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Anouk Wipprecht and Jaya Iyer on a fashion and STEM mission

By Kristopher Fraser

28 Jul 2022

Fashion |Interview

Image: Anouk Wipprecht

The worlds of fashion and science, technology, engineering, and math have existed very separately. Fashion is seen as an artistic field and STEM is, well, STEM. Never was it thought the two would ever be bedfellows.

However, Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht and SvahaUSA founder Jaya Iyer are on a mission to change that. Wipprecht recently collaborated with Svaha to create a techno fashion-inspired dress showing a creative spider bot design that’s an original work of hers. Svaha is known for being a STEM-themed clothing line whose mission is to change the face of women’s and children’s apparel. Iyer started the line to show young women they are just as qualified as men to go into STEM fields and confront gender stereotypes.

“When I would shop for my kids when they were younger, it was easy finding stuff my son liked, like clothes with cars and jets,” Iyer said to FashionUnited. “But my daughter liked the same stuff my son liked, and she wanted clothes with cars and jets on them too. At the same time, she also liked pink. Trying to find a pink airplane dress was impossible. I couldn’t find anything pink with space or astronaut themes. I hated the message that was sending to kids like only boys could be astronauts and girls couldn’t.”

Iyer took her dissatisfaction and decided to fill a void in the market by starting SvahaUSA. As more technology is incorporated into fashion, Iyer says that rather than fashion getting more technical with fabrications. There will be more clothing with antibacterial properties, and clothing that indicates what your heart rate is.

Iyer’s latest collection for Svaha is her STEAM collection (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). In addition to empowering young women interested in STEAM, Iyer is also keeping the line sustainable by making products from 100 percent organic cotton.

Wipprecht also shares Iyer’s vision of using fashion to make STEM more equitable between boys and girls. “I think that’s really important that boys and girls have the same opportunities to practice in the fields of technology and electronics,” she said to FashionUnited. “Historically, technology has been treated like it’s for boys and that’s really destroyed opportunities for females.”

The designer was inspired to start incorporating technology into her fashion designs because she wanted to fuel her passion for street style and robotics. One of the things driving her designs right now is creating products that react to people’s emotions. Currently, Wipprecht is working on a spider glass dress that measures the influence of a person's social interactions in a public space and expands when someone steps into their space too soon. The dress is designed to assess behavior quickly.

Wipprecht and Iyer came to collaborate with each other after meeting at a seminar on empowering young girls in STEM fields. Thus, the spider dress print collaboration was born and two forces for empowering young women were united.

The intersection of fashion and technology is a fairly new field, but Wipprecht says there is a world of opportunity out there to create technologically embedded clothing with the ability to do things, like let others know when they are getting too close to someone visually impaired. Wipprecht’s main focus is on creating clothing that can let others know about our emotional state because at that point fashion will become one of the truest forms of self-expression.

They might have once been islands apart, but fashion and technology are slowly becoming friends. With designers like Wipprecht changing what fashion and technology mean to each other, and entrepreneurs like Iyer helping empower your women and girls in STEAM fields, it’s a new ball game.

Anouk Wipprecht
Jaya Iyer
SvahaUSA