connection I can offer design assistance also the support or even build-up of industrialization (manufacturing) for these still unique products and technologies. In selected cases I even started to develop and produce (will soon be launched) materials which I could not find any source in the market.

Material needed to industrialize wearable technology enable fashion.

Could you present other projects you’re currently working  on?

EZ: Here I have an ‘innovators dilemma’ – as I am working very intensively for clients in the wearable tech field, clients that will bring revolutionary products soon to the market, I am not allowed to have anything related to that leaked out.

On the other hand I am having very little time to do projects or experiments ‘just for fun’ something I would love to do much more.


Solar Bag by Elextile (c)

What materials do you mainly prefer to work with? And could you tell me more about the use of solar energy and sustainable materials in your projects…

EZ: My preferred subject of experiments and research is to ‘electrify’ yarn and fabrics. Electrifying in the sense that current and signal flow in eTextiles is according to electronic requirements – only in this way efficient, reliable and electronic regulatory compliant systems can be created.

Solar energy harvesting via clothing and accessories is to my opinion a highly interesting yet not very much explored area of wearable technology. Adding a little additional electrical charge for ‘free’ on the go is very appealing as I can attest with the use of my DIY solar bag which I carry around for over two years now.

The challenge is to integrate flexible solar panels in wearable objects in a more discrete way making it more appealing to consumers. The cost of these solar cells is still very high, another factor why solar power collecting wearable products are slow to pick up in the market.

Hussein Chalayan: Video Dresses

How did in your opinion DIY scene and the invention of Arduino influence wear tech field?

EZ: The Arduino opened otherwise complex electronic and software technology to a very wide range of people with little or no specific knowledge about these things. The LilyPad was the igniter for the huge interest on wearable technology as the hey lifting of complex electronic and software is taken care off by LiliPad and creators can focus more on new ideas and designs than spending most of the time with circuit design and software dev.

What’s gonna be very important in the future of wearable technology, and what do you think in what direction the whole thing is going in?

EZ: Besides the continuos creativity of the wearable tech community the ‘industrialization’ the procures design and development to move the concepts into a product application is the next critical steps to move forward for wearable tech.

Issues of reliability, robustness and cost effectiveness are the key to get brands interested to include in their seasonal collections. This does not mean mass production for mainstream is the fist step of wearable tech, markets like the work-wear or recreational wear, party wear or fitness wear might be the best seeding ground to move wearable tech out of labs and exhibitions into the public limelight of shop floors.


Arduino Duemilanove by William P. O’Donnell/The New York Times (c)

Many ideas from the DIY and concept design community exist – now it’s time to get some of them translated into collections for next season 🙂

What are your future plans?

EZ: Helping in whatever form and way I can to get wearable technology into consumer products on a larger scale.

Talk2myshirt is running on WordPress, and you do personally use Twitter, Facebook, Issuu and Flickr, right? What social media tools are you best with? From which you had benefit most?

EZ: Twitter is becoming my main source of news from the ‘scene’ replacing many hours of internet search for information on any topic one prefers – granting that one builds up a good following/follower-ship.

Erich, Thanks a lot!

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