We met the founder of TAGWALK, the Google of Fashion. Alexandra Van Houtte is a resourceful woman, plus a great worker and above all she is cool. We talked about fashion, women entrepreneurship, trendwatch and fashiontech.
The meeting of a “smart cookie”* and the next French entrepreneur that counts in Fashion.
*what a compliment, she called me that!
Hi Alexandra, could you tell us what is TAGWALK, who is it for and to what needs does it answer?
TAGWALK is the very first website which enables the user to find clothes and accessories from Paris, New York, London or Milan runways thanks to keywords. It shortens the search time yet maximize the search results. TAGWALK is intended for the fashion world, internationally: fashion designers, stylists, assistants, journalists, students, trend searchers, cool hunters, archives, aficionados, etc. It answers our 2.0 generation’s need to constantly have more information, faster.
How did you think about it ? How could you explain that nobody did it before?
The idea came to me to fill in a frustration I had as an assistant: I spent hours looking for looks with very specific colors or styles. I was seeing Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook… all these social networks that enabled us to find anything in more or less a click while the fashion and runway world was missing something at that level.
By the way, there are few innovative (software) projects in the fashion industry, why according to you?
I think the fashion world is a bit frightening – it is often difficult to know where to start, how to do it, and what to create to have a real impact. I also think an idea is never better thought through than when it comes from a real need. However nowadays I feel like society give way to young entrepreneurs a lot more than before. Journalists heed them, they are given more help, attention and business angels’ smart advice.
How does the tagging work?
Tagging is long but at same time very satisfying. The more we tag, the more we discover coalitions between brands, the more we see links entwining, the more trends are sat up. We need about one hour to tag a fashion show because we tag each picture one by one. We often re-examine a fashion show two or three days later to check if we didn’t forget a detail, in which case we add it. These pictures are like a newborn, they require nonstop attention. We do everything manually. I trust digital but I don’t want an image recognition interface to set up colors, styles, trends, etc. Maybe one day but not now.
What is the future of TAGWALK (at short and long term)?
For now, the focus is on developing TAGWALK for its users. We launched womenswear, then accessories and we’ve just launched menswear, to make it a more complete experience -simultaneously we also tagged Resort 17. We would like to add archives one day, but we act step by step – first the current fashion shows and the more the site will grow, the more we can progress to new stages.
Any advice to someone who wants to create a project without knowing anything to technology?
My advice? Surround yourself with reliable people. It’s never easy to build a project, especially when you have the idea but don’t really know how to execute it. Choose your allies from the beginning, people that will be able to advise and help you, but be careful, it doesn’t mean hiring everybody around you, it means being able to admit anybody can bring something to the table and that people will be pleased to help you if your questions are legitimate and thought through.
Tagging pictures means defining concepts using words. It necessary implies subjective arbitration. How do you decide? What has been the more tricky arbitration thus far?
TAGWALK tagging is not actually linked to subjective arbitration – yes I admit, having worked as assistant for five years and then a stylist, I’m more likely to tag the words people in fashion industry will search. However, we tag very objectively : color, style, fabric, theme. For the coming season, we are studying all of the colors, like for mandarin and orange to understand if users will instinctively type orange rather than mandarin – we are , as you can see, very busy developing!
Give us a few hints about what you learn through tagging? Did you find recurrent inspirations?
For resort 17, it is obvious : black & white, stripes, logos, floral prints, minimal and animals (cats, insects, birds) -they are all more or less at the same level.
Are the recurrent runway trends those which are the most searched on the platform?
You will never know … Because research is secret on TAGWALK ! On the other hand, there is always a link between runway trends and trends published on magazines, so one goes with the other. And it is also true for research on TAGWALK .
To conclude, is being a girl and launching a website on fashion – which is not a blog – a bias?
I would say that being a girl and working in fashion often has a pejorative connotation, like it was more a hobby than a business. Society finds difficulties to understand that fashion is a huge industry and that there’s place for everyone (bloggers, buyers, trend setters, etc.). On the other side, it’s always better when people have bad opinions on fashion, they can only be pleasantly surprised.
Post written by Tali Fitoussi, Editor
Freshly graduated from IFM Paris, Tali is passionate about fashion and technology. She currently works for Ykone, as a project manager. Involved in valuable collaborations and internships at global companies like L’Oréal or Condé Nast, she helped organizing a conferences sessions at IFM Paris, and joined Clausette Magazine in September 2015.