The Fashion Statement: Designers E-tail It
Luxury fashion designers, who've long shunned e-commerce, are caving in.
Last week, The New York Times reported that Marc Jacobs (fall show pictured above), Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, St. John, Theory, Kiehls, Lilly Pulitzer, Donna Karan and La Perla are finally going to do on the Web what they do in the real world: sell stuff!
To a person in any other industry, I can imagine how crazy this must sound. Companies in the business of selling stuff have not caught on to selling stuff on the Web, a medium that has been around for several decades!
"'The classic luxury brand Web site is basically a Flash site with lots of beautiful imagery, but no one ever goes to it,'" Aaron Shapiro, a partner at the Web design firm Huge, told the NYT.
There are department stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman to consider. What happens to their online sites, not to mention brick and mortar stores, if you can go straight to Balenciaga.com and order those Formica and plywood platform loafers thereby cutting out the middleman?
Designers are not that altruistic. Fashion houses won't sell to some stores (and won't participate in press stories, for that matter) purely based on whether or not that store corresponds with their image. Conversely, retailers-and e-tailers-won't buy everything a designer has to offer, a practice people in the trade call "cherry picking."
Cherry picking has prompted many designers to open their own stores to make available and show the cohesiveness of the full collection. To appease a neighboring store like Barneys New York, who might carry the line, they strike a deal that this style won't be sold there and vice versa.
It seems like an online e-commerce presence would be much like brand-owned stores. But fashion houses have a long way to go. And they frustrate a luxury consumer like me.
I don't want to click on a hundred designers' sites, wait for all the pretty pictures to download and scroll through hundreds of shoe styles. I also don't want an e-tailing site like shopbop.com and bluefly.com-wonderful as they are but still an online version of traditional retailers-to choose what I can or cannot have from a designer's collection.I want to go online, see what every designer has in his collection and buy it all in one place.
A shopping search engine like shopstyle.com is the Google of shopping. You can search for a pair of platform shoes in the shape of a golden angel in a size 8 and if it's anywhere on the Web, it will show up on your screen. Today, though, even though it is Alexander McQueen's must-have shoe of the season, it will not show up on your screen. Nor will it be easy to find out where you can get a pair.
In my perfect world, designers would make their entire collections available online and if you have a few Gs, easily obtainable. Wouldn't fashion houses, presumably in the game to make money, want the same thing?