Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Pokémon Go may have been few of the most searched terms on Google in 2016. But while the world was googl-ing their life away, we were occupied by another search engine on the block. Say goodbye to hours of manual collection of fashion images and hello to TAGWALK, founded by Alexandra Van Houtte.
Alexandra Van Houtte is originally from Paris but grew up and studied in England since the age of 13. She studied Contemporary Chinese at Nottingham University, lived in China for a year and later studied Fashion Media Styling at London College of Fashion. If this doesn’t make you want to meet her already, here’s another part of her résumé: she is the visionary behind a revolutionary website that has changed the way stylists, journalists and trend setters interact within the fashion industry.
TAGWALK is the first fashion show and accessory keyword searcher; in simple terms, it’s a search engine for clothes. With a well-thought out algorithm running in the background and Alexandra and her team acting as fast paced ‘tag force’ in the front, TAGWALK is able to minimize the time one spends on finding fashion images and maximizes search results. No more #searchingfordays here.
From a Fashion Stylist to a Founder
Alexandra wanted to be a fashion stylist (may have even be obsessed with the idea of it) since she was a little girl. As she recalls, “it all started with Tim Walker for British Vogue when I was around 13. Walker’s dreamy images are what got me attracted and interested in fashion. Then, I interned at the Sunday Times Style at the age of 15, thinking that working in fashion would always keep you on your toes instead of a mundane 9 to 5 job, which didn’t really seem like fun.”
Making her dream come true, she worked a few assistant jobs that required her to go to many stores and shows to look for the latest trends, take photos and report back to her colleagues. Understanding how manual this was, Alexandra had an epiphany, “Is it just me or is it everyone in the industry?” Voilà, the seeds of TAGWALK were planted in 2015.
Tag, You’re It!
TAGWALK originated via a beta version that was launched in April 2015 with fashion pros testing the product. In fact, to truly review the user experience, Alexandra also tested with her parents who knew nothing about fashion. The development process started when Alexandra sent out polite emails to every brand that showed collections in New York, Paris and Milan. Majority of the brands responded and opted in except for two. Alexandra downloaded the 1000s of images she received, uploaded them on the platform and manually tagged them with her colleague. Before the launch, a link was shared with every brand to check how the images showed, giving them the authority to make changes.
With a genius idea and a platform in hand, Alexandra directly contacted Sophie Fontanel, a renowned fashion journalist, on Instagram. To her surprise, Sophie responded to that message, met her in person and covered TAGWALK in a full page spread shortly after. In September 2016, the 2nd version was released with menswear styles and the number of visitors quadrupled. Today, a quick search today gives 341 results in one second.
The #Tag Phenomenon
In a world where Uber is a click away for cab service, Facebook allows for quick stalking and Instagram can transport you to places with one photo, it was inevitable that fashion needed a quick search, select, save option for the numerous images it generates on a daily basis. Indeed, taking inspiration from Instagram, TAGWALK references every single picture from every single season from every single show.
The benefits go beyond just being a stylist’s new secret weapon. The search engine has helped buyers, photographers and journalists for easy referencing for a particular collection. The tags are generated based on category such as menswear, womenswear and accessories, which is then tagged by color, materials, styles, and other garment details. Alexandra’s experience as a stylist came in handy as many of these manual tags are quite subjective. The best part? Not only can you search by designer, season, city or keywords, you are also able to create a login and save all your images in the form of mood boards and print them. Whoa! You didn’t see that coming, did you?
“There is always space for young people in fashion!”
Alexandra started with zero funds and no knowledge in technology. In fact, she wanted to build the business the cheapest way possible and taught herself much of the tech lingo. For her, the developer was super important. Her advice: “Don’t ever get into a fight with the developer!” and treat them as your best friend. Today, the team consists of her right-hand colleagues, interns, graphic designers and taggers.
With a few mishaps in the beginning, the platform started generating an income six months post-launch. Although all brands are referenced without a charge, the monetization comes from charging brands that don't have a fashion show to be referenced in the search engine. Brands can also get access to detailed industry data at an additional charge.
“Never satisfy yourself with what you've accomplished, always strive to develop more.”
What TAGWALK has done is nothing short of a life saving trick. It has brought two days of hard work to two hours of efficient work. Funnily, many users won’t even mention TAGWALK so as to keep their secret. In Alexandra’s words, “What makes you lazy actually works! Seamless, Uber, etc. are all making us lazy!”
Her biggest challenge? To trust your instincts rather than depend on other people's opinions. And to never satisfy yourself with what you've accomplished; always strive to develop more. Her learnings? Your reputation is the only thing that people will remember and acknowledge so be nice to every person you encounter in your career. In addition, continue to work on a business plan post-launch to understand where you want to go and to set boundaries.
Alexandra currently lives in Paris and has recently moved into the new offices of TAGWALK. Follow her journey here and register on TAGWALK to impress your next boss. Be aware, you may just get addicted (or promoted)!
Photo courtesy of TAGWALK.