The Space in Between is an innovative textile project by Suzanne Oude Hengel and Milou Voorwinden. The project explores the creation and application of knitted and woven spacers, in a new and exciting way. By working alongside the machines and closely with the technicians Francesc Manosa and Francesc Pera of Eurecat, Oude Hengel and Voorwinden are able to engineer each step of the process, allowing for functionalities to be built directly into the fabric. Focusing on application in footwear, the spacers could offer support, cushioning and protection. This technology and way of working allows for on demand personalisation tailored to the needs of the individual.
The idea for our project came about during our first trip to Eurecat, which is based just outside Barcelona as part of an education exchange, Milou was inspired by the spacer fabrics Suzanne was creating on the flat bed knitting machines and wanted to develop her own woven versions. On the plane journey home from the trip we were discussing all the exciting ways we could use the fabrics. We realised that from these initial developments we did not want to stop working on the spacer fabrics.
THE BIRTH OF THE PROJECT:
Our project was born out of a joint need to keep pushing the machines and innovating both the textile and footwear industries. After having only touched the surface of spacer fabrics during our first two trips to Eurecat, we knew we needed to dig deeper and research further. Seeing how lightweight the fabrics were but how much support they could give, we wanted to explore how they could be used in the footwear to offer new design solutions. The fact the fabrics could be individually tailored and potentially customised to an individual needs was also something really exciting and drove us to keep exploring.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS:
For us development and research is always done directly next to the machines, working closely with technicians. This allows us to make adjustments and changes as we are working and react to what is happening straight away. This immediate reaction is important for us as it means we can everything as it happens, even the mistakes and be inspired by them.
During the WORTH Project we went on three development trips to Eurecat where we would work intensively with the technicians, producing lots and lots of samples. Each trip we would refine and develop the previous samples we had made. However, during this process we would keep creating exciting new work which we did not have enough time to explore further. For us this was the biggest problem we faced, too many exciting opportunities but too little time.
Working together as a group allows for all parties to inspire each other and offer new perspectives and conclusions that you may not have come to alone. For us this happens between technicians and designer but also designer to designer. Even though we work in different disciplines of knit and weave, we can still be inspired by each other’s process and work.
The collaborations allowed us to build better relationships with each other and grow as a team – learning from each other in different ways. Bringing a creative and design led approach, often makes the technicians approach things different to how they may have before. For us we have learned valuable technical knowledge including programming and how to handle the machines.
This combination of creativity, technical knowledge and forward thinking really allowed us to achieve exciting and unexpected results and take the project further than we had imagined.
After the Worth Project we plan to keep developing our spacer fabrics with the intent to create a stable product that can be used in footwear. We are going to work with Vibram and their innovation department to further our research and create some exciting footwear concepts. It would also be great to explore other markets such as smart textiles. It can allow you and the party you are collaborating with to break free from personal boundaries (sometimes ones you don’t even realise you have)!
Getting out of your comfort zone can also allow you to challenge the industry’s status quo and capabilities and to show what can be achieved when you pursue creativity and innovation.
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Suzanne Oude Hengel
Knitwear researcher and footwear innovator based in the Netherlands. She is currently working as a technician at the TextielLab in Tilburg and she owns her own studio where she works as an independent designer. She focuses on collaborative projects. She graduated at the product design department of ArtEZ University of Arts in Arnhem where her graduation project was a collection of knitted shoes.
- Suzanne Oude Hengel
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MILOU VOORWINDEN graduated at the product design department of ArtEZ University of Arts in Arnhem. Her collection focuses on 3-dimensional readymade objects. Milou engineers and innovates woven structures. She currently works as programmer and product developer at EEExclusives in Heeze. In the meantime, she runs her owns studio where she collaborates on base projects.
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Virginia García Candel is Director of Research and Development of the Functional Textiles Unit at Eurecat. This research unit combines knowledge of textile structures and new materials and focuses on the integration of textile wearables. Virginia studied Telecommunications at the University of Malaga, Spain. She has worked at the Functional Textiles Unit for almost 3 years providing high performance textile solutions to the industry.