Stand and Deliver: Uniting Senses and Fueling the Dialogue Between Brands and Their Audiences with Sasha Wallinger
by Lisa Gable · 11 Dec 2023 · 10 min read
My Stand and Deliver series features women who lead through inspiration and aspiration. Today’s article highlights Sasha Wallinger, a chief marketing officer, innovation and foresight strategist, and founder.
I chose to interview Sasha because she has led award-winning global brand positioning and communications teams at world-class brands, including Nike, H&M, and SOREL, where she drove global expansions, led marketing and visual communications, and pioneered gamification and sustainability strategies to translate iconic, heritage brands to GenZ and pop culture audiences.
Sasha has also served as a futurist, with a current focus on pioneering Web3 and emerging technology in partnership with Fortune 500 brands across the global luxury, retail, travel, CPG, and health and wellness industries.
Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about your career and what excites you about your current stage of life.
I am a hidden connections detective who unearths trends and charts the course of their impact across a wide range of industries. This has taken form throughout my career as a chief marketing officer, founder, and advisor to global brands, agencies, NGOs, and thought leaders.
Often described as an eclectic journey, my experiences defining systems change across the retail, CPG, luxury, and health and wellness industries and have taken many forms, mainly due to an inherent curiosity and a propensity for original thinking. The variety in my career can be attributed in part to one of my first jobs as a journalist, with the passion for researching, investigating, and then telling a good story being paramount across much of my professional experiences. Whether I am translating a Swedish brand like H&M’s visual communications strategies to a US West Coast audience, designing entertainment marketing and sustainability strategies for Nike,or helping to stand up Gucci’s Discord channel in support of the launch of their digital collectibles category, I am consistently compelled by uniting the senses and fueling the ongoing dialogue between brands and their audiences.
Currently, I am inspired by rediscovering my voice as an author, after twenty-plus years speaking on behalf of brands. The opportunity to connect the dots across a wide range of topics and share that passion with a variety of audiences across a global stage has been exhilarating.
Tell us about a major transition period in your life (major move, career move, family, unique opportunity) and what prompted the change.
One of the formative moments in my career came when I was obtaining my master’s at Reed College. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take the time to dive deep into my passion for nature and culture in the retail ecosystem and yielded a dissertation on the history of sustainability in fashion that I wanted to submit for a prestigious academic award. My master’s advisor, however, did not find the topic academic enough and therefore would not endorse my candidacy. It was in that moment that I tangibly understood it would be very difficult for me to share my unique vision and futuristic focus with the world. Because of that advisor’s decision, I chose to make my own investment in support of that work, which was subsequently included in The Routledge Handbook of Sustainability and Fashion, which is highly regarded and used in classrooms around the globe to teach in the industry. This also afforded me the opportunity to meet many like-minded academics who were pioneering this course of study and led to great professional collaborations. It also taught me how important it is to bet on an individual whose work or way of thinking you may not understand, yet, through that journey, you can expand your horizons infinitely.
What are the three top tips you have for a woman trying to assert her influence and ideas?
How do you help unleash leadership at all levels?
I am a huge supporter of empowering individuals and teams to have an authentic point of view. This is somewhat rarer the higher up one progresses within an organization, in part because it takes a strong and confident leader to empower their team to step into their leadership potential. However, I have found that by providing respect and an environment that is conducive to growth, collaboration, and creativity, the community of leaders that this atmosphere has yielded has been unparalleled. I believe we each have so much to learn from and share with one another that building resources for each type of leadership style is the key to fostering a sense of trust and stability that empowers leaders from across an organization to soar in their own unique and special way.
Tell our readers about a passion project of yours, why it’s unique or special, and what attracted you to it.
I am a passionate advocate for young women and girls to define their place within the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) ecosystem. As someone passionate about arts and science from a very young age, I brought a great deal of enthusiasm to both of these subjects in school. However, I was taught that I had to pick one that they were not complementary. I cannot imagine what structure and linear progression my research and subsequent career may have taken had I not had to spend such a great deal of time reassembling topics and ways of viewing the world that I inherently understood needed to be connected. I was lucky to find a Nature and Culture Bachelors of Science program. However, that type of study is very unique. Therefore, I am a fan of showcasing intergenerational exchanges between women at different stages of their careers across the sciences, arts, culture, humanities, technology, etc. avenues to ensure that they can inspire an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas that they can translate to their professional lives. I’m currently working on a stealth mode project that will be a hub and resource for these individuals, and it fuels my free time!
Who inspires you today and why?
My inspiration are the leaders of the future. As the ancient Iroquois philosophy goes, the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. Our work benefits the current thought leaders, innovators, and creators of today to build a tomorrow that is full of art, culture, and business that is shaped by infinite possibility.
What is a future aspiration?
I am most inspired by the moment in time that we are in right now, where we are recognizing and charting patterns across industries, disciplines, and categories to fuse creative overlaps that will take us well into the future. I also adore the collaborations that I see with physical designers partnering with digital developers, and during this process there is an exchange of ideas, languages, and creativity that I am confident will inform a more holistically connected future.
The legacy I work tirelessly to create is one that connects people across these seemingly unlikely ecosystems to harness and share their ideas in order to develop a more socially and environmentally responsible world that is full of innovations from art and culture that empower a full life for generations to come.
I’m encouraged to see so many digital creators paving the way to physical and virtual concepts that bridge worlds in entertainment, sports, fashion, travel, and health and wellness. There is an attention with this work toward enhanced understanding of art and culture, the linking of sensory experiences, and education for those who are not as technologically savvy to ensure that a variety of voices and disciplines are included in the future of emerging technology conversations.
In a recent interview with Sasha, I was struck by her remarkable ability to foresee the future and seamlessly weave together her expertise in technology, AI, Web3, fashion, sustainability, nature, and culture. Her work isn’t just about integration; it’s a dynamic collision of various aspects of the world she touches.
Sasha is undoubtedly on the cutting edge, and she always has been. Her vision extends beyond using emerging technologies for marketing a brand’s latest collection or tapping into new product channels and platforms like NFTs, digital fashion collections, or gaming ecosystems. It’s about creating immersive, creative, and inspiring experiences that encourage people to explore something new.
She proved her pioneering spirit by persisting in her groundbreaking work despite her academic advisor's skepticism about the potential of her dissertation on the history of sustainability in fashion. Sasha refused to be discouraged and forged her own path.
For this reason, one of my favorite quotes from Sasha encapsulates her approach perfectly:
“I cannot imagine what structure and linear progression my research and subsequent career may have taken had I not spent such a great deal of time reassembling topics and ways of viewing the world that I inherently understood needed to be connected.”
Her contributions have been groundbreaking, from emerging tech to the future of fashion and sustainability. Back when the idea of sustainability, ESG (environmental, social, and governance), degrowth, and net zero seemed distant from the fashion industry’s interests, she was already shaping the discourse.
Today, Sasha is actively engaged in using augmented reality and virtual reality to craft immersive experiences. Her forward-thinking approach continues to shape the industry, and I am learning daily from her LinkedIn posts, which are always insightful and provide a glimpse of the future could look like.
Here are just a few things I have learned about from her posts and articles.
Sasha’s ability to see the future and her dedication to connecting seemingly disparate fields make her a true visionary. Her work continues to push the boundaries of technology, fashion, and sustainability, leaving an indelible mark on these industries. You can follow her work through her LinkedIn, her online profile and Twitter.
What lessons did you learn from Sasha’s interview? Let me know what inspired you by connecting with me on Instagram or LinkedIn. You can also buy my book, Turnaround: How to Change Course When Things Are Going South, at www.lisagable.com.