PARIS — Carmen Busquets is putting her financial muscle behind another industry start-up: Tagwalk. The Venezuelan businesswoman, who was the majority co-founding investor of Net-a-porter, has come onboard as a founding investor of the fledgling web site, billed as the first free online search engine for fashion shows and accessories.
The site allows users to search fashion shows from New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks, as well as resort and pre-collections, through keywords. Enter “fitted red velvet dress,” say, and all looks pertaining to the search from the chosen season will come up.
Budding Franco-British technology entrepreneur Alexandra Van Houtte, the brainchild behind the site, came up with the idea while working as an assistant stylist at Numéro magazine.
“I created Tagwalk because I needed it. Nothing was there so I created a tool that I wanted based on maximizing research results but minimizing research time,” said Van Houtte, who launched the site in Paris a year ago and now has a team of seven people.
“My own impatience created this. After five years working as an assistant, I got really connected with Instagram and Facebook, I had Uber at my fingertips when I needed a car quickly, and Deliveroo for food when I was feeling lazy, whereas in fashion we have all these amazing designers, but too many seasons, too many things to look at, and nothing to sort it,” she added.
“It’s about facilitating people’s lives. My boss would say they needed to see all the red dresses for a photo shoot, and I would have to go through every single show, taking screen shots and putting them in folders, which meant I never had time to look at the young designers. I really did Tagwalk for industry professionals — it’s a B2B tool. I wanted something simple and easy that speaks for itself.”
Busquets sees “tremendous potential and value” in the site and the way it harnesses technology to offer “an efficient solution to tedious fashion searching.”
“It’s a tool that is acutely aligned with the industry’s needs and one that will very likely be used everyday. We all know what it’s like to [trawl through] Google trying to find the right words to find that ‘thing’ we saw. It’s such a simple idea that the fact that it hadn’t been thought of already came as a surprise, but the best ideas usually are,” said Busquets, who declined to share the size of her investment.
The influential angel investor is said to have invested more than $50 million to date in start-ups in the U.S. and Britain including Farfetch, Moda Operandi, Flowerbx and Business of Fashion.
Van Houtte, who created the site with 10,000 euros, or $10,600 at current exchange, manually tagging some 10,000 looks herself to begin with, confessed she was surprised to see the breadth of audience Tagwalk has attracted.
“Naively, I thought it was only going to help assistants, people like me. And actually the whole industry is on it — journalists, trend searchers, stylists, merchandizers, designers and buyers,” she said.
Since August 2016, some 9,500 people have signed up to the site, which is free, led by stylists, who make up 20 percent of visitors; designers, at 17 percent; journalists, at 15 percent, with trend searchers, buyers and consumers each making up 10 percent of traffic. Visitors on average return to the site twice a month.
To get an idea of the pace at which the site is growing, Tagwalk in March drew 25,000 unique visitors and 825,000 page views, versus 4,250 unique visitors and 141,000 page views last September, with an average of 11 minutes of engagement time per person and 22 pages per session.
Having started out with women’s wear, the site now also covers men’s, street style and accessories. Other features include a function that allows users to create printable Pinterest-style mood boards; Tag Talk, where 10 questions are put to industry players who use the web site, and Tag Trends, which covers the main trends based on the most tagged keywords of the season. Van Houtte also recently added Tag Models, for now focused on female models, with male models to be added in June.
In terms of brands featured, the site covers all labels that present fashion shows, whether on- or off-calendar. Brief neutral texts summarizing collections accompany the photos. Brands doing presentations can pay to have their collection featured on the site.
Van Houtte also generates revenue through selling data, such as personalized analytics provided to buyers and merchandisers during fashion seasons detailing which tags are trending.
“Analytics is the thing that I discovered through Tagwalk that I enjoy the most. It’s crazy seeing how the different countries look at different things in every collection, always. There’s maybe one piece that is the same piece for everyone, that one piece that everyone looks at, but otherwise it’s so different,” she said.
“A new designer at a house also really impacts the analytics. If you have a strong casting, it’s a million times stronger, or if there’s a big cultural event like a major fashion exhibition, you’ll always see an impact on trends. I’m constantly comparing what’s going on in the news with what’s going on in analytics,” she added.
Instagram was a key inspiration for the site, and as a self-confessed Instagram “stalker,” many of the brands featured on the site were scouted via the platform. Going forward, the plan is to expand coverage of young designers, “to become a bit bigger in street style and way bigger in accessories, because we’re the only platform in the world that has them.”
Having so far tagged three main show seasons starting from fall 2016, the entrepreneur is looking to harness artificial intelligence to take over the tagging. “The human eye is so important, but we’re training [an artificial] brain to think like we think,” Van Houtte said. “To tag the way Tagwalk tags.”