Fashion designer, educator and visionary, Galina Mihaleva will be a main-stage presenter at the American Institute of Floral Designers (AIFD) Symposium “Awaken” in Las Vegas, Nev., July 6-11, 2019. Originally from Bulgaria, Mihaleva holds degrees in artistic textiles, fashion design, costume design as well as a Ph.D. in smart textiles. An assistant professor at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, she teaches technology, art and fashion. With a passion for sustainability in fashion, her work focuses on the dialogue between body and dress as she creates living fashion, “smart skins” and sustainable textiles.

What is your source of inspiration?

I am inspired by nature, life and sustainability and how they complement each other in the world of fashion. My philosophy is a sustainable approach where all life is in harmony with nature. I have designed dresses with living plants to connect nature with humans. The plants can live and survive on the dress because the human body supplies the moisture. I am now experimenting with creating pockets that can grow plants. I have also created wearable plant masks. In a country like Singapore, there is a lot of smog, and you see people wearing masks. I designed masks with living plants that help fight the pollutants from smog.

Where do you look for inspiration?

Growing up in communist Bulgaria, we had limited resources, which opened doors for endless creativity. If we did not have something, we made it ourselves. We created something from simple elements, which were elevated and showcased on exclusive stages. Presently, I am fascinated with polyester. It is the No. 1 polluting fabric on the market. But it can be manipulated and formed into a “smart textile,” which is renewable and does not lose its shape. People value this new product because they appreciate the time and long process it took to create it. Most importantly, it will not be thrown away or end up in a landfill.

What new ideas have you opened yourself to that stimulated your creativity?

My curiosity stimulates me. It opens my mind and can open doors.

I have been working on fabric that is used for Smart Skin, a perform-able textile that reacts to the human body. There are some textiles that integrate electrodes that detect what is going on in the human body and send collected information to the person’s doctor. Also, there is a Smart Skin for diabetics, which I worked on. The fabric can inject insulin into the person when it is needed. There are even dresses that can sense the mood of a person and change the color to make a sad person happy.