The Business of Fashion
Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
NEW YORK, United States — Nowadays, technology and the fashion industry are largely considered two sides of the same coin. But back in 2004, when computer wizard Eddie Mullon was first starting out, they were worlds apart.
Despite being a fashion outsider, Mullon created a software tool that revolutionised how the industry’s immense public relations complex functioned behind the scenes. Built around three core products — sample tracking, events management and connecting brands to media and buyers — Fashion GPS quickly became the bread and butter that kept the New York fashion PR and communications industry ticking.
“Fashion GPS made sample trafficking as easy as sending an email. … It changed the industry, 100 percent,” says brand marketing and communications executive and former DKNY veteran Aliza Licht.
During her DKNY days, Licht and the rest of the PR and communications team worked closely with Mullon to refine the GPS product, serving as his "innovation playground. I was very willing to allow him to use DKNY as an experiment and to benefit from first to market technologies in return," she says. (Licht ended up sitting on the Launchmetrics board from 2016 to 2018, exiting earlier this year.)
Fashion GPS made sample trafficking as easy as sending an email. It changed the industry, 100 percent.
Today the company Mullon founded — rebranded Launchmetrics following a 2016 merger with French marketing company Augure — works with 85 percent of fashion week shows globally. The company has about 200 employees across 10 offices worldwide, with clients ranging from Gucci and Dior to L'Oréal, Topshop and Adidas. Not bad for a business that started off as a something of a side hustle.
This month the entrepreneur exited the company, relinquishing his president title and his board seat along with it. He will retain a minority holding in the company.
“It’s a clean break,” he explains. The decision to make the jump wasn’t all that hard for the 46-year-old entrepreneur. “I feel really liberated,” he says. “I love the company I’ve built, so it feels sad, but at the same time I feel there’s so much more I can do.”
Mullon compares his relationship with the company to that between a parent and a child. At times it can be scary, especially when faced with situations you have no idea how to tackle. But figuring out how to be a parent is part of the experience. The feeling of watching your child grow up into the kind of person you’d always hoped they’d be is unparalleled.
Yet there comes a time where you are no longer the same parent your child needed when they were small. As Mullon puts it: “You can either try and control everything, or let children grow. They become adults and have their own lives.”
In Mullon’s eyes, Launchmetrics has come of age, making it easier to move on.
Embarking on philanthropic projects has been at the top of Mullon’s bucket list for a while now. His exit from the company has provided him with the capital to do so — and the time. His first undertaking will transport him back to his home country, working with Yamba Malawi, a nonprofit that works to transform the lives of Malawian children.
Alongside charitable work, Mullon plans to help nurture the next generation of entrepreneurial talent through mentorship and investment. A book is on the cards, and he doesn’t rule out founding another start-up.
The 2016 merger was Mullon’s first step to transitioning into a more hands-off role, which would free up his time for other pursuits. His two children, which are now in their mid-teens, were a big factor in the decision.
“I’ve actually missed a lot of their lives,” Mullon says. “I now want to focus on them.”
I feel really liberated. I love the company I've built, so it feels sad, but at the same time I feel there's so much more I can do.
Mullon isn’t your typical fashion industry executive. Born to an African-Indian mother and a British father, he grew up in Malawi, relocating to the UK aged eight not speaking any English.
“I was just kind of thrown into this completely different world where you had ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Knight Rider,’ and all of a sudden there were television sets,” he says. “I had this whole flux of amazing change, but at the same time I was very…” He pauses. “It was a bit of a shock.”
Fascinated by technology, the young Mullon begged his mother for a home computer and taught himself to code so he could play video games on his new toy. Little did he know then that his passion for computers and coding skills would set him up for life.
Fast forward to 2000: a 20-something year old Mullon moved to New York and started a business fixing computers. His work brought him into contact with influential people all over the city, including Desiree Gruber, Kyle MacLachlan and then husband and wife duo Heidi Klum and Seal. Fatefully, he ended up in the KCD PR offices fixing their technology. Impressed by his tech-savvy, the influential PR firm employed him as a freelance IT consultant and tasked him with building a new software to help manage fashion samples more efficiently.
“What has always been great about working with Eddie is he has been devoted to finding solutions for the industry, listening to the needs at first of KCD and later to the greater industry to develop products that filled a gap,” Rachna Shah, partner and managing director of PR and digital at KCD, tells BoF. “The products worked within the ecosystem and were intuitive.”
Mullon's lightbulb moment came when the Marc Jacobs PR team expressed interest in purchasing his software. "I stopped everything else I was doing and said, 'Ok, I'm just going to focus on this opportunity," he recalls. With that, the beginnings of Fashion GPS was born.
By 2006 he had signed on five clients, self-funding the business as it grew. Eager to seek out more clients, Mullon turned his attentions to fashion week.
“I was trying to get into the shows, but I couldn’t get in!” he says. “Then it just occurred to me, if I could build a system to manage the fashion shows, this would get me inside the tent.” And so the next year was spent building his events management software, solving guest list organisation via e-vites and real-time RSVP tracking alongside digitised seating charts and guest check-in systems. The product eventually became the official platform partner for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in 2010.
I love the feeling when you don't have the security and you're walking on the edge. You've just got to use your experience and your intuition to make it work.
His career certainly didn’t come without challenges. The concept of securing outside investment to scale his business was a total mystery at first. At one point, his company almost went bankrupt. But Mullon embraced hurdles, persevering with the same tenacity that led him to found the company in the first place.
“I love the feeling when you don’t have the security and you’re walking on the edge,” he says. “You’ve just got to make it happen, and use your experience and your intuition to make it work.”
Over the years Mullon has forged relationships with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the industry, from Steven Kolb, chief executive of the CDFA, to Pascal Morand, executive president of the French fashion federation, and Nathalie Dufour, founder and managing director of ANDAM.
Certainly, he found fashion exciting. “It was a very high strung, very intense [industry]. A lot of very different characters and relationships, which I found really fascinating,” he says.
Yet despite the glitz and the glamour, the countless parties, fashion shows and high-powered connections, he retained a clear sense of humility throughout his career. Even today, he is quick to acknowledge that no man is an island. "I don't think I built the software, the industry did," he says. "All the PR companies, from KCD to Marc Jacobs to Bismarck Phillips [now ModusBPCM] and Purple PR — and really finding a good team as well."
The future looks bright for Mullon, not least because his path on this next chapter is largely unmapped — and therefore full of possibilities.
“Nothing really scares me,” he muses. “It’s that thing, as soon as you see something you grab it by the horns and you go for it.”