Fashion industry is a rushing torrent, full of participants, trends and data. There are four major events – Fashion weeks that take place all over the world all year long. Hundreds of catwalks and runway shows, thousands of looks turn into impressive amount of unstructured content. And the ones, who works in fashion industry has to somehow deal with it. Imagine the reaction of newcomers and interns, who have just faced this overwhelming flow. They go through every single show, looking for relevant outfits. It takes more than just a few hours, and the process of sifting through countless images is, in fact, energy-consuming.

Alexandra Van Houtte was the one of these newcomers. She started her career as a fashion assistant in Numéro, Grazia, Glamour (Paris) and Vogue. One day she decided, that it`s high time to stop wasting time and energy and straightened out the whole fashion world.

TAGWALK: How Alexandra Van Houtte Builds The First Fashion Search Engine


Sorting the things out

Alexandra describes her assisting experience with the word “tiring”. Being impatient by her nature, she couldn`t put up with the absence of special resource, that could facilitate the search. 

Fashion industry lacked the search engine. Like those, the academic have (JSTOR and etc). But in order to create it, one needed to make huge efforts to sort the things out: to structurize images, to create relevant brands and designers. Actually, it`s like building a skeleton – bone to bone, so all organism could function effectively.

Therefore, Van Houtte quit her job at Grazia in May 2015. Since then she started working on her major project – world`s fashion search engine, called TAGWALK.


TAGWALK: How Alexandra Van Houtte Builds The First Fashion Search Engine


Alexandra`s goal was to make a resource that could help find every designer and look, presented on Fashion Week. The process of creating first fashion engine was not easy.  Building a database took a huge amount of time (6 tough months) . Van Houtee worked on this project alone – at that time she didn’t have her own team of fashion experts. So, she personally contacted every existing brand, presented collections on Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks in order to get images for her database. Like in her assistant days, she painstakingly  edited and tagged each of 10,000 pictures. The site was finally launched in January 2016.

At the moment Van Houtee has seven staff members, including stylists and fashion experts. Despite the partial automatization of the process, there is still things to do. “The human eye is really important,”  Van Houtte explains. Computer is good at detecting colors and basic clothing pieces (a skirt, for example). However,only careful human eye can detect niche trends and controversial shades. Software programs are not perfect, so TAGWALK staff checks every look and assigns specific keywords to controversial images.

TAGWALK: How Alexandra Van Houtte Builds The First Fashion Search Engine


How TAGWALK works

TAGWALK is based on: fashion, simplicity, and rapidity. It has barely changed the process of runway search. The search engine allows users to search collections, presented at Fashion week, by season, fabric, trend, brand and city.

The site focuses on providing users with relevant results- as much specified and precise as possible. Its search mechanism  is based on keyword “grades”. Every single look from each fashion show is assigned with multiple keyword grades, according to which the looks become more or less relevant to particular search term. If you are looking for oriental looks, type in “Oriental” and you`ll get 114 images from the eminent brands` runways. TAGWALK also shows related tag suggestions, that are “Asian” and “CHINOISERIE”  for our case.

TAGWALK: How Alexandra Van Houtte Builds The First Fashion Search Engine


The mission of the first fashion search engine is to make a user-friendly search. The whole process is built on collaboration between fashion brands and TAGWALK team. Lables, who don’t have budget to stage their own runway show, can pay  $50-$250 monthly fee to have their looks included in TAGWALK database. They also sell trend data to brands, providing information about the most looked outfits by countries. These data gives an overvirew of the reaction of the industry towards different collections.


Plans for the future

Alexandra Van Houtte plans to develop the database beyond Fashion Week images and to put include streetwear looks on the list. One can`t deny the growing influence of social media stars. Thus TAGWALK is planning to take their outfits into account. “We’re focusing on what younger generations are looking at and what interests them,” – Van Houtte admits. TAGWALK also wants to start collecting images of models, so the users could find out which models took part in certain catwalks and search new faces.

TAGWALK: How Alexandra Van Houtte Builds The First Fashion Search Engine

At the moment, TAGWALK has more that 7,500 subscribers. Not only assistants, but the whole fashion industry: editors, buyers, stylists, fashion school students and trend influencers are using it

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