Modernizing the Fashion Industry One Talent at a Time: An Interview with Becasted CEO Sandy Kacura

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Fashion has been one of those industries slow to adapt to changes promoted by emerging technologies and the evolution of business as we know it. But recent years have shown an important catch up fueled by innovation in all fronts. To understand this new reality, Sandy Kacura, CEO of Becasted, recently shared with me her insights on how the Fashion Industry is evolving.

Ernesto Sosa: After 16 years as a professional fashion model for top agencies such as Ford, Elite and Next, and tired of the way talents were managed by traditional agencies, you decided to lead the change by launching an innovative web platform called Becasted. It enables a more transparent marketplace where brands can directly book top talent at more affordable rates, by cutting the 'middle-man'. How did you get the idea to create Becasted.com and how does it work?

Sandy Kacura: Being part of the industry for so long allowed me to see all the good and bad sides. Working as a model is fun, and I love every minute of it, but at times it can be very stressful, particularly when it comes to getting paid by an agency. Sometimes, it can take up to 6 months to receive payment after a modeling job is done. I then thought to myself exactly "What does my agency do?" and "Is it possible for me to do it myself?" So I broke down exactly what my agency does for me - manages my books, handles my invoices and contracts, and finds me clients - and then built a website to automate that process. That's when Becasted was born.
Becasted was initially created just as a virtual place to hire models, photographers, makeup artists and pretty much anyone involved in a photo shoot. But brands and fashion designers wanted more than just a talent. They wanted talent with a "high social following". So our platform evolved into a marketplace where you can hire all different types of talents with a powerful social presence. Now one thing hasn't changed and is the reason why I built this platform. Becasted is our way to help the talent industry get tons of work and get paid on time. Becasted talents get paid 24 hours after a job is completed and we don't take any fees from the talent. What you make is what you get! Brands also benefit from the platform making their talent management process more efficient. What used to take months - searching for talent, negotiating rates, sending contracts - now take minutes and they save an average of 50% booking through our site.

Ernesto Sosa: Despite major advances in business and technology across industries worldwide, the fashion and modeling industry remains a conservative space that adapts slow to change. With the rise of social media, a new brand-customer relationship, new collaborative business models and the new connected consumer, the game is changing. How do you think social technologies have forced the fashion industry to reinvent itself and what are the main consequences for today's and next generation of fashion professionals and brands?

Sandy Kacura: Fashion has definitely taken firm steps into the online world. Brick and mortar stores sales are shrinking year over year, while their own websites are performing better than ever. Plus, brands and designers now have access to online platforms that allow them to run their fashion business all online with the click of a button. Take social media for an example. People used social media to catch up with old friends, post what they were doing in their life, update others on foods they are eating and places they have traveled to. But recently, social media has become a daily autobiography. It stopped being a tool that was used to tell people about your life, and started being a window into your day to day life, allowing your followers to live through you and experience your life as if it was their own. People online now have a more intimate relationship between them around the content they share.
Fashion designers and brands are now starting to understand the new rules of the game. To get in front of customers, they need to reach out to them on a personal level, and one of the best ways to do that is through Social Influencers. In the past, they were only focused on the looks, tall and skinny! Now designers and brands are also looking at how large a following talents have on social media. They realize this is important because if that model shouts out their brand on social media, they can reach an even larger audience based on the talent's credibility and own network. Today, a photographer or even makeup artist on set with a large social following is just as important as a model for brand campaigns.

Ernesto Sosa: Digital analytics have become crucial for any brand looking to effectively manage its online presence. The wealth of information that can be accessed today translates into better marketing decisions, and ultimately more business. How does Becasted use analytics to provide registered users useful, actionable data?

Sandy Kacura: By listening closely to our customers we were able to identify what was important to them and their focus was social media. We knew from the start that we had to provide detailed analytics to help brands understand what type of followers and ratings social influencers had that they could work with. What we do at Becasted is we gather social influencers' demographic data. We know who is following them, their age ranges, gender breakdown, and location. We even track the click through rate of a post, so they know exactly how successful an influencer's post can be. This data is displayed on each of the talents' profiles, allowing brands and designers to pinpoint their marketing towards their target customers. Analytics provide unprecedented insights on how customers buy, feel, and experience their social media lives.

Ernesto Sosa: With the growing influence technology is having on all key areas of the fashion industry - production, design, distribution, sales -, where do you see the future of fashion going with this increasing convergence?

Sandy Kacura: I really see the next coming years as being truly transformational for the industry. There are incredible tech companies out there like makersrow.com that help new designers enter the space by allowing them to source all their materials at a reduced price. I see more brands including tech in their clothes, traditional marketing will become more organic using influencers, and designers will increasingly use new, better tools to grow their brands at a quicker and cheaper rate. More efficiencies, more innovation.

Ernesto Sosa: In a few weeks you will join a very interesting SMW Miami panel to discuss "From Wearable Tech to 3D: How Technology is Changing the World of Fashion". What can you tell us about this insightful, futuristic session?

Sandy Kacura: This event will allow us to bring light to all the changes that are currently happening in the fashion industry and open an important conversation. There are so many innovations under way. Designers such as threeAsFOUR and Travis Fitch which featured designs made completely from 3D printing. Fossil recently came out with a smartwatch to bring together fashion and tech. On our side, dealing with brands and talent, we see that more social influencers are booking jobs and clients are leaning more towards an organic way of advertising. I truly feel that in the next coming years fashion and technology will merge into one seamless place.

Ernesto Sosa: Any last advice for talents and brands out there on how to leverage social/digital technologies and platforms such as Becasted to grow their businesses and market reach?

Our advice to the talent is to be self aware of how they present themselves on social media and protect their online reputation, because brands are watching and making sure the talent they choose for their next marketing campaigns aligns with their values. Now brands also need to ensure that they are monitoring their social presence as well. Consumers are now searching on social media before making buying decisions, so it is important for brands to be able to know their followers better and address consumer issues fast through on social media as well.