Creator Q&A: Lumi Co.

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Stephen and Genet are a pair of LA-based designers who have engineered a new textile printing capability they call “The Lumi Process.” With it, they’re able to print vivid, photo-realistic images on natural materials, like denim and raw leather, without any chemical treatment or processing. Lumi Co., their collaborative brand based around the technology, will feature a line of limited edition accessories and high-quality art prints. It’s eco-friendly, fashionable, and — in our book — pretty damn cool.  Backers can pledge to receive all number of neat Lumi goods, including coasters, wallets and leather (!!) envelopes.

See what the two had to say about their project below. Support it here.

What inspired the idea of Lumi? It seems crazy something like this hasn’t existed before!

Jesse: First and foremost Lumi has been driven by our belief that with focus and determination anything is possible. I conceived of the idea back in high school when I was operating a fashion company and began to question why my creativity had to be limited by the materials and technologies that I could find in the yellow pages. Choosing textile imaging as a focus, I began an in-depth quest to learn every way that people in every culture have applied imagery to fabrics through the ages. What resulted was a deep knowledge of why we’ve come to use the technologies that are currently available, but also exactly where their limitations lie. Still unsatisfied and looking for solutions I began to study types of printing that weren’t textile related, that is when I uncovered the building blocks to the Lumi Process.

Fueled by an obscure reference in an old book about a printing technique I’d never heard of, the Lumi Process had its start. Even though there was NO information to be found on Google, or any other conventional method, I quickly became convinced that this obscure technique could be developed into a production ready technology for the fashion industry. After almost five years of tracking down information, pouring over old patents, and rigorous experimentation the pieces are all in place and we’re ready to bring the Lumi Process to market!

How did you guys engineer the Lumi printing process? What makes it so important?

How do two non-engineer design students sit down and engineer something? It wasn’t easy, but we had the advantage of having a great understanding of how the printing process works. We’d sit down with a diagram of what we needed to accomplish, pick a certain functional attribute, and then brainstorm and test until we thought of something that did the job. Luckily, brilliant engineer friends helped check our work, but through of our lack of experience with established engineering we arrived at some unconventional methods that proved both sound and effective. 

There are many technical advantages to using the Lumi Process, but in our eyes there are two key attributes that make the technology important. First, due to the nature of it’s development, the Lumi Process works on a very different fundamental premise than other available technologies… It isn’t a stencil process (like screen-printing) or a transfer process (like sublimation) and it doesn’t rely on ink-jet technologies (like digital printing). Because it works on a different fundamental, we’re thrilled that the Lumi Process can literally expand the creative potential for textiles. The other key attribute that makes the Lumi Process important is its authenticity. With Lumi we are able to print photography, without any manipulation, onto all-natural materials, without needing to coat them or use harsh chemicals to set the print. Besides being artistic and Eco-friendly we like to think that the authenticity runs deeper. Being able to print incredible imagery onto impressive all-natural materials without disturbing the integrity of either is truly exciting to us.

Do you draw inspiration from certain kinds of images? Is the material you choose to print an image inspired by the nature of the image… or vice versa?

Yes! Although the Lumi process could print any type of imagery we find ourselves inspired by certain themes. We love fashion photography, especially from the 40s through 60s, like Richard Avedon and David Bailey. We find ourselves enthralled by photographers who’ve found the bold man-made beauty in industrial subjects, such as Margarette Bourke White. We also draw inspiration from the brief moments of life that are forever captured by street photographers like Cartier-Bresson and Bruce Davidson. Our process for marrying materials and imagery is deeply application-based. We usually start a project, even just simple experimentation, with a goal in mind of what we’re trying to create. For example, coasters for our Kickstarter backers… What materials would make suitable coasters? What imagery would be suitable for that purpose? How can we pair the two effectively to have the same mood and message? It is a design process that is both rewarding and challenging. 

What do you have planned for the future? Are you able to discuss any aspects of the product line your planning/photographers you’ll be working with, etc? We would love to know more!

The future of Lumi involves amazing photography, fun products and collaborations with fashion brands. We’re really excited to both launch our own product line and seek out great collaborations with artists and brands to really maximize our capabilities. We’re driven by the desire to see the Lumi technology make it out to the world and also look forward to the opportunity to learn something new about the Lumi Process with every new project. We look forward to the day when Lumi printing is an integral part of products that are as inspirational to others as creating Lumi has been for us!

Our product line will begin with a line of leather envelopes featuring some iconic imagery and will soon expand to include other accessory items. Also in progress are some garments that make beautiful use of Lumi printing and — dare we mention — also perhaps a line of a certain quintessential shirt… the t-shirt!

How has your use of Kickstarter been so far?

Stephan: Kickstarter is an incredible platform. Its obvious purpose is funding, but we find ourselves gaining so much outside of collecting pledges. For us, Kickstarter has been a powerful tool to connect with a community passionate about our work, to help us collect critical insight, and to provide a time line that helps us organize our activities as we grow our project. Lumi involves diverse fields such as fashion, photography, technology and business. Where this diversity could work against us for traditional funding, the collaborative nature of Kickstarter allows these different fields to coexist and interact. Crafting our Kickstarter campaign has been a great exercise in taking a complex business proposal and turning it into a simple pitch that anyone can be excited about. 

Name your dream combo: what image you’d like to see printed on what material and why…. GO!

After a few glasses of wine, we’re thinking that a picture of ourselves printed on the moon could be quite splendid. The moon is a natural material, we could Lumi that.

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