When Paddle8 first launched, offering online auctions for contemporary art and sales that benefited a specific charity of choice, it was revolutionary. E-commerce was still new and exciting territory, especially for artwork.
As consumers have become more used to buying online, Paddle8 grew, and now it’s looking to disrupt the market again. The Native SA, a Swiss-listed e-commerce and content marketing firm made a strategic investment in Paddle8 and Izabela Depczyk is leading the company in a new direction that launches this fall. Over the summer she told us about her plans to reach a wider consumer base, expand their collectible offerings, and pivot their approach to regain their status as tech trailblazers.
WHITEWALL: Paddle8 is undergoing some changes this fall. Why now?
IZABELA DEPCZYK: Paddle8 was originally set up as a tech disruptor. Seven years ago when the company started out, trading art online was something no one had done. That’s obviously changed. It’s about getting Paddle8 back on the cutting edge of technology once again. There are several things that will be rolling out with the new website that are very exciting.
One of those technological innovations was the Blockchain P8Pass, which we launched in April. And we want to start accepting cryptocurrency as a form of payment.
Whatever we’re rolling out, we want to make sure that it is helpful to both our clients on the business-to-business side and our end clients. How can we make the process of consigning to our auction even simpler?
WW: What can you tell me about the new look online?
ID: To me, it’s about look and the whole user experience. We want to mimic the consumption habits of the digital-savvy, affluent millennials, when it comes to how they shop, how they access information, how they follow certain trends. We’ll have a social media–style feed that is very image- and video-heavy, with not too much text.
We’re investing in rich media content. And we’re also integrating this new feature, which we refer to as “The Storefront.” We’re still going to have the auction format, but we also want to develop an unlimited time, set-price format for some partnerships and collaborations of limited editions that we’re rolling out.
WW: Will those be art-specific editions?
ID: It’s going to be editions, but it’s not necessarily going to be art-specific editions. Art and culture is always going to be the backbone and the roots of Paddle8. But we want to expand to new collectible categories. Sneakers, vintage bags, experiences, even.
WW: Do you find that the auction model for sales is still working the same way, or does that need to be addressed as well?
ID: I feel it needs to be addressed. This is why we are adding a very simple e-commerce format. The auction model works for raising money for various charities, which is a huge part of our business. That’s what we do best—help fundraise through auctions. But when it comes to our curated categories, the for-profit sales that we do, I think we can definitely explore other avenues.
It still has to feel unique. A part of what we want to integrate into the overall experience of shopping or collecting with us is the storytelling—the contextualization of the products that we’re selling. We’ve never really done that in the past. Let’s tell the stories of the creative individuals behind the pieces that we’re selling. Let’s show this piece in the context of what it means to somebody or how it fits into their collection.
WW: Has art always been a part of your life?
ID: Art hasn’t. Media has—media and, specifically, digital media. That’s something I studied; that’s something I was always interested in pursuing. I always thought I was going to be a journalist. That’s always what my work had been.
I certainly never thought of myself as a collector. So, to me, I represent the audience that I want to target. I grew up all over the world in many countries, I speak many languages, I feel like my parents gave me a good education. I feel like I have sensitivity to be able to enjoy, invest, and collect art. That’s who I want to target.
WW: Why is the democratization of the art market important to you?
ID: When I entered the art world, I moved to New York and I was just overwhelmed. I felt like there wasn’t any place in particular where I felt like I could just go and learn. Going to a gallery opening wasn’t necessarily the most pleasant experience.
Now I feel like that’s changed, and I feel like it’s changing every year at double the speed. A lot of that happens because of technology. Maybe Gen Z is not afraid to ask questions and not afraid to sound stupid. I feel like the only way you can change for the better is if you allow others to have an opinion, chime in.
Democratization is not just about access to information, but also about giving others an ability to comment and to participate.
This article appears in the fall 2018 Couture Issue of Whitewall, out now.