Smart, in­ven­tive and savvy, these Aus­tralian in­no­va­tors are mak­ing a tan­gi­ble dif­fer­ence to our ev­ery­day lives.

VOGUE Australia - - News - By Remy Rip­pon. Styled byy Philippa Moroney and Petta Chua. Pho­tographed byy Hugh Ste­wart and Max Papendieck.

Smart, in­ven­tive and savvy, these Aus­tralian in­no­va­tors are mak­ing a tan­gi­ble dif­fer­ence to our lives.

It’s a mag­i­cal time for in­no­va­tion, as most of us would agree. The theme of the 2016 Geneva World Eco­nomic Fo­rum was the “Fourth In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion”, with fo­rum chair­man Klaus Sch­wab stat­ing that the “speed of cur­rent break­throughs has no his­tor­i­cal prece­dent”.

The world we live in is one of in­fi­nite change, and it’s a time where it’s not only ap­plauded but also deemed cool to be a dis­rupter, feather ruf­fler, re-shaper, prob­lem-solver or tin­kerer. And as with all bold move­ments, which of­ten feel di­vorced from our daily lives, there is a trickle-down ef­fect, one that does im­pact upon the way we live.

You don’t have to look far to see ex­am­ples of this right now: seam­less swim­suits that melt into curves, skin balms that stream­line beauty reg­i­mens and apps that mon­i­tor ev­ery­thing from the way medicine is ad­min­is­tered to fer­til­ity win­dows. Thinkers and in­ven­tors who ques­tion the how, what and when of ev­ery­thing we do are all around us.

To follow, a new force of won­der-women in­no­va­tors who are trans­form­ing our ev­ery­day.


Cre­ator of Re­spia and 2016 global run­ner-up in the James Dyson Award For some, the abil­ity to gen­er­ate ideas must be in­grained at a cel­lu­lar level. At just 22, Kather­ine Kawecki has al­ready con­quered what many in­dus­trial de­sign­ers hope to achieve in an en­tire ca­reer by hav­ing her re­source­ful de­sign, Re­spia, recog­nised both na­tion­ally and on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

What started out as a uni­ver­sity pro­ject evolved into a mar­ketable prod­uct: an asthma man­age­ment sys­tem com­bin­ing a Blue­tooth-en­abled in­haler with a wear­able patch that tracks users’ res­pi­ra­tory health and stream­lines the way med­i­ca­tion is ad­min­is­tered. “It’s de­signed to help peo­ple my age, young adults, to bet­ter un­der­stand and en­gage with their asthma,” says the Syd­ney-based in­dus­trial de­sign grad­u­ate, who is an asth­matic her­self.

Last year, Kawecki was hon­oured as one of two run­ners-up in the 2016 James Dyson Award for her in­ven­tion, an apt out­come given a pre­vi­ous win­ner of the award had mo­ti­vated her to pur­sue her field of study in the first place. “I went to the Pow­er­house Mu­seum and saw one of that year’s win­ners speak­ing and it in­spired me to con­sider it [in­dus­trial de­sign] as a de­gree,” she re­mem­bers.

Just five years on from that time and Kawecki would be re­ceiv­ing the nod of ap­proval from Dyson him­self, who re­mains one of her great­est in­flu­ences. “The way he de­signs some­thing – a hair dryer, a vac­uum cleaner – it com­pletely dis­rupts and rev­o­lu­tionises the mar­ket,” she says.

Pos­i­tive fe­male role models, among them ar­chi­tect Zaha Ha­did and some of her uni­ver­sity lec­tur­ers and tu­tors, have also helped pave her way. “The de­sign process is re­ally de­pen­dent on the user ex­pe­ri­ence and em­pa­thy – be­ing able to em­pathise with the user and not to de­sign what you would like but what the user would find re­ally use­ful. I think that’s re­ally im­por­tant,” she says. De­sign­ers and co-founders, Ward Whillas “We kind of geek out on new tech­nol­ogy and in­tel­li­gent con­struc­tion,” says Ali­cia Whillas, one half of US-based tech­ni­cal swim brand Ward Whillas. With her co-founder Rosie Ward Densen, the Aus­tralian duo bor­rowed in­no­va­tions seen in the ac­tivewear and sneaker mar­ket for swimwear con­struc­tion.

“We found that swimwear was a very stagnant area in fash­ion, where lit­tle had changed since the 70s,” says Ward Densen. “We would be look­ing at sneak­ers or the con­struc­tion of shapewear and won­der why no-one was util­is­ing these tech­niques in swim.”

Mar­ry­ing form and func­tion, Ward Whillas de­ploys cut­ting-edge tech­niques such as ul­tra­sonic weld­ing (us­ing high fre­quency sound – yes, sound – to bond two lay­ers of fab­ric so they’re seam­lessly re­versible) and high-per­for­mance Ital­ian com­pres­sion fab­rics that are UV-re­sis­tant, quick-dry­ing and flat­ter­ing. Sim­ple in­no­va­tions, says Whillas, that were un­der­utilised when it came to swimwear con­struc­tion. “I think it is im­por­tant to ap­proach fash­ion like any other form of de­sign. Fun­da­men­tally, it should ad­dress a need and we should con­stantly strive to im­prove upon what al­ready ex­ists. In­no­va­tion is of­ten the key to facilitating this.”

But be­yond ad­vance­ment for in­no­va­tion’s sake, above all Ward Whillas strives to make get­ting into a bikini come sum­mer­time a sim­ple task.

“A woman is rarely more pub­licly ex­posed and self-con­scious as when she is in swimwear – our­selves in­cluded,” says Whillas. “In­no­va­tion has al­lowed us to de­sign swimwear that helps a woman feel con­fi­dent and em­pow­ered.”


Founder and CEO of Lano and Lano­lips One could never ac­cuse the beauty in­dus­try of lack­ing in­no­va­tion. Yet some­times it’s the sim­plest prod­ucts that are the most pi­o­neer­ing. Just ask Kirsten Carriol, founder of Aus­tralian cult beauty brand Lano. Grow­ing up on a sheep farm, Carriol ap­plied lano­lin as an ev­ery­day salve and saw first-hand its ben­e­fits. But con­vinc­ing the beauty in­dus­try that the wax-like paste de­rived from wool was the won­der prod­uct she knew it to be wasn’t with­out its chal­lenges. “I walked away from the big­gest labs in the world be­cause they just didn’t get it,” says Carriol, who had a ca­reer in beauty PR be­fore turn­ing her hand to prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. “For ev­ery­thing I’ve for­mu­lated, I pick one, some­times two in­gre­di­ents in the prod­uct that re­ally work.”

Now the rest of the world agrees that her mag­i­cal in­gre­di­ent gets re­sults. Lano re­tails in 20 coun­tries glob­ally and this year its range of lips balms, hand creams and ev­ery­day oint­ments will be avail­able in the US at ULTA Beauty, Free Peo­ple, Nord­strom, Bloom­ing­dales, An­thro­polo­gie and Vi­o­let Grey – a make-or-break mar­ket for beauty brands. “With any­one who’s in­no­vat­ing, you’re do­ing some­thing that no-one has done be­fore, so you need to have a bit of Dutch courage; blind faith in your own prod­uct.”


Kather­ine Kawecki wears a Cé­line dress. Ge­org Jensen bracelet. Saint Lau­rent shoes, from Cos­mopoli­tan Shoes.

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