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Digital Fashion Week Singapore: Interview with co-founder Charina Widjaja

Now in its third year running, Digital Fashion Week Singapore exclusively supports local design talent. In a special interview, we talk to Charina Widjaja, the events’s co-founder and business development director, to find out what’s in store for the 2014 edition. (Psst… check out our guide to awesome designs hitting the runway over here.)

Charina Widjaja
Charina Widjaja

How did the concept for Digital Fashion Week first come about?
After years of servicing clients, mostly in the fashion industry, I chanced upon some outstanding local designers in the flourishing local fashion scene. Their work and courage really inspired me, and kindled a vision of curating a platform to showcase emerging talent. With growing engagement on digital platforms and no fashion week dedicated to local labels at that time, the concept of Digital Fashion Week Singapore was born.

Shifting towards digital marketing enables us to transcend geographical boundaries, while our designers and sponsors enjoy increased exposure to consumers all around the world.

Can you explain how the process works for consumers and if there are any new features this year?
Utilising platforms such as Google+ and YouTube, it was launched as the world’s first shoppable, live-streaming fashion week back in 2012. It was the first time consumers could enjoy the fully fledged activities of a fashion week online. Through live-streamed videos, consumers are involved from the very beginning; they get to participate in the backstage events, hair and makeup sessions, and even rehearsals.

This year, we’ll be launching Asia’s first shoppable Google hangout during Digital Fashion Week. While it’s already been done with Diane von Furstenberg, this will be the first ever showcase of its kind in Asia.

You’re now into your third year – congratulations! How do you feel about the event’s progression in Singapore and the response so far?
We’re very glad to see the increase in awareness of and support for local designers. When we first started, we faced many difficulties getting support, due to the small size of the Singapore market. Now, we have more and more sponsors coming to us directly who are interested in getting involved.

What has your collaboration with the British Council and the High Commission brought to the event?
It has really increased the support we receive from the government. This year, we’ll be working with the Italian Embassy, the Italian Cultural Institute of Singapore and the Italian Trade Commission to promote a deeper cultural exchange. All of this is only possible because of our working relationship with the British Council and the High Commission, and their increasing support for the fashion week.

We love that you provide a platform to showcase local and independent designers. How do you pick whom to showcase?
We select our designers based on several criteria. First, their brand must be relatively established in Singapore. Then, we meet with the designers personally to find out more about their brand and their vision – we focus on supporting designers who aim to sustain their business here. Finally, with our consumers in mind, we consider the aesthetics and finished quality of their products.

We really enjoyed last year’s catwalk and showroom concept. Will this year’s event have the same format?
It will be bigger and better. The format remains mostly the same, featuring local designers and with international designer highlights, but we’ve put much more thought into production and the quality of the staging, lighting and even the videography. We’ve also got a number of exciting fringe events to create more hype for this year’s event.

Any highlights of the week that you can reveal?
This year we’ll have British fashion VIPs such as journalist Hilary Alexander and stylist Rebekah Roy in attendance. The winner of the latest season of Asia’s Next Top Model (Sheena Liam) and America’s Next Top Model (Jourdan Miller) will also be walking on the runway.