February 22nd, 2013
11:55 AM ET

Forging a new future in fashion with technology

Editor’s note: Diana Eng is a fashion designer and self-described geek who blends fashion and technology in surprising ways. Watch Diana’s full profile this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on CNN’s “The Next List.”

By Diana Eng, Special to CNN

New York Fashion Week has just wrapped up. It's an event that reminds me twice a year of the moment I knew I was meant to be a fashion designer (as opposed to a computer programmer or electrical engineer).

The first time I attended Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was for the Project Runway, season two show at Bryant Park. I sat in the front row and felt like royalty as a bunch of reporters came up to ask me questions; “Do you know how lucky you are to be sitting in the front row?” “Is this the best day of your life?” “Who do you think will win?” “Tell me a secret about the show without violating your contract.”

I was still trying to get over the fact that I was actually at a fashion week show. Debra Messing walked by and said “Hi Diana” and I was like, “OMG, Debra Messing, you know my name!”

And then two men came out and removed the plastic covering the runway, the lights started to dim and there was finally a hush. It was like unwrapping a present. The show was about to start and I was filled with excitement, pride and anticipation. At that moment there were so many possibilities, anything could come down the runway. I thought, “I am so excited to be a fashion designer!”

Not everyone can relate the rush of fashion week, but we all have a personal relationship with the things we wear. They are our second skin. When someone sees us for the first time, our style conveys the first impressions about our personality.

Clothing can also say a lot about the world around us. In the 19th century, women would have conveyed their personal style with hoop skirts and bustles made possible by new advances in steel making. We’ve made many technological advancements since the Bessemer process. In the 21st century, what will your fashion say about you?

I like my fashion designs to make people stop and think twice. And I think that, like the hoop skirts of the 19th century, today’s technology can lead to new looks.

Using a laser cutter I am able to distress t-shirts in lace patterns, adding a delicate touch to an otherwise rugged style. I create scarves with snowflakes that appear and grow in cold weather. I play with electronics - LEDs, electroluminescent wire, microcontrollers - to make clothing that reacts to sound and motion. I work with technicians to program fully fashioned (3D) knitting machines to automatically knit lace created by the Fibonacci number sequence.

I’m excited to see what possibilities the next generation of designers will come up with. I’ve had the privilege of teaching the Click@MoMA: Wearable Technology class for high school students through Eyebeam. My class toured the Museum of Modern Art to view paintings by Picasso and Mondrian, and we discussed how shapes could augment the human body. Then the students built inflatable clothing to augment their bodies. We viewed Monet’s Water Lilies to see how Impressionist artists used color and texture to express different seasons and moods. The students created videos to project images on to dresses so that the dresses could portray different moods. Today’s teens have never lived without the Internet or cell phones. As technology becomes a bigger part of our world, tomorrow’s designers will need a greater understanding of science to create relevant designs.

It doesn’t matter how many fashion shows I attend, I still feel the same thrill when they peel back the plastic to start the show. Fashion has infinite possibilities and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

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Filed under: Fashion • Innovation • Tech • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. In home Personal Training

    There's a huge market for this. You are defiantly a pioneer. I wish you the best in your adventure.

    April 13, 2014 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  2. Laptop Lookbook

    I hope to attend New York Fashion Week within the next five years. Meanwhile, I attend the local fashion week. Fashion is a great way to express yourself. My background is databases and analytical but I love fashion so they tend to blend for me.


    September 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Reply
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  4. Boyd Harrod

    Knitting is a craft in which two needles along with thread or yarn are used to create fabric pieces or garments by creating loops in the yarn. Knitting can be used to create many types of fabric, from framed knitting artwork to sweaters, afghan quilts, throws, blankets, mittens, or even bedroom slippers.-*'^

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  5. stephanie

    it is really amazing really and it's creative 2

    May 10, 2013 at 12:32 am | Reply
  6. stephanie

    soooooooooo cool

    May 10, 2013 at 12:31 am | Reply
  7. Howard Flysher

    Old hat didi leds in Star Trek the movie jackets in 1979. They were sold in Blommingdales and othe high end stores. Was in US magazine in 1980. I could tell u what would be new with Tech and fashion but will show u later this years!

    February 24, 2013 at 8:18 am | Reply
    • Erlan

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      April 9, 2013 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  8. CJS Sales: Crafts, Jewelry, Supplies (Vintage Warehouse)

    So excited to watch this Sunday! Luv the shot in the preview video of Diana standing on top of a mountain of boxes of vintage treasures at CJS Sales: Crafts, Jewelry Supplies...shopping for inspiration!!!

    February 23, 2013 at 3:14 am | Reply
  9. CJS Sales: Crafts, Jewelry, Supplies (Vintage Warehouse)

    Reblogged this on CJS and commented:
    CNN The Next List films at CJS Sales: Crafts, Jewelry, Supplies (Vintage Warehouse)! Airs this Sunday at 2:30pm ET only on CNN. Diana Eng is a fashion designer (Project Runway season 2) who gets her inspiration from shopping at CJS!

    February 23, 2013 at 3:10 am | Reply

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