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Fashion online: When high-end meets low-brow


I think it’s fair to say that the internet has completely changed the way we shop. Even if you still do most of your shopping in physical stores, I bet you have researched something online before buying it in person.  And many of us buy lots of stuff online, replacing much of our in-person and paper catalog shopping. So because of that, it’s easy to assume that everyone else in the retail space is doing everything online, too. But they’re really not. The fashion industry in particular has been very slow to incorporate many online technologies.

I recently read a great post by Yuli Ziv, a Girls in Tech member from NYC, about a few reasons why the fashion industry has been slow to move online. This got me thinking about fashion and how important the web is to my interaction with the fashion industry.

Two of the more interesting points from Yuli’s post are the internet democracy and e-commerce perception issues. She discusses how fashion thrives on exclusivity and elitism; that’s why designers can charge $5,000 for a handbag and people will still line up to buy it.  But the web was built upon principles of openness and equality – anyone can participate. This is the exact opposite of high-end fashion. It’s no wonder designers are slow to get online. Doing that means anyone can access their designs and products, and even though most people still can’t afford to pay that much for a bag, people can participate in conversations about it. High-end designs are now within our low-brow reach.

As the recent New York and Paris fashion weeks have shown, even regular people like me can have almost immediate access to the runways and designs at all the shows. For several weeks, fashion bloggers have been reporting, complete with dozens and dozens of colorful photographs, direct from the fashion shows, discussing the clothing, the shoes, the backstage drama. It’s wonderfully interesting and informative. I doubt I will attend Fashion Week anytime soon, so this is a really good substitute.  But it brings the most exclusive of fashions right into my home, well before magazines can even report on it.

It does seem like the fashion industry is starting to accept – and even embrace – these changes, but I can  imagine some old school people in the industry are less than excited about it.  If anything however, I think this means fashion will just gain a larger audience. I don’t think this dilutes the brand or makes the high-end pieces any less valuable. Most of us still can’t afford to buy them.  But Yuli makes the excellent point that this presents us with a great opportunity – providing the fashion industry with the tools it needs to get online.

Jenn @ October 3, 2008

1 Comment

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