Woman Particolare: Alexandra Van Houtte
The Tech Entrepreneur Disrupting Fashion in a Major Way
When Alexandra Van Houtte launched Tagwalk in 2016 she instantly made fashion editors and stylists’ lives a whole lot easier. Research tasks that once required searching hundreds of lookbooks or trawling the internet for hours on end would now just take moments – simply by typing your request into the Tagwalk website. But Tagwalk isn’t just for professionals –it’s a huge visual library and inspiration tool for fashion lovers alike to discover styling tips and explore future trends. If that’s not enough, it has already been called the ‘Google’ of fashion. Founder Alexandra didn’t begin her career in tech but as a keen fashion assistant who simply saw a problem and had initiative and drive enough to fix it. Now with two years of business growth under her belt and more exciting advances to come Alexandra is becoming one of the most important people in fashion tech. We spoke to Alexandra to hear where it all started, discuss fashion week’s evolution and talk about her Object Particolare bag that always gets compliments.
You started out interning for Alber Elbaz at Lanvin and as a fashion assistant before moving into the digital and tech space, what has the transition been like for you?
The transition was very natural and organic. I grew slowly in the industry, learned my bearings and I evolved gradually into the digital space.
You had the idea for Tagwalk whist working as a fashion assistant - was there one moment that sparked it?
Tagwalk was subconsciously growing every day in my brain but at one particular photoshoot I organized I had to search through more than 10,000 pictures of black dresses. It took me more than a week and that was the breaking point. I knew I had to find a solution that could help me search more efficiently.
What’s been the most exciting part about seeing Tagwalk become a fully-fledged business?
It's always very scary when you start something on your sofa and you suddenly move to a small office, then a bigger one, then an even bigger one. I think the most exciting part of my work is discovering young talent, meeting top executives and also watching my team see the efforts they put in pay off.
You’re an active member of the fashion week circuit - what are some of the most thrilling shows for you to watch?
Valentino is the dream show to go to: Pier Paolo's vision is unique, soft, romantic, the music is incredible and his show seems to stop time. The Louis Vuitton because it's the last slot, on the last day of fashion week and it always finishes on a high note: incredible location, amazing music, great models and Nicolas Ghesquière's vision is always very different from other designers. I'm lucky enough to be invited to Chanel and to see the tweed re-worked and re-done every season into a new trend mixed with the location and the decor is something really spectacular.
Fashion week and the industry as a whole is rapidly changing - what are some of the most substantial changes? Positive or negative?
The positive change is that the industry is really taking the younger generation seriously, they pay attention to their observations and critics and they are trying to understand in a deeper way what the generation needs, likes and requires in order to purchase a brand.I think the industry is also more aware of the ecological side of things, less waste and more about creative processes towards renewing wardrobes.
You have hundreds of designers that now appear and work with you on Tagwalk - who are some of the new designers that have recently got your attention?
I am obsessed with Marcia Wear (wwww.marciawear.com), Alighieri, ByFar and Object Particolare. They all have different attributes that I love, but mainly the designs that are innovative, young and very wearable.
Do you have any advice for budding digital or fashion entrepreneurs?
If you ask yourself too many questions you'll never end up doing anything. I think you need to 100% believe in your idea before you do anything because you'll end up having to talk about it all day, every day, to everyone, so if you don't understand why you've created it or if you're not sure of the outcome, move on, it's not worth it.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Rule number one: always, always, always follow your instinct.
How would you describe your personal style - and how has it changed from being a full-time fashion assistant to heading up a tech startup?
I definitely have the same uniform, all day, every day! In winter I wear a long Pallas double cashmere black coat, black Church's military boots, and a cashmere Brora jumper and a skirt. I always have a black Bailey hat, an Eric Bompard scarf and my Object Particolare or Céline bag. In summer, I have long shirt dresses in a million different colours that I got made in India that I wear with a pair of Gucci slip ons (I have 9 pairs!)
You’ve been following Object Particolare from the start - what drew you to the brand? And what appeals to you about it now?
I like its simplicity, its practicality and its leather. I usually put a million things in my bag so it's really a no brainer when I have to put my laptop, a bottle of water, notebook etc.
What’s your favorite style and how would you wear it?
It's the large Vitti and I wear it the whole time. It's so elegant and everyone keeps on asking me where it's from which I love because I’m introducing them to a new brand at the same time that has a great story behind it!