By Qiulae Wong, Head of Marketing at CO
Here at CO we talk a lot about matching - matching you to people, to information, to businesses - all to help you do fashion better. But what does this really mean? And how do we play matchmaker behind the scenes of the new CO platform?
Since the inception of Common Objective’s predecessor, the Ethical Fashion Forum, our team has been regularly inundated with requests from fashion professionals asking where to source certain fabrics, which retail stores to connect with, how to find a manufacturer in a particular region, and the list goes on. The fashion industry is fiercely competitive and overcoming these commercial and sustainability challenges for a business of any size is no small feat.
Some of our team have been working on solving these problems for over ten years now - since the sustainable fashion movement was still getting off the ground. As a result, there's a tonne of valuable knowledge floating around in this office, meaning we can usually match people with just what they need. And if we can’t, we'll at least point them in the direction of someone who can.
“You’re starting up a brand and you want to produce in West Africa - let us connect you with this network of amazing ethical factories on the ground” or “You work for a large department store and you want to stock more sustainable brands - we’ll send you the top ten emerging designers on our radar.”
Although there are still many questions that even we can’t answer; when we have made these matches, we’ve seen some truly magical things happen. Connecting the right energetic designer to the right artisan makers can result in a creative collaboration that hits the spot commercially, plus has a positive impact on communities and the environment.
However each one of these personal introductions takes time, and a couple of years ago we realised that if we want to be able to help more people and businesses do fashion better, we had to find another solution.
In designing and building Common Objective (CO), our aim is to recreate those invaluable moments online - to enable these magical connections that break barriers for fashion professionals no matter where they work or what their goals are. Because we believe that if we can bring the right people and knowledge together to do business better, we’ll really be able to scale up sustainability in the fashion industry.
So, how does one go about turning that spontaneous moment of personal connection into a piece of technology?
Well, we have an incredible tech agency that we work with on the development of the site. However our product team at CO first have to spend a great deal of time studying all those successful matches that we’ve witnessed over the years. What makes the good matches work? What information do we need to know about the people and businesses we’re matching in order for it to be most effective?
What we end up with is a very large, and very complicated, spreadsheet - within which we identify correlations and synergies in the information that you, our users, give us about what you do and what you’re looking for. In fact, as it stands today, there are nearly 500,000 possible combinations of matches that we’re working on in order to give our users the best experience possible. (And that’s just for the first phase.)
Our tech team then help us turn that information into an online database that can quickly and simply find you the best matches possible - whether it’s a potential business partner, a market trend analysis, or a likeminded peer. This matching database is what powers CO and is what we hope will make your day-to-day work both productive and inspiring.
We’re not quite there yet though - we still have a few kinks to iron out and some finessing of that very large spreadsheet. We’re really thankful to those of you who have already pre-registered as a Founding Member of CO and have started to populate our system with your data. It’s hugely helpful and it means you’ll be the first to benefit from the site when we go live later this year.
Until then, we’ll be here beavering away on matching algorithms over many many cups of Fairtrade organic coffee. Who said fashion wasn’t glamorous!
Qiulae, CO’s Head of Marketing, leads the project management of building the new site. This includes translating Tamsin (CEO of CO) and the rest of the team’s years of experience into website features and functionality - with the help of some genius techies.