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Written down by Elisa Huster 05.12.21

Zadig&Voltaire goes Asian


Interview between Remy Baume, Managing Director of Zadig&Voltaire, and Nathalie Rozborski, Deputy CEO at NellyRodi. (11.05.21)

Zadig&Voltaire and China, is it a love story, an adventure, a dangerous liaison? Is it counter-intuitive?

At Zadig&Voltaire, China is a hope, an adventure and a source of inspiration. For us, China is first of all a hope, since we now know we’re not doing as much there as we could. We’re approaching this new horizon with humility but also with desire and appetite. The brand already has a strong international scope thanks to Europe as well as the United States, and China represents a new prospect for growth.

It’s an entrepreneurial adventure since each continent and its people have specific characteristics, wants and desires. I talk about adventure, because we’re called Zadig [ndlr: from a novel by Voltaire], so, given the character’s personality, we naturally experience this adventure as a path to travel.

Finally, China is an inspiration for me personally. And many members of the Zadig&Voltaire team feel the same way. In fact, in Voltaire’s novel Zadig, the second chapter is based on a Chinese story. That’s surely a sign. More generally, China is, of course, an inspiration for all the professionals in our industry, and that includes us. These are the reasons we’re looking more closely at the Chinese and their tastes. We want to carry the brand’s message to China, but adapt it with products that appeal to that clientele.

What's your roadmap for this market, and what's your goal?

Our ultimate goal is to be recognized for what we have to say. That’s where our ambition and criteria for success lie. We have a relatively strong message: bring a universal culture of well-made cool. When you look at the Zadig&Voltaire silhouette, you see a mix of opposites: hard and soft, featherweight cashmere and crinkled leather, lingerie and boot studs, or, for example, a sweatshirt under a jacket. Our secret desire is to make it possible for our clients to dare to create their own style while they’re exploring the brand and its looks. We want each one to discover a part of themselves and stay in their comfort zone. This is the approach, in addition to our brand values, we want to develop in China.

If there’s a business element we’re targeting that would be a sign of success on the path we want to take, it would be to open 60 or so stores over the next five years. That will give us greater visibility in the country and would be proof that the brand is accepted in that market. But what’s most important for us is that Zadig&Voltaire’s promise is understood.

How will you make your brand international without losing the feel of its very unique DNA?

The brand is often represented by a flag snapping in the wind, and for us that’s the symbol of freedom. We’re not, strictly speaking, a rebellious brand, but rather one with a free spirit. In this respect, I think there are a multitude of spaces and desires in China to let us express that. If you look at what China and especially its youth are going through right now, you see a population that wants to speak for itself and express its identity. The Chinese have a sufficiently independent mindset to communicate their choices and opinions while staying respectful to their strong collective culture.

How do you compare the Zadig&Voltaire Chinese customer to Europeans who are loyal to the brand?

The brand’s overall message is really understood in Europe and the United States. What that really means is that customers can choose the pieces they adore without feeling pressure to create a total look. I’m thinking about crinkled leather, for example; some people won’t take that style risk, but other customers are serious fans.

Then there’s the Zadig&Voltaire look and all the combinations of pieces our clients love to create. That’s really one of our strengths in markets like America and Europe, where the brand is well established. In China I don’t think we’re understood quite as well. We’re appreciated for pieces used as one-offs, and that’s not enough for the style and originality they offer.

So there’s still a lot to do to build a stronger connection between our Chinese friends and the brand – a relationship that lets them create bolder, more “Zadig looks.” This difference between “I get dressed for me” and “I get dressed to be part of the group” is the nuance I’d point out between a customer in the west and a Chinese customer.

How do your teams stay motivated in the present period?

It’s a challenge, but there are always inspiration sources, such as the films we watch and all the marvelous places and talents we can explore on internet. So inspiration is available.

The recent past was less hectic with less time-consuming travel. So our teams were able to express creative ideas that may have been on standby but have been brought to the forefront in the last few months. For example, the 2022 season, which is now being presented, shows ideas we had wanted to express for a long time; and today they’re beautifully realized. I believe that creativity is not just about feelings, and our collections’ style has the advantage of being deeply tied to today’s rapidly changing era and esthetics.

More generally, not being able to do so many regular activities (physical fashion shows) as well as the desire/obligation to change how we communicate also opens doors. We certainly knew about those doors before, but they were only slightly ajar. That’s no longer the case today, and our team’s creativity is in full swing. For example, the somewhat disruptive philosophy that we try to bring to our live shopping (we call it show running at Zadig&Voltaire) sets up a multitude of new directions and creative forms. You have to know how to seize each opportunity for creativity and inspiration.

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