Female Entrepreneur Creates Technology Platform to Solve Fashion Industry Challenges
You may not yet know Alexandra Van Houtte by name, but if you’re interested in fashion, you are probably familiar with her work. She’s the founder of Tag Walk and for the past year has been building the Google of Fashion. Her platform is a hybrid of sorts. Tag Walk is a dream comes true for the fashion industry professional. A blend of Pinterest, Instagram, and Style.com all wrapped up in one sleek site where trends and looks are seamlessly found.
The platform is a manifesto of what is happening in the tech industry today. Tag Walk could most certainly have this tagline: “It's hard to believe that no one thought of this before.” Its appeal lies in its symbol; it is more than just a platform it’s a promise. Not only she is creating a revolution in the industry with her platform but she is also signaling a shift in the way we view fashion and the tech industry. Meeting Alexandra Van Houtte is nothing short of meeting a wizard and the team that surrounds her is made of equally talented women.
Van Houtte has watched the fashion industry evolve from the front row. As a former intern in visual merchandising at Lanvin and for the magazine such as Grazia, Numéro and International Vogue this graduate of the London College of Fashion decided to create a new search engine devoted to fashion. “As an assistant, I spent hours searching for looks; I thought that there should be an easier way, a different way.” She knew that the condition of other assistants in the industry (also mostly women) was the same as hers: spending hours and hours searching for looks online. Her approach was to create a solution, a remedy to an otherwise time-consuming task.
One of the most recent fundamental shifts in the fashion industry has been how consumers want to engage with fashion brands. There was a time when people looked to brands to tell them what was trendy. Today the consumers dictate what they want—and the fashion industry has to respond adequately. These adequate, quick and appropriate responses will only be delivered with adequate technologies. Technology is simply changing the way we relate to brands and most importantly changing the way we relate to fashion. Much like Alexandra’s initial and very clever analysis, we may be on the verge of many more aha moments in which technology may very well be the remedy to an otherwise sick or archaic industry that needs to quickly find innovative ways to heal and modernize itself.
In recent years, brands and the fashion industry at large have had a bit of a wake-up call. Meanwhile, fashion companies had their heads in the sand, puzzled by the rise of e-commerce, the blast of the brick and mortar retail model and a slew of at-large free agents: nucleons of the digital stratosphere, think bloggers and influencers. The level of engagement with technology in the fashion world had to scale up and face the task at hand. This is nothing short of a revolution in thoughts and approach. This is beyond out of the box and rather a completely new box kind of challenge.
The consumer sets the tone when it comes to fashion but instincts still matter, and design is still crucial. Instinct has a very fertile soil in the tech world, especially when it comes to integrating solutions to industry practices that often seem rather dated or plain wrong, unsustainable and toxic to our environment. Integrating innovative solutions is exactly what Alexandra Van Houtte did. As a Millennial, she was raised with technology and the knowledge that technology was perfectly calibrated to meet her needs, so it makes sense that she expected different things from the industry she wanted to work in. At the same time, data without creative talent is meaningless in the fashion industry. She wanted to disrupt the industry and democratize the access to fashion data. She and her team are integrating an incredibly useful tool, a keyword operated database that provides the industry with a precise curation of the various looks available online.
So why is it a promise? Tag Walk and its army of ladies is a great example of the positive shift we are seeing in the fashion and the tech industry. Under the creative leadership of Alexandra, the Tag Walk team is building a modern and much needed service. Tag Walk speaks directly to the industry, the site is free and it is enhancing the creative process of many fashion professionals. When I ask Alexandra what was her biggest challenge or surprise as an entrepreneur her answer was rather clear. “Tag Walk is not a blog. It’s a comprehensive search engine. I think it’s very easy to sideline projects like mine as ‘a fashion thing.’ I find this sad, particularly because so much of the tech world is dominated by men. But it can also work to my advantage, people not expecting that much of me at first...” Leading by example, Alexandra can inspire other fashion professionals in various fields to think differently about how they can approach their professions, how to facilitate, speed up or render seamless and sustainable the various fashion industry processes.
With a few fairy godmothers, she is supported by fashion influencers such as Instagram genius Sophie Fontanel, Babeth Djian from Numéro or Carmen Busquets who recently became a founding investor of the site.
Tag Walk can only leave us pondering...
At a turning point, can technology give fashion the much needed makeover it needs? Can it also be the much needed window of opportunity women need to make it into the tech world?
In the midst of an unprecedented reality check, fashion is desperately seeking a new breath and a new identity. It is suffering from many ailments, sustainability being one of the biggest challenges it faces today. Technology can and should be a vector of change for the fashion industry. It can make fashion more diverse, more sustainable and perhaps even more hedgy and progressive.
The world of Fashion or more likely the new world of fashion needs to be born of algorithms and data not just patterns and fabrics anymore. We can only hope that Alexandra is one of many women in the fashion industry thinking of merging technology and fashion to address issues and obsolete methods of working. Technology can drive solutions and provide a new paradigm for the fashion industry.
The fashion industry has a great opportunity ahead and should be using all its assets starting with its people and particularly women. This is an incredible opportunity for renewal and transformation. Technology offers the chance to re-evaluate that industry, to be more mindful and strategic about how things are being done. Technology in a sense is the new fashion and if we had to tag a word to it, we could most certainly use two: Future and Female.
FROM THE EDITOR
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