Fast Company has a great piece on Amanda Parkes, founder of Skinteractive Studios
A milky white, stiletto-shaped mold is sitting on Amanda Parkes’s desk. It’s the beginnings of a project to restructure high heels to make the notoriously painful shoes more comfortable. “If men had to wear high heels, this would have been addressed 100 years ago,” says Parkes, the design director for the product, which comes by way of Thesis, a new shoe company founded by a former SpaceX employee. Next to that is half of a bra, a model for a new shape of memory polymer insert. When finished, instead of using an underwire, the garment will respond to body heat, molding to a woman’s shape. “It will be much more comfortable,” says Parkes.
Those are just two of the projects Parkes has taken on as a fashion-tech consultant with her company Skinteractive Studios, which she founded in 2009 to help develop wearables. A product engineer by training, Parkes engages with both the conceptual and practical. She worked with a French contemporary dance company to create a performance in which the dancers power the show with their movements. She’s also advising Ringly, a connected ring that looks more like a piece of jewelry than a gadget.
Tellingly, what you don’t see in her portfolio is a smartwatch. “If you look out there, it’s basically Misfit wearables, the Apple Watch, the Fitbit—these are companies that are basically making gadgets that are attached to your body. That’s not innovation, really,” she says. Indeed, the current wearable landscape includes gadgets both ugly and useless. Even the best smart watches and bracelets only have so much potential: A wrist can only tell a gadget so much, and there is only so much room on our arms for gadgets.
Instead, Parkes is thinking beyond connected jewelry. Wearables of the future will cover the entire body and do a host of things we can’t yet imagine. Instead of making a pretty wrapping for a limited edition FitBit, Parkes wants to create entire new categories of yet-to-be imagined products. She’s working with Google, for example, on an interactive textile project. “That’s where I want to be in the space.”
And, as far as market potential goes, it’s the right place to be. Recent projections from Gartner predict that “smart garments”—currently just a blip in the wearables market—will outsell “smart wristbands” and become a regular part of our wardrobes. By 2016, smart garments are expected to make up 26 million of the 91 million units shipped for wearables, vs. 19 million for wristbands. The projects Parkes is working on now may very well be what you are wearing in five years.
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