In 2009, I wrote The Fashion Blogger’s Guide to New York Fashion Week for IFB and although some of the advice posted rings eternal, a lot has changed at almost a lightening speed, or rather, at the pace of fashion. One major difference, besides the new home at Lincoln Center, is the use of technology; Fashion GPS had been implemented this past season in the tents to provide quick, efficient, and effortless check-in for attendees. It's best explained by Founder and CEO Eddie Mullon as a “very diverse system with many different ‘modules’ tailored to various categories of needs, from samples tracking and contacts management to all aspects of events management – interactive seating charts, electronic invitations, our very own FGPS seating iPad app…” It's interesting to think about how fashion and technology can merge to create a completely new atmosphere, particularly yielding a better experience during Fashion Week, which is the two most hectic and stressful times of the year for the industry. The Q&A with Mr. Mullon exclusively for IFB runs the gamut from what Fashion GPS is all about, the importance of bloggers, and the strangest thing about Fashion Week – enjoy!
JD: Can you tell me a bit more about the different products and applications? Most people initially heard about fashion GPS for fashion shows and events, but you also have it to assist via Virtual Look Book, Publicity Manager, Sample Manager, Fashion GPS Radar, etc?
EM: “Yes, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what Fashion GPS‘ is, exactly, since the name is attached to a lot of different service categories within the general Fashion/PR umbrella. Essentially, Fashion GPS first started with a sample manager,basically a dashboard which captured and digitized the entire sample send out and PR samples tracking process with the help of barcodes. It's proven time and again to significantly reduce sample loss while maximizing exposure to press opportunities. With the click of a mouse, you can generate reports to see which looks are most requested by editors and stylists, and then pass on this data to a designer's product and marketing management. The implications for a designer are obvious, and I expect particularly important at a time like this.
The Virtual Look Books developed as a natural extension of the samples requesting process. It enables press and stylists to digitally request samples and looks, and for those on the receiving end to easily manage and track these requests to see how many times a look book was viewed and which looks were most popular. While Look Books regularly take weeks to produce, stylists can start requesting almost immediately via Fashion GPS Virtual Look Books. It goes without saying this can significantly increase the amount of editorial coverage a collection receives just by expediting the workflow.
In terms of our Events Management capabilities, we have a number of integrated services that cover the entire process flow of planning an event, from creating and choosing contacts, to assigning seating, to managing RSVPs, and so on. Everything is done from one convenient web-based portal so you don't have to rely on one thousand spreadsheets and memos and charts. We've also developed an iPad app for on-the-go check-in. It's literally a digital clipboard, where you have your interactive invitee list plus all your documents, and it updates in realtime and works offline as well. In a world of aesthetics, it's certainly a step up from an actual clipboard.”
JD: Why do you think this was the season to implement Fashion GPS at New York Fashion Week, and what do you think it's biggest contribution to the PR firms and attendees was?
EM: “Over the years we have been slowly working with more clients in the industry, over a year ago Lisa Smilor (CFDA) introduced me to Christina Neault (IMG) at an event, and the rest is history. I think it was all good timing and hard work to gain trust in the industry. At the time our strategic partnership was announced, we were already producing 45% of Fashion Shows with our system, so it was a natural progression to work with IMG for their move to Lincoln Center.
Our single biggest contribution to the PR firms and attendees was an unprecedented level of organization and speed. As we known, the Fashion industry as a whole is incredibly time-sensitive. That kind of sensitivity demands a quick response time and a lot of technical latitude for the user. Invite lists and RSVPs are being updated up to the minute, so it was just a matter of Fashion GPS proactively anticipating and then meeting the many nuanced needs of fashion houses and PR agencies.”
JD: It took me a few days to figure out that I could just punch in the code on the bottom of my Fashion GPS confirmed email for each show to print out the receipt with my seat assignment at the terminal if I didn't have a paper copy – oops! What was the biggest challenge with implementing Fashion GPS at the New York Fashion week tents at Lincoln Center this season?
EM: “Our biggest challenge was understanding the dynamics of the multiple events at this scale. Since this was our first run at Lincoln Center, we wanted to be as nimble and adaptable as possible. Of course, we tried to anticipate challenges in advance, but you'll inevitably get thrown a curve ball. There is months of planning and testing that goes into one week, and even then there were days we had no sleep! Our approach was to be as receptive and open to feedback as possible. In fact, we sought out feedback from clients and editors, because their first impressions and experiences are the real litmus test. In the course of one really high-octane week, that inevitably meant changing things up on-the-go a couple of times.
In this industry, as in any creative industry, people will change their minds at a moments notice, and you have to be prepared. Ultimately, you have to be objective and embrace change and improvement for the sake of an even better product. I think that kind of flexibility is one our company's greatest strengths.”
JD: What are you working to improve for next season?
EM: “We've gotten a lot of great feedback, and are working to incorporate that for next season. Key improvements include a central portal for attendees to manage all of their invitations and RSVPs in one place. We really strive to keep the system constantly evolving to create a more streamlined, intuitive user experience. The refinement process is obviously a reflection of the feedback and experiences we acquire with every season.”
JD: Since you've experienced fashion week many times over, what do you think the strangest thing about it is?
EM: “The strangest thing for me at least is the crasher culture; the pushing, shoving, and general desperation to get in and see a show, since it contradicts the kind of primness and civility we associate with fashion shows. Though again, that all depends on what shows you're going to! It's all in a day's work.
What is also completely mind-boggling is the amount of planning and time that goes into a 10 minute production. Of course it's something I directly relate to, since we also plan for months ahead of time for our own production. Still, it's always wild to spend weeks working with clients on their invitee lists, RSVPs, and so on, and then the day of the show comes and 10 minutes later it's done and the sets being dismantled.”
JD: What are the costs like for a company to use the technology, and do you think you would introduce a ‘small business model' so that smaller companies, start-ups, and even bloggers could use it?
EM: “We typically charge $400/user/month for GPS Samples and $350/user/month for GPS Events only. If a clients chooses both, its $550/user/month. That's for a minimum of 5 users. We are certainly evaluating a new small business model, but has yet to be priced and deployed. We'll absolutely let you know if and when it is available.”
JD: Do you think that the growth of bloggers at fashion events has helped to propel the fashion industry into more of a digital mindset and acceptance?
EM: “Yes. We can see now that bloggers have a lot more clout and reach than some of the old establishment publications. There's actually a lot of overlap when it comes to the blogger ethos and our own – it's a matter of who's more accessible,
interactive, synchronous and responsive at any given moment. It's exactly these qualities that give our company the upper hand, since we're the embodiment of digital. It's the same thing with bloggers, and itʼs no wonder New Media is making so much headway. The digital mindset is, at its foundation, democratizing. Behind a lot of breathtaking, elite fashion shows, there's a lot of data entry and Fashion GPS!”
JD: Do you plan on working with bloggers to expand and promote Fashion GPS?
EM: “We're currently looking to build tools for bloggers to ease their communication with design houses and PR agencies. The benefits work both ways, from the media standpoint and from the designer standpoint.”
JD: What online publications or blogs do you read?
EM: “We pick up a lot of stuff through our Twitter, and have a few consistent favorites, including, of course, Womenʼs Wear Daily, Cathy Horyn's pieces for The New York Times, Fashionista.com and Lookonline. We also look to New York magazine's “The Cut” blog for some much needed comic relief from time to time.”
Images compliments of Fashion GPS