Not all the action during New York Fashion Week takes place on the runways. For the first time, the 70-year-old institution hosted a hackathon — giving savvy programmers 24 hours to create apps to help fashion houses reach you, the customer.
The finalists presented their apps today (Feb. 14) at an event sponsored by Decoded Fashion , an organization dedicated to bringing designers together with technology whizzes. Among the judges was fashion designer Zac Posen, who is also the newest judge on reality show "Project Runway." In an interview before the start of today's awards, Posen said he's "totally addicted" to Instagram, the social photo-sharing site that's become a window into the studios of top designers.
Four of the five app finalists were based on new ways to connect customers' social media accounts with fashion brands.
Coveted is an app that enables tumblr users to buy what they see on the network's blogs simply by clicking a photo. According to the team that built Coveted, 20 percent of the content on tumblr is fashion-related. The new app would allow designers to choose a photo, add a buying option and post to tumblr — a process that would take less than a minute. Tablets were distributed to the judges for them to try it for themselves.
Avante-Garde analyzes a customer's fashion-related social media posts (with their permission) by the colors shown in photos of clothing and accessories. The result is a customer color palette that can then be used to send emails with suggestions for new clothing that matches each participant's favorite colors of the moment.
42 also "reads" a customer's social media posts and then combines them with in-store purchase history to create a "fashion profile" for each customer. Designers and retailers would use the combined "fashion intelligence" to email tailored promotions that fit the preferences and buying habits of customers.
Fashion Dashboard offers stores real-time feedback on in-store promotions by monitoring posts and check-ins on sites like Instagram and Foursquare . Stores could then use the information to make their locations more social-media-friendly — meaning eye-catching displays worthy of an Instagram post.
The winning app, SwatchIt, focuses on connecting designers with artisans around the world, a virtual matchmaking service. Using an iPhone, designers can upload specs for a fabric, and artisans get the chance to show a matching fabric, eliminating barriers such as language that have hampered outsourcing requests in the past. The result could be a bigger pool of resources for smaller designers and more variety for fashion shoppers.
The apps created at the industry's first fashion hackathon demonstrate that social media sites like Instagram, tumblr, Facebook and Twitter can provide much more than a behind-the-scenes view of fashion for fashion-conscious users. In the future, what you post may help determine what you can buy.