In New York, where people dress everyday like it's Fashion Week, September is an annual celebration of style. This past Saturday, Glamour and the Council of Fashion Designers of America paid tribute to the style industry by partnering to host "Dressed to Code," a fashion hackathon (an event where people collaborate on computer programming).
Well-dressed developers, entrepreneurs and designers convened to merge fashion and technology. They gathered in General Assembly, located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, to spend the day designing, developing and creating a game/app/tool to engage fashionistas in the areas of shopping, street style and sharing outfit ideas.
Zola Founder and CEO Shan-Lyn Ma moved to NYC from Silicon Valley five years ago to work for the small tech startup Gilt Groupe. Then, the Standford Business School graduate says:
You couldn't find these types of events. Today, it's thrilling to see New York City really driving innovation in Fashion Tech. As we saw at the Hackathon, only in NY can you find a lauded Fashion magazine such as Glamour investing to drive innovation. Nowhere else have I seen developers, UX designers and fashion lovers all working side by side to create new technologies to show beloved fashion superstar Rebecca Minkoff their prototypes, all in one day.
Unlike typical hackathons, where women comprise a mere 5 percent of the room, this event drew a female representation of more than 50 percent.
Shopbook team's Sahat Yalkabov thought "it was a fantastic hackathon. It was small, didn't feel crowded, nor was it too 'commercialized,' like some of the previous hackathons I have attended. The biggest thing about this hackathon was gender diversity."
Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive and CFDA CEO Steven Kolb welcomed guests at the start of the event. Software developers from Facebook, Tumblr, Gilt, Aviary and Glamour were also in attendance to offer assistance and answer questions.
Executive Digital Director for Glamour, Mike Hofman, expressed enthusiasm over how different teams approached the central challenge of tech innovation in the fashion space. He noted, "In terms of trends, I think lots of teams looked for mobile solutions to help women get outfit idea inspiration and shopping tips by sharing content such as selfies, snaps of their closet and even sample sale intel -- the editors in attendance really liked that last idea a lot."
72 Lux Founder & CEO Heather Marie concurs,
The two main trends in the presentations were finding the right size and fit, and deciding what to wear. These are important because they are two problems most people face. Fit in particular is one all of the judges agreed has always been a big challenge and even with so many companies attempting to fix it in the past, it has yet to be solved which is where the opportunity lies.
The other thing we saw is about half the startups are focusing on ecommerce as a monetization tool. One example was an app trying to help connect Glamour readers with where they can shop the latest trends. Another example was a website that let friends tag the products their friends are wearing and share it through Facebook.
Around 6 p.m., teams were given two minutes each to present their fashion apps and prototypes to fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, Vine cofounder and creative director Rus Yusupov, Wanelo founder and CEO Deena Varshavskaya and 72Lux founder and CEO Heather Marie. The panel of industry insiders judged team projects by identifying scalable business models that addressed real problems in the fashion industry or in consumers' lives.
Thrifter took first place. Michelle Austria Fernandez and David Lau designed the app that allows people to sell and bid on clothes and accessories. Hofman thinks it "stood out for creating a targeted marketing solution for a secondary market that is perhaps underserved by current offerings."
Grace Alignay, Berk Atiglu, Eytan Daniyalzade and Wei Lu won second place for Stylr, a local shopping discovery app that uses Google Glass. Hofman "could see some mall based holiday shopping promotional applications for it, for example."
[Read the U.S. News Debate: Should the Senate Have Passed an Online Sales Tax?]
Rocio Rizo and Rafael Vasquez came in third for Glamour 360 Love, a 3D body measurement app. Hofman believes this is "perhaps the idea with the greatest promise in terms of the size of the problem it addresses for both fashion brands and consumers: namely, how garments fit. For our judges, the technology prototype was very intriguing."
The top three teams won tiered cash prizes. More importantly, the first place team will be granted access to pitch Glamour's product manager and executive digital director at a follow-up meeting, to potentially develop the prototype for commercial use. Additionally, team members will meet with and pitch Andrew Siegel, the head of strategy and corporate development for Advance Publications (Glamour's parent company), who handles corporate investment.
It will be exciting to see which of these projects succeed in the world of entrepreneurship and fashion over the next year, because, as they said at the event, "nothing is as chic as a clean line of code."
Lisa Chau is a private consultant focused on social media and cross–platform marketing. Previously, she spent five years working for her alma mater Dartmouth College, as assistant director of alumni affairs and assistant director of PR for the Tuck School of Business. She has also taught at MIT, and guest lectured MBA and undergraduate courses in e-business Strategy at Baruch College and NYU's New School.
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Corrected 9/9/13: A previous version of this blog post incorrectly spelled Mike Hofman’s last name, and incorrectly named the company for which Andrew Siegel works. The company is Advance Publications.