Geek 2 Chic! Microsoft Powers #HearstFashionHack at New York Fashion Week

Mark Drapeau (New York, NY) —

Publicyte readers are probably familiar with Microsoft’s collaboration with Bloomingdale’s on Geek 2 Chic, a series of charity fashion shows we produce across the U.S. So far, our events in Washington DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles have raised awareness of the importance of risk-taking and entrepreneurship in today’s world, highlighted the great work that “geeky” people are doing both for-profit (huge companies, tech startups…) and not-for-profit (science teachers, government employees…), and raised thousands of dollars for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, a New York-based nonprofit empowering young, underprivileged students to start their own businesses.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from Geek 2 Chic events:

Eric Schulze co-founder and chief creative guy behind nerdy community events series thirst DC, on the catwalk at Bloomingdale’s Chevy Chase, just outside Washington, DC, in November 2012.

Eric Kuhn, Hollywood’s first “social media agent” (at United Talent Agency), rocks the hoodie look at Bloomingdale’s Santa Monica in May 2012.

Phil Tadros, founder of Chicago-based interactive agency Doejo, accompanied by his plastic pet squirrel on the runway at Bloomingdale’s Michigan Avenue, November 2011.

Geek 2 Chic hasn’t taken New York City by storm quite yet. But meanwhile, I am pleased to tell you that Microsoft will be at Fashion Week NY this February, because we’re one of the proud co-sponsors of HEARST FASHION HACK on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 9-10, which media company Hearst is putting on with AngelHack. The hackathon — incorporating both technical and non-technical participants — will focus on fashion and on mobile solutions, and while it currently looks like the event is full you can sign up for the wait list here.

What are they looking for in a successful hackthon project? From the event website,

This years focus will be on combining new fashion content with the latest mobile advancements and tools from our API partners. Special consideration will be given to apps that can create creative ways to connect readers and editors in real-time.

Judges will be looking for ideas and applications that can disrupt the fashion dspace using the Hearst or sponsor API’s. The idea or application must focus on mobile solutions that the judges determine can be developed into a working product within 6 months. If selected as the winner, Hearst aims to help you get this product to launch.

The judges are all tied to Hearst, and generally to technical aspects of the company: David Carey, President, Hearst Magazines; Phil Wiser, CTO, Hearst Corp.; Melanie Schnuriger, GM of Fashion & Beauty, Hearst Online; Joyann King, Site Director, Harper’s Bazaar; and Ken Bronfin, President, Hearst Interactive Media. The event will also be hosted by the company at their Hearst Tower headquarters.

Here’s a video tour of their building:

Now, if you’re extremely geeky and don’t get out much, you may be now asking, “What’s Hearst?” or “Where have I heard the word ‘Hearst’ before?” — That’s okay. Maybe you’ve heard of William Randolph Hearst, who founded the company as a newspaper business in the late 1800s. Or perhaps you know the name Amanda Hearst, great-granddaughter of the aforementioned founder and herself a socialite, model, and activist who is also a magazine editor. Or, maybe most importantly, you know Hearst through the magazines they publish that you probably read: Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Seventeen, Road & Track, Esquire, and more (Today I received my new Esquire with Megan Fox on the cover – thanks Hearst Corporation!).

Speaking on behalf of Microsoft (let’s just assume for the moment that I have that authority), we’re incredibly happy to be a part of Hearst Fashion Hack, or #HearstFashionHack, as the cool kids are calling it on Twitter, and probably Instagram too. (Yes — follow the hashtag, people are already tweeting about it.) Along with a bevvy of other high-end sponsors — GILT, Google,, HTC, Facebook, and more — we’ll be promoting the event, donating prizes, and providing intellectual support during the hackthon itself.

Microsoft is certainly no stranger to hackathons. Just check out this list of hackathons and “developer camps” we did around Windows 8 during July-Sept last year, in a ton of cities around the U.S. We are always trying to leverage the platforms and resources that Microsoft has to empower people to start their own businesses, develop new products and services, and ultimately be more successful. We want to share in your success (even if that success is in the fashion industry!).

Scene from a Microsoft-sponsored hackathon called “Hack 4 Good” which took place in San Francisco and New York in Sept. 2012 (photo by TechSoup).

Why is Hearst even doing this hackathon event in the first place? It’s a good question. Rachel Strugatz at WWD magazine asked just that question to Hearst Corp. CTO — and Hearst Fashion Hack judge — Phil Wiser. He told her, “It’s really a very technology- and entrepreneurial-driven effort that represents the direction Hearst is headed in terms of inventing new digital products — and also doing that in concert with the tech community.”

From a Microsoft perspective, in today’s world it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between companies in the tech, gaming, media, and publishing industries. Just look at Microsoft’s partnership in Nook Media LLC with Barnes & Noble and Pearson, as one example; there are many other strange bedfellows in this space. Hearst is smart to not only organize and host the event, but also to partner with AngelHack to run it and sponsors like Microsoft to guide the participants with technical information (perhaps about Windows Phone 8 or our Azure cloud platform) and provide meaningful incentives to participation.

With the economy still tough, it’s more important than ever for young people to stand out from “the crowd” through entrepreneurial activity and individual achievement, perhaps through building something new and exciting. I’m very much looking forward to witnessing fashion professionals collaborate with code hackers and business-minded “hustlers” in a frenzied 24-hour period of brainstorming, designing, and pitching to see what they invent in the mobile, digital fashion space.

Mark Drapeau, Ph.D. is the director of innovative engagement for public sector at Microsoft. You can follow him on Twitter at @cheeky_geeky.

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