Born and raised in Paris, Tarik Malak first honed his creative skills while working on strategic planning and creative direction at a variety of innovative Parisian ad agencies. After moving to New York in 2006, he co-founded La Boutique, an edgy photo retouching agency that counts Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, DVF, Redken and Swarovski among its client base. While there, Malak began developing his network in the tech start-up scene which led to a few Angel investments. In March 2010, he left La Boutique to form SWELL, an agency aimed at helping fashion and luxury brands—from emerging designers to established labels to industry-defining publications—make the switch to the digital age through cutting-edge technologies and an array of services. In a New York Times Originals profile in July, 2010, Malak was aptly quoted on his unique expertise: “Having a foot firmly placed in the fashion world with the other in the world of technology is my biggest asset at this point.”
What’s hot right now?
Concepts like image and sound recognition technologies, geolocation, gaming mechanics, social integration, augmented reality, cloud computing, clean tech, sustainable architecture, crowdsourcing and group buying are hot. The team at SWELL is really excited to integrate these concepts into our daily research. What’s really hot is how all of these concepts are becoming relevant in multiple universes, and not necessarily the ones you would expect. For instance, a New York restaurant can obviously leverage the sustainable agriculture trend by offering local farm raised meat and local green roof herbs, but now the same restaurant can do a location-based promotion through Foursquare or Groupon in addition to having a Twitter account. And it doesn’t stop there—in a few years, with the help of augmented reality, you’ll be able to point your phone at your food and instantly receive information on the recipe, including the origin of the meat and the details of its carbon print.
What’s the most innovative digital trend in the fashion space?
In terms of fashion, I think the industry is still incredibly conservative. When brands use Twitter or livestream their catwalks, everybody seems to think it’s the most modern thing ever. To me, that’s not innovative. It’s a dilemma we’ve seen a lot of recently, where fashion brands and techies don’t really know what the other is fully capable of doing for them. What makes SWELL so valuable is that our team of creatives also just so happens to be at the cutting edge of technology. For instance, we are working with our clients to leverage technologies to solve critical issues regarding customer loyalty, point of sale and the e-commerce experience. We are also extremely involved in developing new strategies to increase our clients’ web presences, but of course we can’t get into too many details about that here.
What are your favorite fashion websites?
First off, I’m very impressed by all the new e-commerce companies like Net-A-Porter and Gilt. I love the user interface, and their usability is extraordinary. Websites like RentTheRunway or Fashism are some of the most innovative fashion-meets-technology concepts out there right now. On the editorial content level, I find myself going back to the standards like the New York Times, but more often than not, I’m visiting the young bloggers, like Tavi or BryanBoy, or even less known sites like SecretForts, StopStealingMyLook or StyleSpion out of Germany.