December 18, 2014

MBF Interviews: The First Wearable Tech Brand

When Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz got together, something amazing happened that had never before been seen in the fashion industry. The duo met in 2001 at a research institute and instantly clicked. They both shared a love for fashion, but wanted to think of it in a different way, something that was more exciting.  Not long after in 2004, they started CuteCircuit which became the first wearable tech brand.

We initially noticed CuteCircuit at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, where their LED womenswear tuxedo was featured by Mercedes Benz.  When we found out that they would be speaking at Decoded Fashion’s New York Summit, of course we had to take the opportunity to get an interview.

Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz of CuteCircuit, photo via mbf

MF: "How did CuteCircuit get started?"

Ryan Genz: "Francesca and I met in 2001 at a design institute where we were talking about bringing future technology to design - but it was design in a very generic, open sense - and she and I were both passionate about fashion. She is from a fashion background, working at Valentino, and we decided that this was a great opportunity to develop a brand on the concept of future technology and fashion together to try to make the fashion more spectacular. So, from the beginning we weren't really trying to re-create the functions of technology."

MF: "Where are you looking for technology- in fabrics, in LED lights, in circuits?"

Ryan Genz- "We design all the technology ourselves. That's because we started off in an era when no technology existed that did what we wanted it to do - so we were forced into making our own technology...we weren't trying to make a computer that you could wear- we were trying to make fashion that is more exciting by adding new materials and new innovations."

CuteCircuit LED Blazer, Photo via CuteCircuit

MF: "How does the design process work? What comes first?"

Francesca Rosella - "First we say, for example, "Wouldn't it be awesome if we had a little clutch that did something cool?" Then we sketch it. First we sketched it, it was much smaller [showing the led clutch in her hand] and then we thought we wanted it to be controlled with an iPhone. And then we thought, the iPhone 6 is going to come out soon and it is going to be much bigger, it's not going to fit it, so then we redesigned it to be much bigger. Because if you are going to control it with the iPhone; it at least has to fit the iPhone inside of it."

CuteCircuit LED clutch, photo via mbf

MF: "How does it work?" 

Francesca Rosella: "Its gold plated, made in Italy and a laser-etched little pattern that the lights shine through. So, we have an app for the IPhone, see here [showing us the app on her phone] see this one says handbag, so basically you can say, “Hello…I love you…” So you can choose any little pattern or animation. It does lots of abstract things and then other things that you can actually understand what they mean. I really like to use it, like if we go out to dinner, somewhere pretty and romantic, I will put the fish on the table [laughs].  Another thing you can do with this – We were in London a few weeks back, and we were coming out of a conference, and we were like, “Well, we need a taxi” and I wrote “TAXI” and I put it out and after 2 seconds the Taxi stopped, we didn’t even know where we were going yet because we were going to meet some friends but we told him just to drive until we could figure it out."

MF: "How do you fund your business?"

Ryan Genz: "We’ve been self-funded from the beginning. When we started, nobody knew what this technology was, so if you went to an investor saying we are a wearable technology fashion brand, in fact we were the first wearable technology fashion brand, they were like “Well, Can you show us other successful brands in this market space?” we said, “No” – because we were the first – and so they thought that the idea was ridiculous, because investors have the tendency to invest in a sector or market that’s already hot and we were saying, “this is a new market.”" 

Francesca Rosella: "And here we are 10 years later, Yay!"

Learn more about CuteCircuit and what they are up to here!

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