Today we’d like to introduce you to Kristine Upesleja.
Kristine, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started as a costume designer for opera and theater back in Europe. I worked for more than 20 years all over Europe before I moved in 2000 from Berlin to LA. Soon I learned that LA is not a theater city, at least not a very innovative one. Very traditional theater productions didn’t excite me.
I never was interested in the movie production process. I love the real, being in the moment experience and life on stage moment that makes theater so adventurous. So what was I supposed to do? My love for textiles, materials and fashion has always been in my DNA since I was a little girl. As a costume designer I used to dye, pleat, cut, sew, print textiles and manipulated materials with different tools to make the costumes look more exciting.
Through a friend, I learned about a job opening at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA as a textiles specialist. A whole new experience. I was slowly transferring into researching and lecturing. One day I had my AHA moment which changed everything. In a magazine, I saw the picture of a raincoat that could be transformed into a blow-up mattress. I was a conceptual design and was called ‘Urban Survivor”. The idea and concept behind it struck me. I started to research innovative garments and textiles and a whole new world opened up to me.
With the support of my former boss, the Library director at FIDM, I founded ten years ago the Innovative Textiles and Materials Department. Meanwhile, this department hosts the biggest innovative materials collection at a US college. The collection contains garments made from coffee grounds, orange peel fibers, and coconut husks, garments made with a 3D printer, shoes made from mushroom and corn, and wearable technology.
We live in a materials world, materials surround us where ever we go. Due to the world’s pollution, especially plastic pollution we need to rethink our lifestyles. The fashion Industry is one of the major polluters in the world. This needs to change. Out of the urgent need for education, I also started my own consulting firm MADISONS- Innovative Materials Consulting. I’ve been giving lectures and presentation worldwide and consult for companies who are looking for alternative materials. I recently was part of the BRAVO Project Runway web series about sustainability, technology, and Science as the expert. I’m also a lecturer a ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena where I created a whole new class: WEARABLES: Material Futures.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It wasn’t a smooth road at all. I came to this country without a working visa. I was allowed to stay here due to my ex-husband’s working visa.but not allowed to work. I left my well-paid job behind and had nothing here. From the moment I landed in LA, my entire life fell apart. I got seriously sick (two-time cancer survivor), my marriage fell apart, no work, no money, my mum passed. NO perspective at all. AND I had to take care of my child. Piece by piece and with the help of amazing people in my community I put the puzzle back together. Today I am a US citizen and well-respected expert in my field, a new field that I created with my survivor skills.
Here I am 19 years later.
Please tell us about Madisons-Innovative Materials Consulting.
What sets me apart from others is my knowledge and experience personally and professionally that I have acquired a long time ago. Long time before sustainability became the IT word. MY life experience and survivor skills set me apart!!!
I started to teach about the threats to environment when nobody wanted to listen. However, some people did. Over the years, I developed relationships with international companies that want to change the toxic practices in the fashion and design world. I specialize in sustainability/circular economy, wearable tech, the possibilities in 3D printing, AND Biofashion, which means merging fashion/design and biology.
I’m proud that companies and designers are looking for my expertise. I have collaborated with companies such as BOSS, Patagonia, PETA, and GUESS. The latest success story was my invitation to be part of the Project Runway STEM web series.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory is getting always dressed up in my mum’s clothes. Wearing her high heels, the petticoats, the hats. She was such a wonderful stylish lady.
- Address: 2140 Lemoyne Street LA
- Website: www.madisonsinnovative.com
- Phone: 3233602219
- Email: Kristine@madisonsinnovative.com
- Instagram: madisonsinnovative
- Facebook: Madisons Innovative
- Twitter: Madisons Innovative