Interview: Vera de Pont

In the next couple of months, we are going to catch up with some of our former speakers. First in line is Vera de Pont. She was one of the speakers of TEDxEindhoven 2016. After graduating Cum Laude from the Design Academy in Eindhoven, she got her master’s degree in Sustainable Fashion at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam. Currently she is working on different projects for her own studio Vera de Pont, and for AnoukxVera (a studio she co-founded with Anouk van de Sande). We are curious to hear how she experienced speaking at TEDxEindhoven, and can’t wait to see what she is up to now!

How are you?
‘Good! Busy! And happy! I am doing lots of things I love to do, like material research, making prototypes and doing projects within a team. All aimed at either sustainable garments, footwear or on-demand production. Next to that, I give lectures about once a month. After the TEDx event, I was honoured to be invited to Slow Fashion Next in Madrid and MADE in Sao Paolo. I also really enjoy talking and exchanging thoughts at schools or institutes. It’s hard to track the impact of the TEDx lecture, but I won’t be surprised if it gave me more credibility as a speaker.

How do you look back at the TEDx event?
‘Overall, it was a great experience. The event itself was just very cool! Originally, I am from Eindhoven and I earned a Bachelor’s degree at the Design Academy Eindhoven. It only made sense for the TEDx invitation to also be in Eindhoven! It felt like things have come full circle. And I had a chance to meet the mayor of Eindhoven. I got to shake his hand!’ (She laughs.) ‘The preparation phase was so much fun, but also confrontational and informative. Back then I was mainly a material researcher, so it was a challenge to translate my ideas to the audience and keep a clear state of mind. The curator team of TEDx really helped me with this translation. They sit down with every speaker, ask critical questions and help you to reach the core of your story. The tips and tricks they gave me still help me with my lectures nowadays.’

Did you feel pressure?
‘Yes and no. There were a lot of people in a big room and you do not want to black out. But we (all the speakers, red.) were a tight group. We tried to help each other and give tips. The day before the event, we had dinner together. That was really fun and took away most of the pressure. We got to know each other pretty well and of course ‘high fives’ were in place after each talk.’

This reminds me of the Idols finales. With all the contestants in the green room, cheering for the one on stage!
‘Yes! That is exactly what it felt like haha! The people are what made TEDx so special. It is like a train filled with interesting people you would never come across in your day-to-day life.’

What tips do you want to give other speakers?
‘One that I try to remind myself of every day: stay true to yourself. André Amaro just stood on the TEDx stage with his backpack and an apple in his hand. For me that was a very genuine talk. We all know TED Talks, but if I could do it over again, I would completely let go of what I thought a TED Talk is supposed to be. And very important: don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you don’t know. Just be yourself and tell your own story, which is always something to be proud of. I remember, in my first version of my TED Talk, I put a reference to a book.’ (Laughing.) ‘Then Erwin (the curator of TEDx, red.) said: “Oh, you read a book? Well done! But why did you put it in your talk? Because you think a book reference is supposed to be in there? Let’s take it out!” I will never forget that.’

TEDx is all about spreading stories. As a designer, spreading stories is a big part of your work. How do you create stories?
‘As long as I can remember, I imagine projects and ideas with sounds and moving images in mind. Hardly ever in words or texts. It’s somewhat of a romantic experience although it’s very analytical and precise at the same time. It goes very fast. So to remember the sketches in my mind I will play the same song over and over again as if I’m replaying my brainstorm like a cassette tape. When exploring the story or project in my mind, and of course also outside of my mind at a certain point, it starts to develop chapters. These chapters can translate into very different projects. All my stories mostly have a relation to society. They are never born out of nowhere. But I can’t help that I tend to envision things in an almost cinematic way, zooming in and out of textures and “feel” the way I want material to move or the way I aim for the project to be communicated.’

Before TEDx you were asked to speak at the Design Indaba in Cape Town. How did you experience this?
‘Yes! Every year, one student of the Design Academy gets the chance to speak at the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town in South Africa. And in my year, I was the lucky one. It was very cool! It was in a huge room. Thankfully, because of the bright lights that were pointed towards me, I couldn’t see anyone in the audience, except for two little circular reflections of Lidewij Edelkoort’s spectacles (trend forecaster and the former head of the Design Academy Eindhoven, red.). Like in a cartoon, everything was black, but in the dark mass there were two little sparkles coming from her glasses. Just like with the TEDx team, I stayed in touch with Design Indaba after the conference. They aim to collaborate more with The Netherlands in the future. This last Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven they held their first Antenna, an interactive platform where 20 global graduates present their ideas and projects. They asked me as an MC.’

What are you up to now?
Currently I am developing my own ideas and projects further, which are all aimed at facilitating the DIY assembly method (for garments and footwear) with digital manufacturing technology. I can’t say too much about it yet though. Together with Anouk van de Sande, I develop on demand sportswear items called AnoukxVera for which we just created a very nice series of images and video on Lanzarote! I also work freelance as a prototype and material developer for international footwear companies and I am currently finalising the designs for two teams that were awarded with the WEAR Sustain funding, EU consortium. This funding aims to establish better interaction between technology and design, something I personally very much strive for. One of those teams is the Solemaker team, a project initiated by Troy Nightingale, where we aim to translate foot pressure points data into more material efficient and functional footwear. And last but not least, I am very much enjoying my position as a silkscreen instructor at the Design Academy Eindhoven. They will never get rid of me over there, haha.’