Building up a fashion network can be difficult for independent designers or creatives that are not based in a capital city, and might lack the resources to move their production to a well-known fashion hub (New York City or London, for example). In our effort to connect a community with meaningful relationships within the fashion and textile industry, Digifair is continuously building new partnerships to share solutions and exchange possibilities.
With the help of technology and forward-thinking people like Melissa Shea and Beth Smith, fashion professionals of all categories can now discover collaborators in their cities, big or small. Together, these two fashion tech pioneers are the founders of Fashion Mingle, a digital platform connecting people at all points in the fashion industry, from fashion photographers to stylists and apparel manufacturers, fueling the growth of local fashion communities.
Entrepreneurs from the tech world: Melissa Shea [left] and Beth Smith [right]. They founded their startup when discovered about the difficulty fashion professionals had on building a profitable business. Credit: Image courtesy of Fashion Mingle
Fashion Mingle shares our beliefs in collaboration between technology and fashion to build a stronger community interested in listening to each other's needs. Our team talked to Melissa Shea to discover more about the history of Fashion Mingle. Discover the key moves that helped them scale their startup and tips on how they had the first idea for the Fashion Mingle platform below!
[Digifair] What was the seed of the idea for Fashion Mingle? How did it start?
[Melissa Shea] I was living in Austin (Texas, USA) which is a city full of entrepreneurs and tech startups, in fact, I had my own freelance web development business. I met some people who worked in the fashion industry and learned how much difficulty they were having building a profitable business. After many conversations and some research, I realized that the fashion industry had unique needs that were not being met by the current tech platforms that most businesses used for marketing, so I set out to see if I could solve that problem. I started with the Austin Fashion Directory and it grew quite quickly, so I set out to create a nationwide platform, which we have now launched internationally.
[D] What is your vision for Fashion Mingle? What are the company's values?
[MS] Our vision is to connect the entire fashion industry in every country in the world. We want to make it easier to find the resources you need, anywhere, anytime. The fashion industry relies on open borders to create more connections and commerce. We’re committed to building bridges between countries, not walls.
[D] How fast did Fashion Mingle grow? What were the key moves during its growing?
[MS] Our key growth strategy has been to host networking events during New York Fashion Week. People come from all over the world to attend the shows, yet have very little opportunity to network. We host the NYFW Networking Party the Sunday night of every New York Fashion Week which has helped us connect with people and start working with them to grow their local fashion network.
The fashion networking platform also promotes events, such as the industry panel on genderless fashion seen above. It's not just about forming a local fashion community but keeping it updated with the changes in the market as well, and address them with solutions. Credit: Image courtesy of Fashion Mingle
[D] Fashion Mingle is about creating a local fashion community network and finding people you can collaborate with. What importance do you place on collaboration for the creative process in general?
[MS] The best ideas always come from a collaborative environment. When I first had the idea to launch the Fashion Mingle platform, I interviewed a lot of people in the fashion industry to get their feedback and understand their pain points in running a business. This helped me determine what tools we needed on the platform. From a team perspective, we rely a lot on brainstorming and talking through ideas to get to the best solution.
The Fashion Mingle platform is designed to help you find people to work with or collaborate with. We have a Group Chat feature to allow you to get online with several people to work on projects together.
Their networking events include vendor booths such as Neveen Dominic Cosmetics [left] and fashion influencers Briante, Jeremy Carver, Christopher Collie, and Diandra Barnwell [right]. Credit: Image courtesy of Fashion Mingle
[D] Fashion Mingle is creating fashion communities in over 100 cities around the world. Can you tell us which one is the biggest, and which one is the fastest growing one? Which city surprised you the most?
[MS] The largest community is in New York. We’ve put a lot of effort into building the New York network since it is where the world comes to find resources for their fashion businesses. The fastest growing one is in Los Angeles, which has a lot of resources for fashion designers. The one that surprised me the most is in Louisville (Kentucky). There is a strong fashion community in Louisville with some very talented designers. We’ve also just launched Fashion Mingle Australia for our first international network and hosted a VIP Luncheon at the Sydney Opera House.
[D] There are 100 categories within the fashion industry to choose from within Fashion Mingle. What do you feel is changing about these categories in terms of the industry needs, especially related to technology?
[MS] We’re getting a lot of requests for small batch manufacturing resources. Technology has made it cost effective to manufacturer a small clothing line and easier to work with companies anywhere in the world. So designers have more options than ever before.
[D] Fashion Mingle wants to bring technology closer to the fashion industry by allowing people to connect online. What other ways can technology help the fashion industry to develop?
[MS] Services like Digifair are a great example of how technology is helping the fashion industry solve problems. There is a ton of discussion about how blockchain technology in the supply chain can make a huge impact on a more sustainable fashion industry. In fact, it’s one of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
[D] What other news and developments are in for the future of Fashion Mingle?
[MS] Our major initiative this year is to grow internationally. We just launched Fashion Mingle Australia and we’re setting dates now for Fashion Mingle India. We’re scheduling launches where we have people on the ground who want to work with us to organize their country’s fashion industry.
Fashion Mingle's networking events also promote pop-up shops from independent fashion designers on the platform, such as Marco Polo Style [left]. Their team has been providing media services from New York Fashion Week since 2009 as well [right], from photographers to PR and producers.
[D] What are some of the characteristics of people who have been successful at Fashion Mingle?
[MS] People who believe in collaboration are the most successful people in our network. Having an attitude of sharing your knowledge and resources creates more opportunities for your business and grows your network.
[D] What are your greatest ambitions as entrepreneurs?
[MS] For a tech startup, the ultimate goal is to grow your company to a billion-dollar business. We’re investor funded and believe we can achieve this in 10 years.
[D] Any advice for independent fashion designers or creatives that are joining Fashion Mingle's network now?
[MS] The best thing you can do is to thoughtfully complete your profile using all the tools available. The more information you share about your skills and services, the best chance you have of getting contacted to do business. Our member profiles have had over 1.3 million views. Don’t waste an opportunity to promote your business. Trick out that profile now!
We love the idea of a global fashion and textile community that aims to connect local people's demands, creating economic opportunities for all and discovering together sustainable solutions. Getting your business off the ground is easier when we know where the right connections are. And technology can help a lot with that.
In the end, it’s all about creating a fashion community that can have a global reach but also able to act locally, to improve sustainability in a more conscious way. Find and expand a community anywhere in the world, and give a voice to your needs.
Join us on this journey and have your textile demand heard globally.