#unCOVERED – Charina Widjaja on Digital at Singapore Fashion Week

The Digital Age of Fashion -in conversation with Charina Widjaja.

Entrepreneur. Role Model. Optimist. A true lady. These are the words that best aptly describe the co-founder of Digital Fashion Week, Charina Widjaja. Following the incorporation of Digital Fashion Week and Singapore Fashion Week this year, excitement surrounding the digital highlights of this October’s annual Singapore Fashion Week shows is at an all time high.

Charina Widjaja, Co-Founder, Digital Fashion Week (Photo Credit: Joel Lim)
Charina Widjaja, Co-Founder, Digital Fashion Week (Photo Credit: Joel Lim)

Amidst her extremely busy schedule balancing motherhood and preparations for the upcoming Singapore Fashion Week, the ever bubbly Charina agreed to catch with me over a quick coffee break recently. Aside from updates on the upcoming Singapore Fashion Week, she shares what drives her entrepreneurial spirit, and even candidly lets us in on her lesser known passion; cheerleading.

On Technology

COVERED: In the past decennium, fashion aficionados have seen interesting uses of technology in fashion and on the runway. What are your plans for uping the ante on your digital direction at this year’s Singapore Fashion Week?

CHARINA: We are allocating more time to digitalize Singapore Fashion Week this year; there will be a switchable ‘live’ 360 Virtual Reality functionality. Our team will be creating multi-angle and multi-options (different camera areas of the show) for the viewers to select on their screen. The selected influencers will be given access to record multi-screen camera options from their own device, and share it with viewers on digitalfashionweek.com.

"The Burberry Booth" x Google Pre-Fall 2016 Campaign (fashionista.com/2015/11/burberry-booth-london)
“The Burberry Booth” x Google Pre-Fall 2016 Campaign (fashionista.com/2015/11/burberry-booth-london)

“Remember “The Burberry Booth” at its Regent Street flagship store in London which offered real-time video-stitching technology, enabling customers the chance to film their own versions of the brand’s current ad campaign? We would love to bring to Singapore Fashion Week guests and viewers, a similar digital immersive experience.”  -Charina Widjaja on digital tech and fashion

COVERED: What is your take on the idea of using technology and ‘online space’ to build a local cohesive fashion community?

CHARINA: It will be the fundamental core of a cohesive fashion community. Instead of striving to fill up seats at the fashion shows, organizers can explore investing into technologies with the ability to broadcast fashion shows on the internet to reach a wider audience base. With the use of technologies, organizers will be able to multiply their reach and educate the audiences about their brand. Aligned with this vision, we have decided to invest in 360 Virtual Reality technology as well as a new multi-camera screen views. While offering viewers greater insights into the designer’s fashion show, this is also a great way to get optimum visibility for designers to the desired geo-targeted audience.

Sergey Brin wears Google Glass at the Diane von Furstenberg Show in 2012
Sergey Brin wears Google Glass at the Diane von Furstenberg Show in 2012

COVERED: With the rise of disruptive technologies, how would you infuse fashion and technology?

CHARINA: Fashion and technology have not been so boldly used in the past. However, 50 – 70 % of businesses in today’s society are using technology for their brands and businesses. Technology allows you to cross boundaries and reach out to a wider geographic area.

CHARINA: For example, Diane Von Furstenburg was the first to implement a “shopable fashion” collection. Burberry  implemented live-streamed shows, with “shopable”, “order right now technology”, and event utilized augmented reality.

On how her journey as an entrepreneur began

COVERED: Would you like to tell us more about yourself and your journey as a fashion entrepreneur? What are the road blocks that you have faced on your journey?

CHARINA: When I first started out in 2012, the local fashion designers were facing a ‘mid-life’ crisis – fast fashion labels such as H&M, Zara and Forever 21 entered into the Singapore’s market. As the well-established fast fashion brands were competitive and well-received by the Singapore’s market, it has resulted in the quick exit of many local designers.

CHARINA: In the midst of the local designer’s crisis, I recognised the need for a platform to showcase and shine the spotlight on Singaporean’s designers. Fortunately, we were able to collaborate with the likes of Youtube and Yahoo. Our first Digital Fashion Week (2012), was attended was 2,000 guests, and received an online viewership of 20,000+ views.

The "Singapore Pride" at Singapore Fashion Week 2015
The “Singapore Pride” at Singapore Fashion Week 2015

On Overseas Collaborations

CHARINA: After the event, we realized that there is so much more that we can do for independent designers and create a community that truly appreciate local designers. In 2012, we realized that the 5,000 population in Singapore was not sufficient. Hence, In 2013, we decided to collaborate with UK to cross syndicate content – an exchange of speakers and designers, notably supermodel, Naomi Campbell, allowing for greater exposure and a larger community base for local designers to reach out to.

On Growing Up

Charina Widjaja (Photo Credit: Joel Lim)
Charina Widjaja (Photo Credit: Joel Lim)

COVERED: How would you describe yourself during your teenager days? Growing up, who do you aspire to be?

CHARINA: As a teenager, I wanted to be like a business woman, and own multi-businesses. My dad was, and still is my role model. I also admired my mum, being able to look after the family, and groom her children into the driven and caring individuals.

On her secret other passion – Cheerleading

CHARINA: I did take an interest in music and dancing, and I captained my own cheerleading team in High School. My school was actually a Christian school, and cheerleading was deemed a taboo. Despite this, and inspired by the movie, Bring It On, I decided that I would ask my teacher for the permission to form a cheerleading team. It was turned down immediately. Nevertheless, we proceeded to form our team, and we practiced everyday after school.

CHARINA: We created our own moves, routines, uniforms, and choreographed our own music. Eventually, we went to our first competition, and faced some strong competition. Although we were not physically strong, we were able to execute four tier pyramid formations. The fiercest competition that we entered had participants from 5 cities. As the announcer called out the winners, our expectations began to diminish. Surprising, we won first place – our biggest achievement ever.

CHARINA: Of the ten competitions that we took place in, we always placed, and never failed to bring home a trophy. From the win on, we became the highlight of the school, and we were always invited to perform at every of our school’s event.

 Words of wisdom to aspiring entrepreneurs

COVERED: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

CHARINA: Do your business plans well. It is not about coming up with the greatest idea. It is about executing and sustaining your business and its plans, and growth.

Charina Widjaj Giving a speech at the Digital Fashion Week Reception at Eden Hall in 2014
Charina Widjaj Giving a speech at the Digital Fashion Week Reception at Eden Hall in 2014

CHARINA: In this industry, you have to be persistent as it is a tough industry. Always try to collaborate, and it is no longer the time to do everything independently and on your own. Obstacles will always present themselves, but persevere and never give up.

On what to look out for at this year’s Singapore Fashion Week

COVERED: What are some of the shows at this year’s Singapore Fashion Week that you personally are looking forward to?

Rihanna wears Guo Pei's creation at the Met Gala 2015
Rihanna wears Guo Pei’s creation at the Met Gala 2015 (Photo Credit: https://www.yahoo.com/beauty/at-the-2015-met-gala-rihanna-wears-chinese-118161177118.html)

CHARINA: It will be Guo Pei’s fashion show. Likewise, I also look forward to Max Tan’s fashion show as he prepares his collection way ahead of the season. Microsoft will be participating in Max Tan’s show this year – look out for live music performances created on the spot. For the first time in Singapore, Self Portrait will be here. Do keep an eye for Self Portrait’s latest SS’17 collection.

Guo Pei x COVERED Asia

Stay right here for our upcoming interview with Guo Pei on COVERED Asia.

Nick T.

Managing Director & Managing Editor

"To be or not to be, is not what it should be, but what you think it can be." These are the words that stay firmly rooted in the heart and mind of Nicholas Tan. Better known to the media scene as Nick T., the media veteran has over 15 years of industry experience. Nick T. is the 2017 Executive Director of the Media Publishers' Association of Singapore, the Marketing Director at marketing and events consultancy, COM3, and is the Founder and Managing Director at COVERED Asia.

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