This week, ORDRE chief executive Simon P. Lock spoke on stage at the Web Summit, the world’s biggest tech conference held in Lisbon each year, with American designer Alexander Wang. Discussing creativity and storytelling in a digital age, Wang divulged how social media and new technologies have impacted his business model, brand values and his role as a designer. Below is an abridged version of the Q&A.
Simon P. Lock: I wanted to talk about your connection with the digital world — and also your customers — through the digital content that you create. Now that you have access to your consumers through social media, you’re able to be part of their lives. How inspirational is that for you?
Alexander Wang: It's completely evolved and really pivoted my perspective as well as how I think about putting together a collection, beyond just product, clothes, shoes and the fashion show. Really, it all goes back to storytelling. When I started, the most exciting thing was to see somebody walking down the street and carrying my bag or wearing my shoes, it automatically created that sense of connection with someone.
Now, through social media, being able to have much more engagement with this consumer has allowed me to expand how I think about storytelling as a brand. The conversation is so important for me, the constant feedback in that dialogue is something that I go back to constantly.
SPL: The brand has 4.5 million followers on Instagram, and you personally have nearly half a million. How do you engage with your audience? Do they directly speak to you through Instagram?
AW: Definitely, sometimes through DMs or through comments. But it's very important for me that our channels on social media are avenues for us to really communicate and engage with our consumer. Not just to be a visual mood board or to be something sterile or static, but to be something that allows for that kind of constant feedback so that we can constantly improve.
SPL: The fashion industry is slow to adapt to the digital economy in terms of business to business. ORDRE is about online showrooms giving retailers the opportunity to buy collections where ever they are around the world. In your process of design and manufacturing, how is the digital world impacting on that?
AW: There's still a very tactile part to designing. Being able to look at fabric, draping it and seeing what resonates in person versus on a computer screen. Now that we're completely replatforming our website, building out a product assortment that resonates online versus product assortments that people need to touch and feel in store is something that we need to balance out.
So it has definitely influenced how we think about our product assortment. It's made a lot of advancements in terms of how we look at prints or hardware, which is such a big part of our DNA. Doing things at a much faster pace and speed, those for sure have been influenced by digital advancements. But it's still important to have a sense of touch and feel when creating something. It's definitely influenced certain areas of our design process, but not completely taken over.
SPL: Okay, back to storytelling — some of the incredible digital content you create around yourself, the brand, and your clothes. And it all starts with a campaign. Give us some understanding of what your vision is for a campaign in this digital age.
AW: We've tried a lot of different things in the past, in terms of show format, who we invite, what that experience actually is. Is is it a walking fashion show? Are there other elements like performances? Activations? Buy-now-wear-now activations that people can kind of engage with?
I couldn't think of the last fashion campaign that was exciting to me. Fashion campaigns, in its traditional traditional sense, have almost become irrelevant, because magazines have almost become irrelevant.
“Whether it's about boundary pushing, casualising formality, or elevating every day, we wanted to make sure that all assets went back to the storytelling of the brand ”
AW: I grew up on magazines, that was my kind of conduit to the fashion world. I've been in this industry almost 15 years now, and I've started to see how things have changed and evolved very quickly in the last couple of years. And so when thinking about our campaign this season, it was less so about creating a traditional fashion asset but really, who are we as a brand? What is our purpose?
We made a checklist, and then we said: whatever assets that we create from this point going forward, has to check off all of those principles. Whether it's about boundary pushing, casualising formality, elevating every day, we wanted to make sure that all of these assets went back to the storytelling of the brand.
SPL: Creative directors in the past have been precious about controlling the brand image. Now, with social media, you create this incredible content, and you're inviting everyone to give their opinion. Are you losing control of your brand story, once it gets out there on social media?
AW: I think it comes back to having a unique point of view, if you have a unique point of view, and you're committed, and you're dedicated to that, you're never going to be able to control it in its entirety. People are always gonna have an opinion, whether they like it, or they don't like, and for me, it was always important that there was an opinion and to be able to allow for that opinion to be discussed, and to be able to have impact. In that sense, I wanted to be able to kind of hand it out.
To watch the Q&A in full, click the link below.