E-Textiles: Yuchen Zhang

Yuchen Zhang has worked with some of the world's leading companies, including Google and Pentagram. But, nothing beat starting her own business and marrying her graphic design background with her passion for fashion and technology. Today, she is co-founder and CEO of Wearable Media, which provides e-textile technologies for high-tech fashion products.

Yuchen Zhang ’10 (Graphic Design B.F.A.) grew up in Xi'an, China, where she witnessed her parents build their business from the ground up. The experience left an indelible entrepreneurial mark on her. From an early age, she developed an interest in technology and, over time, a deep fascination for its application in fashion.

Zhang has shown her technologically-enhanced fashion designs around the world and was recently a fellow at the MIT Open Style Lab. After several years working as a fashion technology designer for the likes of Zac Posen and Loomia, she observed that many designers were interested in fashion-related technologies, but often had difficulty incorporating them into their designs.

"Integrating current technologies into fashion continues to excite designers. But, many find it challenging to understand the technologies enough to be able to employ them successfully," Zhang said. "It's basically a case of designers and engineers speaking different languages,"

she added. Zhang has significant knowledge in both fields - she saw a gap in the marketplace that she could fill.

Itching to strike out on her own, Zhang teamed up with Jingwen Zhu and Hellyn Teng to co-found Wearable Media. Based at the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator hub, the start-up provides e-textile technologies and consulting services to fashion companies looking to develop high-tech products. This fall, it is building an installation around the future of e-textiles for the EdLab, a research, design and development unit at Teacher's College, Columbia University. It is also involved in Futureworks NYC, a hardware incubator program by the New York City Economic Development Corp.

Zhang credits MICA with helping her to build a business instead of the traditional art and design practice.

MICA not only honed my design skills and instincts, it imparted a lot of practical, real-world knowledge that helped to sharpen my business acumen."

Wearable Media is growing and will move in September 2017 to New Inc., the first museum-led cultural incubator program by the New Museum.