Dr. Amanda Parkes has done a lot of everything. She straddles the worlds of science and fashion deftly and expertly, both a jack of all trades and a master of them all. Even from her days in college at Stanford she couldn’t decide between the two fields--she received a BA in art history and a BS in mechanical engineering. At MIT she received her PhD in the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab, a group that “explores the Tangible Bits & Radical Atoms”, or in normal speak, takes data and makes it something 3D that you can touch and hold.
She has managed to build a very successful career out of the fusion of her interests, art and science, and to jump-start a niche industry at this intersection that was virtually nonexistent before she came along. After graduating MIT, and a short stint founding Bodega Algae, a biofuels company that went under in 2011, she founded Skinteractive Studios in Brooklyn, a group that researches and develops novel textiles for use in the fashion industry. The goal is look beyond wearables, such as watches or other gadgets, and to develop future technological materials out of new sources such as circuits or biology, which could possess novel functions such as responsiveness to the body or environment. Other companies with similar goals seek her expertise, and she consults with Thesis, Ringly, and the Google interactive textile project.
Parkes is additionally CTO of Manufacture New York, a Brooklyn-based fashion-tech incubator and factory. MNY’s broader mission is to revive domestic fashion manufacturing, with the addition of combining traditional fashion production processes with new technologies. It also serves as a space for designers to stay up to date with the newest developments in the wearables and new materials spaces. Parkes directs MNY’s R&D facilities, which include electronics, digital fab
rication, biology, and chemistry labs in their 160,000 square foot facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Parkes, as both an engineer and designer, takes a more intellectual and philosophical approach to fashion. She sees clothing as an “interface to help us navigate the world”. What do our clothes tell us about ourselves, and about our interactions with others and the world? How does this inform the future of textiles and technology? In an interview with Business of Fashion, she quotes: “ our bodies are our most intimate pieces of technology: they are entire ecosystems; they consume and create energy; they store and process data; they sense and communicate with their environments…. It’s up to us to define how we tap into the many modalities of the body through clothing as the interface to help us navigate the world, communicate, entertain or generally bring us greater understanding of ourselves.”
Don’t miss the chance to hear from Dr. Amanda Parkes as a panelist at Fashion 4WRD, at the Boston MFA tomorrow, Thursday September 17!
Photo courtesy of www.onelab.org
Full BOF interview with Dr. Parkes can be found here.