I was on Reality TV and Came Out Shining on the Other Side

Madison Maxey, Alison Lewis (me), Lloyd Emelle on the Set of America’s Greatest Makers. Photo by Tommy Baynard / © 2016 Intel Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Two days before our pitch on TBS’s “America’s Greatest Makers” our product wasn’t where it needed to be for the pitch, and the only thing I could do was prep the team and go for it with what we had. In innovation, there are a million failures, but the great thing about failure is that it provides insight into what can be a success and at times, insight into yourself.

Behind the scenes of a Reality TV Show is different than what we see edited on screen when it comes out. What we don’t see is the challenging 3 months of building and learning and putting together a digital color changing shirt from absolute scratch. Our team researched 4 different methods for building the lighted flexible circuits, we found the perfect little LEDS to use next time, switched Intel hardware twice before landing on the right one, and found a partner to help us make flexible circuits for the next iteration of the product.

What I didn’t expect over the course of those three arduous crazy months leading up to the pitch was that I would rediscover the pleasure and satisfaction in applying my own skills. I soldered, selected electronic components, customer researched and interviewed, fixed electronic circuits, designed layouts, learned new software, 3D modeled, 3D printed all the enclosures, and soldered the product together. I got my hands dirty again, the artist came out and designed, drew, animated, sewed, 3D printed, and soldered. It felt wonderful. The other competitors and I felt this power of creating within ourselves. From that sprouted a great respect between all of us on the show. We enjoyed each others intelligence and our differences. The support of the other contestants has made us friends for life. What the show did was allow us to make things and let our minds be challenged. We got to know each other and we expected greatness from one another. It’s made me a better designer and hopefully a better leader from being a part of the show.

Alison (me) Sewing in our room two nights before the pitch competition. Photo by Lloyd Emelle

As for the Chroma Colour Collection of digital shirts, they have been brought inside Switch Embassy for further development with the stretchy circuits. Lloyd is working on the mobile application in his spare time and fixing that pesky tap feature that gave us so much trouble. If you like the product, we’d love to know. You can sign up for more information here: www.switchembassy.com/chromacolour.

Lloyd, Maddy, and I, have gone back to our respective companies but remain close. Lloyd Emelle is in Philly, coding and redefining machine learning (you can find him at melle.io). Madison Maxey raised funds for her company, The Crated, just after the show and is working on ways to make e-textile manufacturing easier for everyone.

And Me? I run Switch Embassy, the Fashion Technology Lab, and love every minute of it. After working with my hands again, I embarked on a passion project. I am making handbags imbued with sparkling colorful light. You can order one here: http://switchembassy.com/geometry-darling-handbags.

I named the bags “Geometry Darling” and “Geo Mini” and they are everything a fashionable woman loves about handbags with the magic of tech. These bags are made in Italy by craftsmen, with no expense spared, and every detail considered. They are an elegant expression of a life changing experience. There is personal empowerment in every stitch that comes from deep gratitude and a feeling of joy when shared with others.

Geometry Darling Handbag with Candy Colored Light. © 2016 Photo by Switch Embassy All Rights Reserved.

The bags are connected to my true calling, my journey for creating beautiful experiences that are more than practical functionality. We need experiences that last longer than a season and speak to us as human beings and how we represent and share ourselves with the world. Tech is boring alone. Without the human connection, our bodies are a bunch of wires and nodes. By integrating fabric, warmth, joy, creativity and color we can connect on a deeper level and express ourselves as never before.


Alison Lewis is a designer, author, speaker, and inventor. She is the founder of the fashion technology lab, Switch Embassy, where she does technology strategy and consulting for brands and builds innovative wearable experiences.

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