The Next Big (Small?) Thing: VALD Agency

Stephanie Christofferson

In a world increasingly dominated by major brand names (Gucci, Prada, Chanel, anyone?) how does a new designer catch a break? More and more it seems that the most talented designers are lured away from their own brands and into positions working for global powerhouses with the hopes of clawing their way to the coveted creative director position.

But the tides may be changing for smaller designers; the past decade has seen a tidalwave of new technologies influencing cultural restructuring like never seen before. Physical borders have given way to digital ones, community transcends geography, and information flows in a fraction of a second. The digital age is upon us, and with it the emergence of nearly endless niche markets. The ability to access almost anything from anywhere has allowed smaller designers to reach audiences across the globe previously inaccessible to them, building communities and loyal followers online. Shopping online has revolutionized the fashion industry, making a digital presence quintessential to a successful brand. All of these changes have created an environment ripe for smaller designers, and VALD Agency understands this perhaps better than anyone else.

Anne Sofie Madsen

Anne Sofie Madsen is one of seven womenswear designers VALD represents – this look is from her recent debut at Paris Fashion Week for RTW FW15 (NowFashion.com)

 

A boutique marketing and sales agency, VALD works intimately with a curated group of designers. Their overall goal is the bottom line – with 350 contacts in the retail world, they have the manpower to revolutionize global sales for their designers. But beyond this they act as consultants to designers on everything from branding to pricing to fabric choice. Founder Jacob Valdemar describes the relationship as “growing a brand…we help designers curate out from an idea, encourage originality that reflects their own generation, subculture, tribe, or time…everything is possible.”

The emergence of this kind of global network management is something made possible only by the digital age, and VALD has perfected the transition from digital community to physical sales. Permanent showrooms in Paris and Copenhagen are complemented by pop-up locations in New York, Milan, and Tokyo, allowing VALD to act beyond the role of strategic advisor and become a physical connection between brand and retailer. In a world where mainstream is becoming blasé, the niche or boutique designers are fulfilling consumer desire for quality, individuality, and unique personality. VALD’s strategic relationship is perhaps a new form of marketing, a way for the digital and the physical can unite in a lasting way that goes beyond a fleet of Instagram followers.

VALD Paris Showroom

VALD Paris Showroom

A close-up of one of the racks in the VALD Paris Showroom

A close-up of one of the racks in the VALD Paris Showroom

VALD uses an apartment to create an intimate, personalized, boutique experience for buyers

VALD uses an apartment to create an intimate, personalized, boutique experience for buyers

Fashion week is a time when the giants rule the headlines (and the internet). But it is also a time for Vald to build its empire, to make the physical global connections the digital world sorely lacks. The future of fashion may be online, but a click can only get you so far. Vald’s fusion of marketing, sales, and strategy transcends the digital trend into a lasting network of relationships that may ultimately serve as the model for keeping small designers alive in today’s fashion jungle.

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Miss Dior, the (Relatively) Empowered Woman

by Stephanie Christofferson


Dior’s latest Miss Dior commercial writes a revision of the fairytale wedding, casting Natalie Portman in the role of runaway bride. Apologizing to her father and rejecting her groom, Portman runs off into the sunset, stripping off her handmade couture gown (Dior, of course) to reveal a tight black minidress beneath it. A blatant rejection of the patriarchy, the ad calls into question the institution of marriage as well as the feminine role implicated in it. The ad is set to Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” a clear feminist reference to the sexual freedom and social revolution characteristic of the 1960’s.

Natalie Portman Miss Dior

Natalie Portman wearing the Dior couture bridal gown (which took 600 hours to create) before fleeing the altar in the latest Miss Dior ad

But just as Dior rejects contemporary gender constructs, it perpetuates them. After all, this ad is for a perfume; perfumes are inherently tied to sex and sexuality, often marketed to depict the wearer as an object of lust. The fact that this particular ad breaks the syntax does not disrupt the entire structure, but paints Dior as modern and empowering. In the end of the commercial, Portman flies off in a helicopter with a hot new copilot. She may have rejected the traditional marriage on land below her, but she does not fly away into the sunset alone.

Miss Dior ditches her groom for a sexy copilot

Miss Dior ditches her groom for a sexy copilot

Is Dior starting a modern feminist revolution that rejects the contemporary institution of marriage? Maybe. More likely, the brand is capitalizing on a current trend of independence, power, individuality and redefinition found throughout popular culture. To underscore this trend, contrast the Dior ad (for women’s perfume) with the latest Chanel ad (for Bleu De Chanel, a men’s cologne) – which shows a man rejecting various forms of celebrity and female attention with the tagline “you are finally becoming who you are.”

Like the Miss Dior ad, the Bleu De Chanel commercial is set to a 1960s soundtrack (this time, a symbol of anti-stereotypical male power and sexuality – Jimi Hendrix). Also like the Dior ad, there are sexual undertones woven throughout. Both ads have found a way to break the syntax without really destroying it, presenting consumers with the feeling of rebellion without the true social consequences. Leave the man at the altar, but find another one; flee the hordes of desperate women, but chase the elusive beauty. It’s not rejection – it’s choice. For Dior, a brand founded on a true celebration of the female figure and female sexuality in the “new look,” the move to keep up with modern incarnations of the empowered woman is a smart one.

Rick Owens F/W 2015: Groundbreaking, or Branding Strategy?

Just one of the exposing looks from the Rick Owens Fall 2015 Menswear show on January 22nd, 2015

Perhaps the most notable runway accessory this Paris Fashion Week came from designer Rick Owens’ Fall 2015 menswear show, in the form of a specific piece of male anatomy. With his collection, Rick Owens had the honor of gracing the Parisian catwalks … Continue reading