The Telegraph: Will you add a Roland Mouret skirt to your basket alongside pet food?
Who doesn’t love a bargain? Some of my happiest retail therapy moments unfolded in Bicester Village, schmoozing those omnipotent assistants in the Marni, Celine, Dior and Loewe stores. They’re the people with the true power in fashion – they know the minute something really hot has landed, and if you’ve been nice to them, they might email or call to tip you off. I bet they get some wonderful Christmas presents from grateful customers.
Or that’s how it used to work, back when fashion was in hot demand, and brands worked their cashmere socks off to ensure that even the discounted transaction was a pleasurable experience, even in its outlets. Amazon and eBay have a somewhat different approach.
Like Trump panting at the locked doors of a Miss Universe competition, Amazon has been eyeing up designer fashion for years; 2020 is the year it got the key. With much of the industry on its knees, Anna Wintour and Tom Ford chose to partner with Amazon to launch her Common Thread project to save America’s beleaguered designers.
Then, a fortnight ago, Roland Mouret announced that instead of taking part in a digital London Fashion Week, he was putting a film out on Amazon, where he’ll shortly be joining Oscar de la Renta and Preen inter alia.
Meanwhile, Dolce & Gabbana has just launched a dedicated site on eBay’s designer fashion platform. This is “luxury” fashion without the frills. The production values on Amazon for their designer fashion, if you can find it, are similar to the ones it employs to sell pet food or ointment for athlete’s foot.
Will it work? Amazon sold a billion fashion items in the past 12 months, so no arguing with its ability to shift volume. With most of the fashion industry in survival mode, it will probably find it easier to lure names that previously held out in the face of its heavy breathing school of courtship. The advantages for the Amazon consumer who’s prepared to dedicate hours to shifting through the dross are obvious – free delivery and returns, plus speed and reliability, and, in Prime Wardrobe’s case (available to all Amazon Prime customers), a try-before-you-buy option.
Is it wise for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Rag and Bone and Michael Kors, who over the years have spent millions erecting a luxurious hall of mirror around their names, to allow themselves to be showcased alongside the likes of Dorothy Perkins, or is the retail apartheid that kept “luxury” and mass brands separate now outdated?
Either true luxury will rise to the top or everything will be reduced to instant 70 per cent off gratification. As Jemma Tadd, eBay’s head of fashion, observes, “We know the top priority for customers when shopping from outlet stores is high discounts.” Frills, it seems, are out.
By Lisa Armstrong.