Local designer fuses fashion and social media

Originally published in The Spectator.

Fashion is an industry that survives because if its ability to fluctuate within certain boundaries, but Quang Dinh believes fashion requires more of a sway to appeal to
today’s consumer.

Dinh, a Seattle University alumnus, is one of the founders of Sway.com, a website set to launch this year that will allow the consumer to define what is and is not fashionable.

“We’re allowing women to decide as a community what is fashion,” Dinh says.

Sway will be a social network for fashion-conscious women who will vote on sample dresses Dinh creates. The dress with the most votes will then go into production and be sold directly to the consumer. Sway will not provide stock for other retailers.

“The wholesale retail model is kind of broken,” Dinh says.

As the former owner of two denim jean lines, Dinh himself struggled with getting stock off the shelves and into department stores as the economy took a downturn. He founded the ethically-conscious jean brands Good Society and Sling and Stone in 2005 when he left Seattle U, which were sometimes carried by stores like Nordstrom.

Dinh retired from the denim industry in 2009, selling his brands to a Canadian buyer. He left the world of fashion for a year, turning instead to viral marketing and search engine optimization.

In his year between the sale of his denim lines and the founding of Sway, Dinh sold everything from bunk beds to Halloween costumes to wedding favors. Matt Inman, owner of the popular website theoatmeal.com, was a partner in the bunkbeds.net project. They designed viral graphics for http://www.onlineschools.org and Dinh aided Ben Huh in the creation of the deal-a-day shirt feature on LOLmart, where users purchase shirts before they are printed so there is no back stock.

His project with Sway, as Dinh sees it, is a merging of the his love for clothes and his experience with web programming.

“We know deal a day works,” Dinh says, “especially for a niche community.”

Sway will be part social media, part online retailer, giving customers power in deciding what the company produces. Dinh says he hopes to draw inspiration from the women in the community to create his dresses.

“If it was all from me, they [the dresses] would be black and grey with lots of clean lines,” Dinh says. “It would look like Burberry.”

However, the forums on Sway will be moderated for the sake of tastefulness.

“We’re not going to produce pasties because 10,000 people vote for pasties,” Dinh says.

The community features on the website are scheduled to launch this week, and sales are projected to begin at the end of the summer. If the site receives more than 1,000,000 users, Dinh and his childhood friend and business partner Salil Jain hope to open Sway stores in large cities that will be as social media friendly as possible, bringing fashion fully into the 21st century. Dinh envisions a store where a woman could walk out of the dressing room, take a picture of her outfit and get feedback from Sway users in real time.

“The fashion game is very old school. […] It’s all arbitrary what [the designer] thinks looks nice,” Dinh says. “We want to give women a platform to control what
they like.”

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