For the latest in our Fashion Tech Insider interview series, we talked to Cheryl Ashman of The Designer Lookbook. Cheryl’s always had a passion for fashion. After graduating from law school in 2004, she started working in the corporate department for a large New York law firm, and was transferred to London in 2007, where she currently resides. Cheryl came up with the idea to establish The Designer Lookbook after seeing the amazing displays of the various up and coming designers showcased during London Fashion Week. In 2011, she left her job as a corporate attorney and turned her focus to setting up The Designer Lookbook, a site where you can discover and shop from the best emerging talent in the fashion industry.
Would you say there is a specific formula to growing your social fan-base?
I wouldn’t say there has been a specific formula. I launched The Designer Lookbook exactly a year ago, and in that time I’ve had some great successes and some challenges with growing a social fan base. For me, growing the social fan base for The Designer Lookbook is an on-going process. The Designer Lookbook, like most Internet based companies is not something you can just leave on the Internet and people will find you. I would say engagement with the fan base is key for growing and maintaining The DLB fan base.
There is a lot of information available and everyone has different views about building a presence for internet based companies, however each company is different, and I think it a lot of it comes down to what works for that specific business.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in mixing fashion and technology?
The biggest challenge has simply been getting the fashion industry to embrace technology and use it to their benefit. I’ve talked to designers who are scared of technology, some who are not sure how technology can help expand their brand and don’t have the time to figure it out, and others who are just not interested in using technology to their benefit or see it as a detriment to their brand. These are some of the reasons why I created The Designer Lookbook, because I try to help them gain a wider presence on-line, which ultimately allows give the designer more time to focus on what they want to focus on, which is designing.
How can fashion brands take advantage of new technologies to reach their customers?
There are so many ways now for a brand to reach customers. No longer is running a fashion label simply about being discovered by stores and boutiques. Fashion designers now have to take into consideration how quickly the industry moves and figure out what is the best placement for their brand. For example, with the increasing number of social media platforms, it’s very difficult to be good at them all. I always say pick the top three you want to work with (usually, Facebook and Twitter, and then either Google +, Pinterest, or Instagram) and do those really well, rather then join them all and do them half-heartily.
What inspired you to set up The Designer Lookbook?
The Designer Lookbook was an idea I came up with a few years ago when I was wandering around Somerset House during London Fashion Week. As I was walking around the exhibition I was thinking to myself, it’s a shame there isn’t a centralized place where the industry and the public could see these great designers. I always had a love of fashion, but with no formal training or real connections I wasn’t sure what role I wanted to play in the fashion industry. As a result, I started taking short courses from The London College of Fashion and started expanding my network in the fashion industry. In September 2011, I left my job as a corporate attorney, and stated working exclusively on setting up The Designer Lookbook. Before I knew it The Designer Lookbook was live a few months later.
Which social media platform/s do you find the most useful for promoting The Designer Lookbook, and why?
Currently, I find Twitter to be the most useful platform for promotion, because it’s an easy way to circulate a message to hundreds if not thousands of followers quickly. Plus, I find that you can easily connect directly with people who are interested in your product/brand or who simply have similar interests. For example I always add the hashtag #emergingdesigner to my posts because not only is it the group I’m promoting, but it also gives me the ability to communicate with and reach out to people who are also interested in emerging designers and follow that hashtag. Twitter has also given me the ability to made direct connections with other people who work in the fashion industry. I’ve even had some business opportunities come my way via Twitter. For example, as the result of a Twitter connection, I was recently on a radio program discussing fashion and the fashion industry’s relationship with the older generation.
The other platform I have recently found very useful is Pinterest. Although it’s not written communication, the use of imagery has been a very powerful tool in conveying a message to followers.