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Billie's latest invention is a fashionable workout line that provides yoga instruction via vibration.
As CEO of Wearable X, Billie Whitehouse designs and builds hardware, software, and apparel. She recently launched an activated yoga apparel line called NadiX, that has embedded technology throughout the hips, knees, and ankles to guide your form in yoga with gentle vibration as to where you should focus your intention. Billie is originally from Sydney, Australia and moved to U.S. four years ago to grow the company and expand into the US market.
How did you first get involved in the tech and fashion space?
I got involved in tech and fashion because my background was in design. I was actually in design education, so I was researching what the future of the industry was going to look like for these young students. I realized that I was connecting the dots from vastly different ideas to create something entirely new, and that truly excited me. To me, that was what made innovation so wonderful and brilliant and different. So, I started exploring these areas like 3D printing, customization and digital printing, and then I started looking at censors. I had no idea how to build anything, but what I learned was the language that this was possible. I started exciting myself by the research I was doing. I’d spend most of my Saturdays on the computer or reading the newspaper, and it truly made me a better person for all of the research that I did. That being said, I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to build something for another brand, and that was how I got my first start.
What does your average work day consist of?
My average work day starts rather early. I really like to exercise; I think it makes me have a clear mind. So, I either go to a class or I go for a run, and then I tend to start with a journal. I write the date, where I am, and then I start with how I’m feeling that day. For me, that is really important for what I’m going to take into the rest of the day with me. Whether I need to let something go, or whether I need to work on something, that feeling is very important. And then I make a list. That list consists of many various things, everything from looking at new software, to team developments, to looking at sales, to board documents, to designing something.
For me, the physicality of writing something by hand is so important. We live in such a digital age that I think its important to use your hands to physically build things. After I make those notes, I’ll go back to my computer and shoot through an hour of emails, and then the team arrives and we’ll have a group discussion. As I’m sure you know, the day never goes quite according to plan. There’s always mischief that happens, but I try to get through my list and check in with myself to make sure I try and stay happy throughout the day.
What advice do you have for teens looking to break into the tech wearables industry?
My advice is to watch people. When you’re on the subway, study the people around you. Understand people’s habits and daily routines. Understand how people want to spend their spare time. Look at those areas, and see where there’s an opportunity to design for it. Secondly, I think it’s important to understand yourself. Explore what you really care about and how you want to spend your time, and then design your career around that!
Did you formally study fashion or technology?
I did formally study fashion. I believe fashion is a technology. There are elements of fashion like knitwear and pattern making, which truly are mathematical and scientific. Not only that, but they are based, and built by the most miraculous technologies. I think the infrastructure you’re given by learning a skillset at university is truly about the process of learning, and knowing that nothing is truly unachievable. Everything is possible, it’s about taking the time and energy that it requires to really learn those skills. As a fashion designer, I was always told that anything was possible, and that the best fashion designers were true anthropologists. That’s hopefully what I have become!
What is your favorite, and most difficult part about your job?
My favorite part is watching the faces of people that put on my product, and watching their bodies change when the vibrational sequences happen on the body. That is truly the “aha moment” when you are flabbergasted with the result of what you’ve been working on for such a long time. The hardest part is definitely getting people to try it on. When you’re building something so new, it is sometimes intimidating for people. Truly, we are coming out with an entirely new market in an entirely new industry, and that has its own challenges. Certainly, simplicity is key for a lot of the work that we do.
How do you stay current on things happening in your industry?
To stay current in my industry, I think it’s important to follow particular leaders, people, and publications that are writing about the relevant topics. Certainly, I read Wired, I enjoy TechCrunch, and there’s the Fortune Data Sheet which I read every day. Adam Lashinsky is a very intelligent human and is very relevant to what we do. That being said I try to surround myself with really interesting people; whether that’s neurosurgeons or data scientists or creative artists and food designers… I think that disparate community is what makes me a better and more interesting person, because I have a touchpoint in all of those industries through those people.
How does one choose the right career?
Make sure first and foremost that it’s beyond the career, you’re actually designing the life you want. That, I think, not a lot of people are encouraged to think about early on. I wish someone had told me that when I was in high school. I wish someone had said design the life you want, as well as the career, and make sure they fit each other. That to me is a huge part of how you find success and how you find the ability to keep going, because if you’re enjoying it and your life is good, then your career is good. Keep your imagination as stretchable as possible. Don’t let any of the limitations affect what you think you can do, and also make sure you can pay your bills!
What does it mean to you to Find Your Grind?
To “find your grind” for me is also about finding your flow. Often, “flow” is described as that time when time disappears, when you’re working on something that you care about so much that time seems to disappear. You care about this so much that you just can’t stop! That to me was part of my experience, and I hope that everyone can find their grind!
Words by Natasha Barritt on Jul 27, 2017