Fashion Matters THE NOW THE THEN AND THE OTHER
A REPORT INTO alexander wang and zara BY ALICE WOODS
ALICE WOODS N0448125 FCP YEAR 1 VISUAL AWARENESS LUCY NORRIS FASH10105
TABLE OF CONTENTS OPENING WORDS PAGE 5 THE NOW ALEXANDER WANG PAGE 8 RETAIL PLATFORMS, MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY PAGE S9 - 10 WANG AND BALENCIAGA PAGE 11 ZARA THE POWER OF DAVID SIMS PAGES 14-15 ZARA AND MARKETING PAGE 16 THE THEN ALEXANDER WANG THAT’S SO NINETIES PAGES 18-22 MARGIELA PAGE 23 ZARA THE THEN PAGES 24-25
THE OTHER ALEXANDER WANG PAGE 28 ALEX LOVES AZEALIA PAGES 29 -31 ZARA THE THEN PAGES 32-33 CONCLUDING WORDS PAGE 34 BIBLIOGRAPHY PAGES 36-38 WORKS CITED PAGES 38-40 IMAGE REFERENCES PAGES 40-41
opening words Minimalism is a personal favourite aesthetic of mine, so it is perhaps no surprise I have chosen two brands that convey this message in a current and contemporary style; Alexander Wang and Zara. With a focus on tailoring, clean silhouettes and having a more minimalist approach to their pieces, Wang and Zara seem to fit, however where they differ considerably is in their marketing and approach to promotions. I’m looking to explore ‘the other’, specifically Alexander Wang. Why has Wang tapped into music and celebrity endorsement and what is the effect of this? How is this done? Should Zara follow suit, what more could be done in terms of promotions and marketing at Zara? However, to look to the other, it is vital to look to ‘the now’ and ‘the then’…
ALEXANDER WANG First off, I will apologise for the overuse of the word ‘cool’ in this section, however there is no better word to describe the Alexander Wang girl. Based in the leading edge borough of Soho, New York, Wang seems to be the epitome of the breezy, simple downtown lifestyle, “perfectly merging his Californian upbringing with his current downtown New York living” (Taschen 2011, p.662), appealing to the ‘model off duty’ style tribe. Bringing this into context, perhaps the reason for his relevance in fashion now is the fact he plays on the desire for the relaxed, functional lifestyle, mirrored in his clothing.
This could be down to the demanding and rapid pace of many consumer’s lives today, perhaps suggesting we, the consumers, strive for something more simplistic, more straightforward and more basic. Investment staples and contemporary/reworked timeless pieces are favoured in response to the current financial climate. As former T by Alexander Wang campaign model (A/W10) (models.com, 2010), Zoe Kravitz sums up (about his designs); “It’s so nice to be able to feel beautiful and feminine without looking or feeling like you’re trying”(Harper’s Bazaar online 2011). That effortlessly cool, nonchalant vibe seems to be the core of the brand’s identity, and is carried on throughout in store experiences. THE NOW ALEXANDER WANG 8
retail platforms, media and technologyå
“Social networking sites are also becoming vital avenues for promotion” -Marketing Fashion, H. Posner, p.168
Like many luxury brands today, social networking is a key aspect to their marketing campaigns, as it bridges the gap between the consumer and the brand. Embedding themselves amongst consumer’s friends on a Facebook news feed for example, or inviting you to look behind the scenes on Instagram from your iPhone, social media gives the brand more personality and allows us to bond with the company on a more personable level. So it comes to no surprise that Alexander Wang has followed suit. Almost. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter seem to be industry standards now, however with other brands, namely Burberry and Marc Jacobs, venturing into different platforms of social media such as Instagram, Blogger, Pintrest, Google+ and even global social networking sites such as Youku and Sina Weibo, place these and perhaps many other brands in a much better position in terms of marketing via social networking than Alexander Wang. This is supported by the ‘Fashion Brands All Time Chart’ on Starcount (Starcount.com 2013), which places Burberry at fifth place with Gucci in tenth and Dior in twelfth. Wang finishes up in three hundred and eightieth place at the time of writing. Fig 4
Although the content Alexander Wang publishes is somehwat insightful, with his Twitter showing backstage photos, his YouTube presenting the popular ‘Confessional’ series (Fig 1) and his Facebook featuring a ‘holiday gift guide’ and celebrities spotted in his designs (Fig 2), some could say that it simply isn’t enough. “Social networking is however, much more than ‘social’: it is an evolving business relationship phenomenon” (Evans 2012), perhaps Alexander Wang could move into other areas of social networking, for example Instagram, which would give him a global platform to release personal material from his phone, making the brand feel more welcoming and amiable and define them more in the social networking community.
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retail platforms, media and technologyå
define them more in the social networking community. Or, following his launch into Eastern markets such as Japan and China, Youku/Sina Weibo would perhaps be suitable platforms to delve into in support of his business plan as discussed on CNN’s Talk Asia in June 2012 (CNN, 2012)
COREN: Because you are opening 15 stores this year WANG: Yes, yes. COREN: -- 14 of which are in Asia. WANG: Are in Asia.
This being said, Wang is not completely out of the loop with the importance of social networking, and was quoted on saying “You have to be aware of how times are changing. We invited a couple of bloggers who we felt were appropriate to the show.” (Vogue.com 2009) Which perhaps leads us to question, if he knows about the importance of social media, why isn’t he doing more to engage with customers? For such a ‘cool’ and ‘in the know’ brand, why haven’t further ways of promotion through these platforms been implemented to strengthen the brand’s online presence?
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alexander wang and balenciaga
WANG & BALENCIAGAå
More recently, Wang has cemented his place in ‘the now’ by being appointed at Balenciaga as Creative Director succeeding Nicolas Ghesquière, perhaps a homage to his fresh way of working, being “commercial business savvy married with a strong point of view” (H. Quick, Guardian.co.uk 2012). Perhaps these qualities are what the market needs right now in order to succeed: blending selling a desirable lifestyle and newer marketing strategies together, such as creating a presence in social media and the use of in store apps.
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As a high street brand, it is interesting to see how and why Zara gains creative credibility in competition not only with other high street stores, but also with the high-end markets.
the power of david sims
the power of
d av i d S I M S One way in which Zara is respected creatively is through their stakeholders, in particular, photographer David Sims. Described by models. com ( as being one of “the world’s most prominent photographers”, Sims and Zara have been working together on the majority of their campaigns for all ranges (covering Menswear, Womenswear, TRF line and Young line) (Fig 3) since 2009. Sims brings an element of high fashion and quality to the brand, as he has shot campaigns for everyone from Alexander McQueen to Prada, Calvin Klein to Stella McCartney, and, interestingly, Alexander Wang (Fig 4: models. com). For Zara to be up there amongst these luxury brands gives them a heightened sense of credibility, they are almost in the same playing field as these brands through their ability to frequently hire one of the most favoured photographers in the fashion industry. Where Zara and Wang differ however, is through their marketing strategies, and what they do with these campaigns.
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the power of david sims
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ZARa and marketing From personal recollection, reaffirmed by The New York Times, “Inditex doesn’t advertise. It hardly even has a marketing department, and it doesn’t engage in flashy campaigns” (S.Hansen, 2012). Zara relies heavily on in store experience, online retailing and the products themselves to capture the attention of customers. And it seems to be working. Saving costs in advertising space allows Zara to buy “storefronts next to luxury brands to own the label of affordable luxury” (D. Thompson, 2012), which perhaps allows us to associate Zara with higher end retail spaces, something I viewed first hand in New York where a Zara was placed opposite Rolex and a few blocks down from the likes of Prada and Gucci. A statement from Zara, saying they’re up there with the luxury.
At the time of writing, Zara charts in thirty-seventh position on Interbrand’s ‘Best Global Brands of 2012’with an “eighteen per cent brand value increase last year” (Interbrand. com, 2012). Without the flashy campaigns. What Zara lacks in advertising, it seems to make up for in social media content, perhaps apps being the most interesting feature Zara has to offer (Figs 5, 6,7). Cross platform technology such as sharing an item you’ve seen on the online store via the app on other social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, allows Zara to almost piggy back on the success and power of these sites. We, the consumers, spread the word of their brand on different mediums of networking, allowing more exposure for Zara. Fans describe the app as being “the best shopping app by far!” (trimommy, iTunes review), which could gain status for the brand as being technologically advanced in comparison to other high street chains’ offerings. THE NOW Zara 16
thatâ€™s so nineties
thatâ€™s so n i n e t i es Alexander wang and the then
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that’s so nineties It’s so easy to draw parallels with Alexander Wang’s designs and the look of nineties minimalism. Contextually, the nineties vibe was that ‘model off duty’ look, heroin chic and minimalism fuelled by Kate Moss, Trainspotting and big designers of the time; Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein. Wang has openly expressed his love of these pioneering designers; “Calvin and Helmut were designers I grew up with. It ascends automatically into your head” (A.Wilson, 2011), Looking to Wang’s most recent campaign for his S/S 2013 womenswear collection (Fig 8), we can make clear links with these key movements of the nineties.
In this image in particular, through the smoky/sunken eyes and hollowed out cheek bones, intent gaze and a hint of vulnerability, highlighted by the fragile look of her figure and the sheer top she is wearing, we can gain a real sense of ‘heroin chic’ in this image. Wang’s S/S 13 is perhaps influenced by this campaign for Calvin Klein Underwear featuring a young Kate Moss (Fig 9);
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thatâ€™s so nineties
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that’s so nineties
Here, we see Kate, whose body type, a slim, ‘boyish’ shape, was considered popular in the nineties, thus reigniting the love of androgyny in fashion. Linking this back to the campaign, there are definite associations with androgyny, perhaps signalling a post-modernistic idea of ‘you can’t define me’ and anonymity. It seems the fashion industry is smitten with this look, and this campaign seemingly fulfils this. The Alexander Wang customer is thought to be the contemporary woman, cool and strong-minded. Androgyny portrays these characteristics well, allowing us to make links with the ideas surrounding androgyny and Alexander Wang, perhaps deeming the brand more edgy and out there.
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In addition to this, Alexander Wang tends to look to past Maison Martin Margiela collections for inspiration. The theme of deconstructionism is present throughout both designers’ collections, perhaps with Margiela taking a more creative approach whereas Wang takes a more commercial stand. Just one example of Alexander Wang paying homage to Margiela is through the use of white dripping emulsion, symbolic of Margiela and his obsession with the tarnishing of everyday objects/pieces and making them ‘pure’, symbolised by the colour white (Fig 11). This idea is very similar to the hair of the models in Alexander Wang S/S 11 show (Fig 10), which was splashed with white paint, perhaps signalling messages of beauty in the imperfect, rebellion and modernity, similar to Margiela’s ethos.
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z a r a a n d the then To write about Zara and influences from the past is perhaps tricky, as Zara tends to pride themselves on up to date, fast fashion, describing their approach as being about “creativity, quality design and rapid turnaround to adjust to changing market demands” (Intidex, 2012). However recently, I have noticed a few subtle punk influences, reworked in Zara’s symbolic minimalistic fashion. Perhaps not so much the shape, decon/recon and bricolage look of the clothing, but the fabrics and imagery used. For example a tartan suit (Fig 12), a key print of the punk era (Fig 13), a studded, leather biker jacket, a staple of the eighties punk look (Fig 13), reworked to a more sleek fit, but still keeping key features, such as multiple zips, studs and an oversized fit (Fig 14). An interesting feature is a bone print sweatshirt (Fig 15), reminiscent of Vivienne Westwood’s chicken bone ‘Rock’ t-shirt (Fig 16). However these references aren’t particularly innovative or unique, as Punk seems to be a reoccurring trend throughout recent years, however now perhaps more so than ever. Contextually, this could be coinciding with the up and coming “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.(2012).
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Fig 14 Fig 12
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A L E XA N D E R
W A N G Wang is no stranger to collaboration, celebrity endorsement and borrowing from the cultural vertical of music. From hip hop frontrunners Odd Future and A$AP Rocky, to the eccentric duo Die Antword and DJ of the moment Diplo. However it was his collaboration with Azealia Banks that really caught the attention of the press and fans alike last year.
alex loves azealia
ALEX loves azealia
Wang seems to have the certain knack for capturing the right celebrities at exactly the right time; right before they’re catapulted into the world of fame and fortune. Perhaps the most notable being mermaid haired, potty mouthed, Harlem born rapper Azealia Banks. Collaborating on the T by Alexander Wang’s A/W12 campaign was a clever creative move on both parts, as Wang and Banks seemed to benefit from each other’s brand equity. Alexander Wang appears to be massively into music, “Music to me is such a big component to my process and yknow, it’s such a big inspiration to me, I really believe style starts with music” (A.Wang via JOYCEcommunications, Jun 2012), therefore capturing Azealia Banks at exactly the right time in her career suggests Alexander Wang is in the know about this particular cultural vertical; new music. He spots eccentric, perhaps unconventional, up and coming rappers (such as previous campaign stars Santigold and Die Antword) and uses their credentials to maximise the ‘cool’ status of his brand.
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alex loves azealia
he’s cool = his brand is cool = increased desirability Similarly, the starlets of these campaigns, Azealia Banks in this case, can use Wang’s credentials (“In 2008, Alex received top honours as the recipient of the Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund”) (CFDA, 2012) and fan base as a current and ofthe-minute designer to propel herself further into fashionista status; it’s a twoway thing. Having connections with a young and fresh designer, for example Azealia Banks was Alexander Wang’s date to the Met Ball 2012, elevates Banks’s status, if she’s seen with someone in the ‘in-crowd’; she too is in that crowd. Placing herself within this sector of society gives her a share of their popularity, their style and how they’re perceived by the media. It’s ultimately a big cycle of sharing each other’s ‘fairy dust’ Visually, Wang and Banks compliment each other perfectly. Although on the surface their looks are dissimilar, with Azealia often opting for a more maximalist vibe for example, Minnie Mouse print latex dresses, matching striped two pieces and sequinned bralets in abundance. However, her music video for ‘1991’, shows her evolution of style, wearing nineties inspired androgynous/ minimalist tailoring and grunge inspired fishnet tights, a nod to the edgier side of fashion during this period. This cleaner and more refined look seems to partner nicely with Wang’s ideologies of style, her visual DNA and arguably her persona compliments his T by Alexander Wang collection to a T. Apologies for the pun.
Donned in sportswear style crop tops and skin-tight turtleneck dresses from the collection for the promotional video, Banks looks ever the young, free and careless nineties girl, the cool girl, the girl with bundles of energy, she seems to encapsulate the brand’s ethos perfectly. It is also worth mentioning the song used in the promotional campaign, ‘Van Vogue’. Asides the obvious reference to fashion in the title, it was, at the time, a yet to be released song from Banks. Here, it could be said Wang has given Banks a platform for promoting her music, a clever move on both parts as it again, gives Azealia extra coverage of the song and gives Alexander Wang attention from Azealia’s fan base, who perhaps might not have come across him before. It should also be noted that the lyrics of the song; “Dolce crop top, my play clothes now, those Céline wedges are way downtown” (Rap Genius, 2012) feature other luxury competitors Dolce and Gabbana and Céline. The fact that this hasn’t been altered or blanked out increases the honesty and integrity of both the artist and the designer, thus casting both of them in a more respectable light as individual artists.
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alex loves azealia
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zara: the other I will choose to focus on the cultural vertical of art for Zara. I am looking at how Zara has attempted to use art to elevate their status and designs of the brand to make them more aesthetically pleasing for their metropolitan consumer, and perhaps why this hasn’t worked in their favour.
To put it bluntly, Zara is no stranger to emulating luxury designer’s designs, “Rather than hire world-class designers, Zara politely copies them” (D.Thompson, 2012), however it seems Zara doesn’t just mimic clothing designs, Zara has copied artist’s designs, and perhaps a lot more blatantly than previous efforts. The backlash against the high street giants came when street artist Patrick Waldo’s moustache design was for a t-shirt. Perhaps this was used in an attempt to give Zara a more urban feel and in touch with what was going on culturally in New York, especially in a time where street art was becoming more accepted and therefore more popular. By borrowing from this particular cultural vertical, perhaps Zara would have hoped to elevate their status amongst young creatives who have an awareness of street art and contemporary culture, however using this design without permission or licensing, perhaps makes Zara lose integrity amongst customers.
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zara: the other
However, Zara appears to have carried on the theme of art with their Yoko Ono inspired t-shirts, this time with permission (Yoko Ono, 2012). Working with a key face of anti-war movements and a recognisable name in the art world place Zara as having perhaps more higher brow interests, therefore allowing us to associate their brand as being culturally aware. Yoko Ono has also been linked with luxury supplier Opening Ceremony (Opening Ceremony 2012), which could also raise Zara’s reputation and blurring the lines of distinction between high street and high end. By linking themselves with a “radical artist” (T.Pirro), Zara elevates themselves in terms of cultural awareness, perhaps making them seem more refined and sophisticated amongst other high street competitors. In turn, using Yoko Ono gives her publicity amongst a younger audience, and contextually is timed well for promoting her “one-off Plastic Ono Band gig” (NME, 2012). Both can play off each other’s publicity and fan bases to gain promotion for their brand/projects. However, is this enough to compete with other high street chain collaborations, such as Topshop and Kate Moss, H&M and Lana Del Rey and Rihanna and River Island? Borrowing from more mainstream cultural verticals could result in bigger interest from consumers and more press coverage. Perhaps to keep up with rival chains, Zara could release a campaign with somebody that embodies their philosophy and minimal style perfectly. To differentiate themselves from the above-mentioned chains, perhaps using a blogger, such as Ivania Carpio of www.love-aesthetics.blogspot. co.uk, could lift Zara’s ‘cool’ status, and it would be a move that would characterise Zara as being in touch with social media and the influential power of bloggers, keeping them one step ahead of competitors.
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concluding words To conclude, I feel that Alexander Wang has a superior strategy when it comes to marketing and appealing to the digital generation, generation Y, and is put ahead by using key celebrities that characterise their brandâ€™s codes and attitudes to front campaigns; they embody the look and style of the clothing. To compete, Zara could perhaps follow suit, by investing in advertising. This would in turn elevate their status as a brand and placing them closer to the luxury sector, which they are most certainly hot on the tails of. However, is it necessary? Their business model seems to be working well for them, would these suggestions just be a waste of money? Perhaps, on a more creative level, advertising would give them more presence in the industry, on a business level, it is perhaps just an unnecessary change.
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image references Fig 1: Screen capture of Alexander Wang’s YouTube page, (screen capture) January 2012 [own screen cap] Fig 2: Screen capture of Alexander Wang’s Facebook page, (screen capture) January 2012 [own screen cap] Fig 3: Image of Zara S/S 12 Womenswear Campaign, (digital photograph) models.com, online, Available at: http://models.com/work/zara-zara-ss-12 [accessed January 24 2012] Fig 4: Image of Zara S/S 12 Womenswear Campaign (digital photograph), models.com, online, Available at: http://models.com/work/alexander-wang-alexander-wang-fw-12-1/110845 [accessed January 24 2012] Fig 5: Image of Zara app Profile section (screen capture from iPhone) January 2012 [own screen cap] Fig 6: Image of Zara app item details (screen capture from iPhone) January 2012 [own screen cap] Fig 7: Image of Zara app Stores section (screen capture from iPhone) January 2012 [own screen cap] Fig 8: Image of Alexander Wang’s Spring/Summer 2013 Campaign (digital photograph) fashionising.com, online, Available at: http://www.fashionising.com/pictures/p--Alexander-Wang-SS-13Campaign-16277-1877337.html [accessed January 2013] Fig 9: Image of Kate Moss for Calvin Klein Underwear (digital photograph) fasnshare.com, online, Available at: http://www.fansshare.com/community/uploads86/12914/ms_calvin_klein_underwear_ kate_moss/) [accessed January 25th 2013] Fig 10: Image of Joan Smalls at the Alexander Wang Spring/Summer 2011 show (digital photograph) style.com, online, Available from: http://www.style.com/fashionshows/complete/slideshow/ S2011RTW-AWANG/#28 [accessed January 25th 2013] Fig 11: Image of Maison Martin Margiela painted dress shoe (digital photograph) High Snobiety, online, Available at: http://www.highsnobiety.com/2012/04/02/martin-margiela-painted-dress-shoes/ [accessed January 2013] bibliography 40
Fig 13: Image of Vivienne Westwood 1997 (scanned photograph) Available at: 100 Years of Fashion, Cally Blackman 2012, p.285 [accessed January 2013] Fig 14: Image of Zara studded leather jacket (digital photograph), Zara.com, online, Available at: http://www.zara.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product/uk/en/zara-neuW2012-s/329011/1047972/LEATHER%2BJACKET%2BWITH%2BCOVERED%2BSTUDS [accessed January 2013] Fig 15: Image of Zara sequinned bones t-shirt (digital photograph), Zara.com, online, Available at: http://www.zara.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product/uk/en/zara-neuW2012-s/329016/1048438/SEQUINNED%20PRINTED%20T-SHIRT [accessed January 2013] Fig 16: Image of Vivienne Westwood bones t-shirt (digital photograph) Rachael Gibson Blog, online, Available at: http://rachaelgibson.co.uk/2012/01/25/bone-to-be-wild/ [accessed January 2013]