Fashion Mingle is a New York City based fashion tech startup pioneering a powerful networking platform for fashion industry professionals. Their number one belief? That growing a successful fashion business begins with a strong local fashion community. Building local fashion directories in over 100 metro areas, with over 70 categories, Fashion Mingle’s network aims to connect fashion entrepreneurs in every major city with the professionals they need to grow their business.
Fashion Mingle CEO Melissa Shea says not only is her company eager to connect networks nationwide, she is also passionate about bridging the gap between technology and the independent fashion industry.
“Our mission is to build a revolutionary platform that will fuel the growth of local fashion communities and create economic opportunities for all,” says Shea.
Having spent over 20 years in the creative industry fueled by a love of learning about the “next new thing,” her passion has focused on helping small businesses use the latest internet and social media strategies to compete and grow their brand. We caught up with Shea to talk about growing fashion communities in the U.S. and how the industry’s landscape is changing rapidly.
Here’s what she had to say.
Business of Fashion wrote: “If you think you run a fashion business, you’re wrong. A technology business with a fashion focus? Sure. Anything else and you may as well wave the white flag, because the rules of the rag trade are changing. You’re either leading that change, or you’re a sitting duck ready to be picked off by a sharp-shooting tech juggernaut.” Do you agree?
The idea for Fashion Mingle is a direct result of that very need. As other industries adopted technology to grow and promote their business, we saw that the fashion industry was lagging far behind. The main reason is that so many people in the industry are true creatives. They want to focus on their craft, not learn new marketing techniques or spend hours setting up a newsletter. Fashion Mingle is creating tools to help make marketing your fashion business easier. One platform where you can network, promote, and learn all in one place.
What tools do designers need most right now to succeed?
At Fashion Mingle, our goal is to help designers create a network of professionals that can help them grow their business, so we’re building tools that will simplify that process. We recently released the “I’m Looking For…” tool that will allow designers to post exactly what kind of help they need, so other members can reach out if they can provide that skill. The other issue designers struggle with is how to market their business. Posting on Instagram is the go-to tool to reach consumers, but many designers ignore other ways of marketing their brand, which is through events such as truck shows, festivals, and charity events. On reason designers avoid events is due to the work and skills involved with promoting an event to bring in customers. We’ve created local event calendars for each city so that fashion professionals AND customers can go to one place and find events they want to attend without relying on whatever Facebook or Eventbrite chooses to show you.
Do you see more designers creating new models that work for them versus following the old?
Many designers are still clinging to the old model of finding a buyer and the dream of getting their collection into a department store, when in reality, direct to consumer is the best way to start making money for their brand. So the first goal a designer should focus on is creating a brand that can allow them to make a living for their family. I absolutely love what the BF+DA is doing to give designers a place to experiment with building a brand using sustainable practices. A growing number of consumers care about the origin of the products they buy and are the perfect direct-to-consumer demographic.
Who are the designers that stand out for you?
I really enjoy following the careers of designers that are trying to bridge the gap between traditional and sustainable manufacturing. The process is fascinating to me and I love to be a cheerleader for them. A few favorites are Michelle Pajak-Reynolds, a couture jewelry designer using sustainable supply chains to manufacture and package her designs; Dina Chavez who had a very successful Kickstarter campaign that uses hemp and organic cotton; and RareForm that creates travel bags from recycled vinyl billboards. One of my favorite BF+DA designers is Fair Harbor – how cool is it making board shorts out of recycled plastic bottles?!
Want to meet Fashion Mingle? Look for them at Texworld this January on Resource Row.