Jasna Rok: ‘In my dreams we only own one piece of clothing that develops with its wearer’ – Fashion

Jasna Rokegem, the Belgian fashion technology businesswoman, believes that clothing can contribute to our physical and mental well-being. “The current health crisis shows that the fashion sector needs to change. It’s time to be sensitive, innovative and sustainable.”

Jasna Rokegem (27) graduated as a fashion designer at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2015 and founded her own fashion tech company Jasna Rok the following year. Her work may sound futuristic, but the businesswoman already has many awards and collaborations, such as those with Nokia and NASA, on her record. Rokegem does not allow grass to grow over it. “If you have an innovative idea, you have to dare to work it out,” is their motto.

Jasna Rokegem (27) graduated as a fashion designer at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2015 and founded her own fashion tech company Jasna Rok the following year. Her work may sound futuristic, but the businesswoman already has many awards and collaborations, such as those with Nokia and NASA, on her record. Rokegem does not allow grass to grow over it. “If you have an innovative idea, you have to dare to work it out,” is their motto. In her latest project “Opera on Brainwaves”, a collaboration with the opera singer Elise Caluwaerts, Jasna deals with topics such as empathy, self-confidence, intimacy and connection in a technologically advanced spectacle. Unfortunately, the Corona crisis also throws a spanner into the works for Jasna Rok and “Opera on Brainwaves” cannot be started at this time. “All events are cancelled and it is difficult to warm up companies to invest in new projects.” Nevertheless, it remains positive: “We have to look forward and think forward. I’m not going to sit in the suits, it’s not in my nature. We are on the verge of a new beginning. The Corona crisis has a major impact on all areas. Nothing will be spared. It’s time to get your head out of the sand and find constructive solutions.” Jasna Rokegem: A crisis is a catalyst for change. Things that were in the pipeline or remained on the shelf are now gaining momentum. Just look at how many people are now flocking and using digital tools to continue their work from home. Extreme situations such as wars or space travel always offer innovations. Many inventions made in these periods seem like a distant show, but they won’t take a closer look. For example, space exploration has spawned developments such as gps or the telephone; Applications that we now use every day. Crisis situations are linked to changes of consciousness. People look at things from a different angle and are more open to innovation. Behavior changes then result in system changes. If the economy gets back on track after the closure, it will be with bumps and bruises. The empathy we now feel for each other must continue in this time to help each other. I believe very much in the power of Emotion Tech, a technology that can read and visualize our emotions. When I asked you earlier what you miss most during the lockdown, you said ‘human contact’. That’s why we need to invest in Emotion Tech. At the moment, we are all wondering what is happening in the world, how we feel, how we can deal with these feelings, and how we can show them to other people. I see this as a time of self-reflection. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear and panic, we can take the time to think carefully about what we do as humanity. It is time to reassess everything on the basis of authenticity, vulnerability, transparency and, above all, empathy. Emotion Tech is an international language that makes abstract concepts visually tangible. You don’t have to speak each other’s language to understand each other through emotional technology, because everyone knows joy and sadness, stress and relaxation, loss, loneliness and connection. These feelings unite us as human beings. In this crisis, we are all in the same boat. I think this is the ideal time to ask why racism still exists. This crisis makes it clear that we are all equal. I believe in that. There are several reasons why we would all benefit from “smart” clothing. My previous project ‘(RE)connect’, which I did as Artist in Residence at Nokia Bell Labs, is currently on view at NASA Space Center in Houston. It is a garment that recognizes the wearer’s emotions and then simulates them with colors and feedback in the form of vibrations. It translates emotions with the aim of understanding ourselves better, but also facilitating empathy. In the long term, I hope that, thanks to such intelligent clothing, we can also send our emotions together. Social degrading means that we cannot physically be in the same room, but that does not mean that we cannot exchange emotions. The experience of experiencing something together and making memories is very important for people. We are social beings. To meet this need, I try to experience something with my interlocutors during Skype appointments. Having breakfast together, each in their own house, works very well for me. They share something with the people on the other side of the screen. I also like this idea for a meeting. Based on what the other person has prepared, you will learn about their personality. Does anyone have a vegan breakfast? Does someone else just eat bacon with eggs? Another person chooses yoghurt and muesli. It is a prelude to conversation and creates a friendly and very personal atmosphere. An intelligent garment that monitors not only our medical health, but also emotional health is the solution. My grandfather is currently only quarantined. If we had emotionally intelligent garments, we could also experience each other’s emotions during our phone calls by forwarding and visualizing them. Emotions are also very important in wordless experiences. You have just spoken of innovations that are conceived and developed in times of crisis. Have you seen interesting innovations emerge during the Corona crisis? My fiancĂ© Aaron Claeys is the founder of Nanex, a company that uses nanotechnology to keep textiles and leather clean. At the beginning of the Corona crisis, he immediately began to invent an ecological way to obtain antiviral scant from humans. From this brainstorming came an antiviral cleaner, which unfortunately is not yet on the market in Belgium, because the legislation is not yet complete. You can use the cleaner on your clothing, for example on a mouth mask, to provide additional protection. We want to go one step further and jointly produce antiviral substances that designers can work with. It still requires a lot of research, but those who dare not will not win. This fits perfectly with my dream of making clothes that can really do anything: measuring our temperature and heart rate, visualizing our emotions, keeping it clean, keeping its wearer healthy due to antibacterial and antiviral properties, and so on. That would also be a good idea for the environment. This type of clothing does not yet exist, but any innovation that steers us in this direction is a building block for a smarter and more sustainable fashion future. Let’s look at the whole picture. I think that the fashion industry and the economic system behind this sector must be completely overthrown. We have had the feeling for some time that the system is on the verge of collapse. Again and again that races against time to prepare collections in time for next season, designers at the top who stop or commit suicide, garment workers exploited, tons of clothes buried or bandaged because we already have far too much. This is unsustainable. The fashion sector is one of the most polluting industries in the world. So we really need to think very carefully about how we can make it more sustainable. In my ideal future, we all have a garment that can do everything, adapt to the wearer and grow with it. This one piece will not replace the creative jobs, but will simply introduce a new business model. You can compare it to the business model of the telecommunications industry: we all have only one phone, but many applications. Digitisation does not need to diminish creativity. Let’s remember the system so that every connection in the industry can work better and more sustainably. It is also important that everything remains in a closed loop, so that there is no more waste and every connection is connected. Jasna Rok is not a product-based company, but believes very strongly in services. We think about concepts that seem useful to us and develop. It’s about dealing creatively with the situation. We have too many clothes in the world, so we need to think about how things can be done differently. Why not develop digital collections and share them virtually with fans? This allows designers to get direct feedback from their customers and produce much more specifically. Or create digital filters from designs that use Mcan “dress” at video meetings and games? There are ways, we just have to dare to take them. The companies that can now find themselves and reinvent themselves, to continue to exist. It takes courage and creativity, but it’s just refreshing. The system as it was no longer enough. Reflect and learn. Let us all work together! I get a lot of inspiration from nature and find ants fascinating. They are small animals that cannot achieve much in themselves, but together form a kind of superorganism and move mountains. As human beings, we should also act as a super-organism and unite. Ants are successful because they have a common goal and work it. If the fashion industry were less individualistic and worked more as a community, we could restore balance. The risk of failure is much less likely if you rely on each other’s knowledge and talents. I believe that a sustainable future is possible if we all dare to cross borders.