If you’re in the inner circles of fashion, you may know British designer Sarah Angold, the creator of Sarah Angold Studio. And if you are a jewelry enthusiast, then it is definitely time to meet this amazing designer. Sarah is only what we can describe as a continually rising star. In 2015, she designed WGSN’s Global Fashion Awards’ “skyscraper,” a trophy handed out for the industry awards. In 2016, she won Vogue Italia’s “Vogue Talents” award, alongside London Hospital Club’s 100 People's Choice Fashion award. With this success, she is now stocked internationally.
So why is Sarah so successful? It’s because of the technology and digital materials she uses in her product designs. Most recently, Sarah, a technologist by any modern definition, collaborated with our product design and engineering teams to create custom-made jewelry pieces embedding Avery Dennison RFID technology. These stunning designs were recently unveiled at this week’s DECODED Fashion New York Summit.
Working side-by-side with Sarah, we linked Oak Labs’ interactive mirrors to her jewelry to elevate the consumer experience. Through a live demonstration at DECODED, attendees had the chance to stand in front of the mirror, gaining immediate access to item-level product information, insights into how/where it was made and were even given styling recommendations for a totally unique retail experience. To understand the evolution of technology and design, we sat down with Sarah to learn just how technology’s use in consumer experiences is critical to retail success.
You are a textiles designer who has designed concept cars for Toyota and created lighting installations for the Design Museum. With a background in seemingly traditional design, where did you develop the architectural and technical aspects of your skills?
While it is true that I studied textiles, producing traditional fabrics was not my goal. If you take textile design at its broadest point, let's call it ‘material and process design,’ that is a better description of my practice. My collaborations with the industrial design engineering, product and vehicle design departments at the Royal College of Art, the Helen Hamlyn Centre for human centered design, and Imperial College set a path of cross-disciplinary design that I have followed ever since.
Your design work is extremely holistic and fluid, the handbags, jewelry, lighting and small decor items feel like they all belong to one collection. Did you start in one category and move to another or were the design in each bucket from day one?
In many ways I think the division between these design categories is quite imagined. Creativity and a strong design aesthetic can be applied to any project and learning new discipline-specific skills is what keeps my career interesting! I take on projects based on their unique scope and rarely notice which discipline they fall into. What is consistent is that the studio’s wide range of projects cross-pollinate and that is how we are able to come up with ground breaking designs and unique thinking.
What were some of the challenges you faced in bringing product design and engineering together?Design-tech is all about problem-solving, and language is actually the biggest challenge. Artists, designers, technologists, scientists and engineers all speak different professional languages. We often make assumptions that other people think like us, but it takes time and patience to come up with a brilliant cross-disciplinary project because what may seem obvious to one person is not to another.
How do you overcome those challenges?
You cannot rush conversations. It is important to explore a variety of projects, ideas and experiences, not just ones you think are relevant.
How did the collaboration with Avery Dennison RFID begin? What has it offered you?
I aim to find partners who have the vision, ambition and most importantly the balls to strive beyond what already exists. I was already familiar with Avery Dennison’s experimental outlook when they approached me about this project, and it was clear from our first conversation that we shared not only a creative outlook, but also a desire to ‘make things better.’ For me, that is the essence of what design and tech are about.
What benefits have come from embedding RFID into your pieces?
Fashion is already our clearest form of everyday communication. It communicates who we are, where we are from, what we are doing and how we want to be perceived. By integrating RFID, it now gives the opportunity for two-way communication in the store so the brand can interact directly with the consumer through the product.
We are living in an increasingly connected world, how do you think technology is going to transform products in our everyday lives?
Technology is already pretty inescapable, but as we move forward the difference will be in its visibility. We will not have to ask our appliances to perform, they will do it automatically based on the personal preferences they learn. Devices will gradually disappear; instead tech will be integrated into what we adorn ourselves with just like the jewelry I have created with Avery Dennison.
Personalization is important to your customers. How will RFID elevate your consumers’ experiences?
We are now in a position where personalization is not restricted to static, predetermined design features. Bespoke fashion used to mean choosing your fabric, colors and measurements, technology has changed that definition. With RFID, I can trigger unique content and tailored information that my customer can respond to in real-time. This will not just elevate my customer’s experience – it will create it.
If you could give other designers two pieces of advice about incorporating technology into their work, what would it be?
Start cross disciplinary conversations early, ideally before a project has even begun. So many of the design-tech products currently on the market fail to integrate these two elements seamlessly, leaving customers with a dissatisfactory experience. Either the technology functionality is compromised for aesthetics or design is compromised to make way for gimmicky technology, the best products balance both.
What makes Sarah Angold Studio different?
Our way of thinking, we have an ambition to tackle what we do not yet understand and it is great to feel uncertain in what the future holds because that is where true innovation lies.