Dear Fur lovers and young entrepreneurs open your ears and eyes and read this interview done at the beginning of October in Beijing with Alexander.
What I really like about my job is the possibility to meet young and super talented people like Yves-Alexandre.
Explain to my followers who are you! You live in China, Beijing but you are French correct?
Yes, that’s correct, I’m french. My name is Yves-Alexandre d’Ouradou, I am Furward by Kopenhagen Fur creative director. I’ve study fashion design in south of France in Marseille at the IICC. I arrived in China in 2009 for the first time, and developed my own brand before joining Furward, while I had the occasion to work with many fashion magazines from Harper’s Bazaar to Cosmopolitan or Marie Claire for example, and I had the chance to work with quite a few chinese celebrities.
You do many things, follow many interesting and stimulating projects. How did you get here ? You are so young! You have your collection and you have an important role at Furward ! Congratulations! Please reveal to us how did you do it.
(laugh) Thank you. How did I do, well… it will sounds a little bit cliche but its a big part of hard work, a touch of luck and a touch of talent I suppose. When you are very passionate about what you do, and when you really believe in what you are doing, you can pass through a lot of hard time to get what you want. I guess the most important is also to grab all the opportunities who can help you progress in your career, and let pass all the things who will slow you down even it sounds a good idea at first. Making the good choices at the right time.
Tell us more about your brand collection When did it start and what are the goals?
It started when I was still in school, I was also working for a local designer and I didn’t like that much working this way, following another designer vision and style wasn’t much for me, I was sure that I could do much better of my life, that I had more to show to the world. I found a korean partner and we were planning to create a collection for the fashion week in Seoul. On my way to Korea, I stopped to Beijing to meet some friends, then I never left this city. I first had to learn a little bit then I started to design and make clothes. I had a first show then a second, a third. My network kept growing up.
The idea of the brand from the beginning was to do something in the spirit of the two designers I really admire (Hubert de Givenchy and Cristobal Balenciaga), with the idea of something luxury and timeless. Another designer who certainly influenced me a lot was Yves Saint Laurent; his style, if it didn’t revolutionize in one moment the fashion in the world like Christian Dior could have done it, I’m quite convince that he leaded the whole trends for decades and lead the trends the way he was thinking of it.
From that quite classic taste I founded a strategy of a modern brand for a modern woman, strong, with responsibilities, successful in her job, independent and beautiful. My woman is self confident but she’s still very sensitive, she’s a modern woman, who lives in a city so she had to stiffen up but deeply, she’s still this romantic girl whose looking for some evasion.
Which are the goals of Furward?
I think Furward needs to be the company who will help the fur industry to pass from this luxury, confidential, and very technical and “old fashion” way to work to something more modern, with the tools of our age, the internet, the photography, the design and the branding.
Furward is based in Beijing because we believe that it’s from China that the “fur revolution” as I like to call it, have a chance to happened. If Furward can’t make it happened, we believe that nobody can make it happened.
We’re in an industry who cares about the important price of the skins and save money on the design, on the advertising, on the photography etc… We’re in a society of the image, branding is important. What the fashion industry understood decades ago, the fur industry (I speak in general – even the european market is more advanced, in terms of production, we’re far from what China is putting on the market) is very late. Furward has the team at the disposition of any brand who wants to do things differently.
Which advice would you like to give to new designers?
If you want to have week-ends, holidays, full nights; change job. If you’re ready to work everyday all your life, you might have a future.
How important is it for a designer to get an investor?
I started without an investor, I had an investor afterwards. I would say that to start create your brand, making the spirit of it, it might be better without an investor. Because hard work and mistakes will save you from big damage and will teach you how to get better, and how to make new things; another thing is, as long you don’t have investor, you can try new things, new ideas, you need to develop your ideas without the stress of the result and the sales (which means a lot of chinese noodles everyday for lunch and dinner!).
Having an investor is not simply “important” afterwards, it’s just essential. Without money it’s impossible to pass to the second step, and transform your concept into a business, your philosophy into a brand, and your fans into customers.
Do you think that the Chinese market will continue to be one of the most important for our sector?
I don’t really have any doubt, it will certainly pass the Russian market pretty soon. Even tho China is not as cold as Russia, the fact that fur is now more and more used into the fashion industry means that the design are more and more elaborate, that fur goes well into the street of the big cities and not only into the cold places. Fur techniques are also more numerous every season, it gives more possibilities to the designer to create new interesting fur designs for everywhere in the world.
Also, China doesn’t have the same relation to fur as we have in Europe. And the work from companies like Kopenhagen Fur who put animal welfare in the center of all their engagement is starting to be followed by more people in the world. It gives a much better image of what we are really doing and about how we are really working.
About Furward how is the feedback from the Chinese market? You are bringing innovation to the Chinese fur market… Are Chinese fur companies really interested in doing rebranding of their collection or do you have to force their minds?
We are bringing a lot of innovation in the market and I would be lying if I was saying that it is easy to change people minds in this market. Sometimes I’m very disappointed when I travel and I see how much the industry still refuse to change, but I’m often happy few time later when one of our client call us to actually do things another way.
I guess it will take some times, we have only started one year ago, we cannot do miracles in such a short time but it already started and we have clients going exactly the way we were hoping them to go. It’s such a pleasure when we see the things we are achieving and the things we are bringing not only to one brand but to a whole industry.
Could you describe a week of your life?
When doyou wake up?
When do you stop to work?
Do you have a personal life?
Do you travel a lot?
I’m basically working 7 days a week, 350 days a year (not holidays, but I give myself some day of rest few days in a month). I kind of keep working when I sleep, that’s why I can’t live without my Samsung note, to write my ideas when I wake up.
I don’t have a lot of personal life, and I do travel a lot, European and Asian countries mainly. But I have to tell that it’s not at all what I’m in right to do. We basically have all our weekends, and 10 days holidays that we can take anytime, plus all the national holidays… it’s more a choice because I’m kinda crazy about my job, I love it and I feel very very bored when I’m not working.
How is the fur market going?
The facts are like this, fur was a very big business, and people who made their fortune in the fur industry are business men. Before it was a really simple business, you buy skins, you make coats and you sell them. Then more and more businessmen wanted to go and make a business, better than the neighbor so they cut the prices more and more, by producing more and cutting the costs here and there. And that’s how the benefits per coat produce just felt down, then arrive to the situation we are now with a crowded market. At the same time the market got crowded, multi-billions company from the fashion industry, with full team of designers, experts in image, celebrities and a full access to the best you can find infiltrate the fur market, changing the consumer mind about what is fur design. So on your left you have a crowded market with old style design, no investment in image and design; and on your right you have real brands with good designs, who appears in magazines, wear by celebrities and saw by all.
The chinese market certainly knows that, they are brilliant businessmen but they are afraid to invest money and change their business model. It will certainly take a lot of companies to die, a lot of new companies to arrive, and at one moment, with Furward as a key for those who wants to change era, some kind of switch and more and more people will follow.
What would you like to change from the Fur market ?
A much bigger budget for investment, it’s time to move. Create something who will still have value in the next 100 years. In one word – Branding. It pass by a lot of things, design, name, logo, video photography, app, websites. Doing things very differently.
Kopenahgen Fur is the most important fur auction and helped to develop many company brand and help many many different causes.. Which role does Kopenhagen Fur have in your life?
Well, Furward is by Kopenhagen Fur. I can say that I’m part of a big family. I can work that hard for Furward it’s also because I like the values of Kopenhagen Fur. I’m sorry if it sounds really “corporate”, but it’s just really how I feel it. I have my place here and I hope we will be able to make history, this is what Kopenhagen Fur is doing.
What do you think about Men in Fur?
Two words: PLEASE MORE. And as a man, I really really hope that the brand are going to develop this a little bit more. I also wrote an article on our company wechat (Furward) about it. Men are coming back to fashion, they wants fur coat, they need better designs and more choice.
If people think about FUR they think about fur coats, scarf, stole, hats ….. In which sector would you like to bring FUR ?
I have friends developing a street brand for the korean market. Nothing really new except the style which is quite unusual street and fur. I might sounds boring but I still believe that nothing will replace the fur coat in any future. I like fur coats, shorts or long, mixed or not with fabric, or leather. I love to work with mink, i don’t see any limits about how you can use it. So it’s not really about a sector, it’s more about the respect you must give to your own product. We are all in a business right, we design coats it’s to sell them, but you need to respect it in all the details, forget the polyester lining, and the ugly button because you chose randomly or because you want to save small money. Fur is a beautiful thing, respect it.
Which brand do you wear ?
I placed their founders at the head of my own inspiration when we started our conversation, and I’m still in love with what they are doing with those brands: Givenchy and Saint Laurent Paris.
Thank you very much for your time.