Alexander Wang, Samsung partner
Smartphones, fashion, technology
The fashion designer Alexander Wang is joining forces with Samsung to create a new print based on doodles, sketches, and photographs that are being contributed via smartphone by some of the top names in fashion.
Wang’s collaborators will participate electronically, sending ideas on Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphones, as inspiration for a one-of-a-kind print that will be used on a limited-collection bag. Proceeds from sales of the bag will be donated to a New York art charity for children.
For Wang, who recently became the creative director of the storied French fashion house Balenciaga, partnering with Samsung “represents a new way that technology and style can come together,” he said in an interview.
In a nearly two-minute video, called “Be Creative,” which was released Thursday in tandem with the opening of New York Fashion Week, Wang uses his Galaxy phone to capture ideas on the way from his Soho apartment to his design studio, and then to configure the space where his collection will be shown.
Samsung, which is taking a viral approach and showing the video only on social media, hopes the partnership with Wang will underscore its message that “technology empowers creativity,” said Christine Cho, director of global marketing for Samsung Electronics, from its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea.
“We thought Alexander Wang would be able to show that,” she said, “because of his passion for experimentation and his on-the-go lifestyle.”
The electronics giant is walking in the footsteps of companies in other industries, like automakers that have allied with luxury-level fashion to distinguish themselves from rivals. To gain notice for the 2013 Chevy Malibu, General Motors, for example, worked with the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who created an apparel and accessories collection celebrating the car’s redesign.
“Fashion can be a good way to humanize technology,” said Sabrina Horn, head of the Horn Group, a digital communications agency, who noted that technology companies “often forget to strike that emotional connection with consumers.”
For Samsung, establishing a distinctive identity is critical as it battles its biggest rival, Apple, in the hotly contested mobile devices market. Last year, Samsung shipped 396.5 million mobile phones worldwide, according to a report from the Boston research firm Strategy Analytics. Smartphones earn the most revenue for Samsung, which had more than $143 billion in sales last year. Samsung also sells products like flat screens, chips, and microprocessors.
Samsung did not divulge how much it is spending on its partnership with Wang, but overall the company spent nearly $212 million on advertising in the first nine months of 2012, according to figures provided by Kantar Media, the WPP unit. Samsung introduced the Galaxy Note II smartphone last year. It is striving to familiarize consumers with its abilities with its new campaign.
“It’s all about association. If Samsung wants to be perceived as hip, cool, and cutting edge, it has to have a partner with the same qualities,” Hal Hershfield, assistant professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said of Samsung’s alliance with Wang.
“Like Apple, which has a certain image, both Microsoft — with indie bands — and Samsung with fashion are saying that we can play this game, too,” Hershfield said.
After the Feb. 23 deadline for submissions from Wang’s fashion circle — including models, photographers, and fashion editors like Vogue’s Sally Singer — Wang will create a designer print for the limited-edition bag. Samsung, an official sponsor of New York Fashion Week, plans to donate the proceeds to Art Start, a New York City nonprofit that provides art workshops for at-risk children ages five to 21. Wang chose the charity.
Samsung has made other forays into the fashion field. Last summer, the company paired with the well-known designer Zac Posen to highlight an earlier Samsung tablet. A video featuring Posen showed him using his Samsung for notes, draping and creating a gown. He has appeared as a judge on “Project Runway,” the Lifetime Television show whose sponsor, Hewlett-Packard, provided touch-enabled screens for fledgling designers to create original patterns.
Samsung’s current pairing with Wang allies it with a young designer who created his own fashion label and entered fashion’s top ranks when he won the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2008. In his video, filmed by Matt Bieler, a director for Serial Pictures, the boyish Wang collects ideas, designs, and makes business preparations for his Fashion Week show.
“With a little multitasking, I can keep it all together,” he says in the video, where he uses the stylus to write notes and create drawings. “It’s not just the clothes. It all makes up the bigger picture.”
When Wang arrives at the Cunard Building in Lower Manhattan, the 1921 Art Deco edifice that once housed the passenger shipping company, to plan his Fashion Week showing, he sketches out the seating, lighting, and runway placement on his Galaxy. Then, using the device’s file-sharing software, he taps his phone to an assistant’s to transmit his plan instantly.
“When I see something that inspires me, I don’t have to wait until I get home or to my office to sketch it.” Wang said. “I can do it on the spot,” he added, “which is helpful because I have the worst memory.”