What to Wear When It Rains

What to wear when it rains
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Online Retail Done Properly

More often than not, I am admittedly too quick to complain if something is not right with a service or a shop, so it’s only fair to praise a company if they do something well. So this is a quick post to let you know of a great service I received online about a fortnight ago. I promise you I was not paid or sponsored to do this, I just thought it was only fair.

I was browsing on ASOS.com to find a bag that I could use for my gym clothes. Until last week I was using a blue, “sporty” rucksack, i.e.,  a most unattractive piece of dorkness. Thankfully, the zip finally broke and I needed to find a better way to pack my sporty gear. So I was roaming freely on the website when suddenly I noticed a pop-up widget at the bottom right-hand corner of the page that said “Chat to a Personal Stylist”. I wondered whether they were going to try and sell me anything or if they would be getting my style or listen to my needs, so I thought I’d give that a try.

My chat with ASOS Stylist Chloe M

My chat with ASOS Stylist Chloe M

I was not disappointed! The girl at the other end of the ether was called Chloe M. She asked me what I was looking for and what my budget was. I said I wasn’t sure whether I was planning to invest into a good-quality piece or if I was after something cheap and cheerful. She talked me through my options and spent about 20 minutes looking for what could be suitable and in the end, as there was currently nothing suitable on the ASOS website, she didn’t try to push me into buying anything, which was much appreciated, and told me when they were likely to receive new stock I might be interested in.

Although it is true that I did not end up buying anything from the website this time, her attitude was the right one and didn’t force me into purchasing something I didn’t need, so I will definitely go back to see if anything else more suitable has arrived, and I’ll also be looking to use the stylist advisor service again. I believe this is still the beta version of this online service, but hopefully they’ll see how good it is and make it a staple.

On a slightly different note, I ordered a pair of sling-back shoes from ASOS a few days before this episode and unfortunately the sling back on the left shoe was slightly loose. I contacted their customer service Twitter page and in the space of an hour they apologised and had already put in the post a new pair! I couldn’t recommend this website enough. Way to go, ASOS!

Colour Feature: Orange*

Orange is the first colour I ever remember someone disliking. I was seven or eight, not yet into black, and I was surprised to hear my mother say she found orange-coloured things repulsive. I hadn’t imagined people could dislike colours. I mean, sure, it made a kind of sense: I certainly knew which foods I disliked, for example; it just hadn’t occurred to me that colours were up for discussion. I knew I liked tigers, and that they were mostly orange. It was an earthquake of a moment.

Balenciaga S/S ’12

My mother, like all mothers, was half-right. Orange mixes its messages. It’s both warning and invitation. It has connotations of illness, of plague, of those glistening little rainforest dart frogs that exude poisonous syrups – and yet think of apricots, the nudity of peaches, the juice of tangerines and of, well, oranges. It’s sweet, is what I’m getting at, with all the sin and danger that word implies.

NORDSTROM Herschel Supply Co. ‘Walton’ Duffel

But we’re talking blaze orange here. Saturated safety orange. The colour of road cones and the Plymouth Barracuda. The colour of easyJet aeroplanes and the mobile phone company. That bright, toxic, new-basketball orange. The shade of deer-can’t-see-it orange you’d find in a hunting store. It’s the colour of autumn, of change – halfway between the self-sure reds and yellows of this world, it’s the colour of construction, of caution on building sites. Primordial, volcanic. Of something not yet fully made-up. A Halloween melding of this world and the other.

ASOS Denim & Supply Ralph Waxed Jacket

It’s a colour that’s been creeping up slowly. Oriental. Creeping onto shoes and bags, Sartorialist posts, the floor of Prada’s Men’s Fall/Winter 2012. It demands attention and works well with black, white, or dark brown. With leather. With wool. It’s one of the few colours – purple’s another – that asks something of the wearer. It confers a kind of power, a double-edged radiance you would do well to respect, and, like Alice Walker says of purple, I think it pisses God off if you walk by it and don’t notice.

From The Sartorialist

Prada F/W ’12

Do not wear more than one orange item. That one thing should be protective or functional rather than decorative, i.e., a coat, a hat, a tie, or shoes/boots. Don’t wear it with green. Don’t wear bow-ties. Don’t live alone.

Brioni F/W ’12

*This article was written by my friend and colleague Sam Eckett, press release editor and writer with a unique sense of style and a passion for all things beautiful.

Glossing Over Retail

Fashion magazines in the US have started selling the clothes they review. At the same time, just as you are now able to purchase the latest Derek Lam and Marc Jacobs pieces from the website of Vogue magazine, the opposite is also happening. Nowadays, every respectable online and brick-and-mortar fashion retailer worth a fashionista’s glance, has a magazine. From high-street to high-end fashion, ASOS, my-wardrobe.com, H&M, all have an online or printed magazine.

ASOS Magazine

As the US Vogue site mentions, “Vogue may receive a commission on some sales made through this service”, which clearly shows that magazines are getting into retail, and they mean business. Meanwhile, ASOS magazine showcases articles about the latest cool personalities and musicians while cleverly squeezing among those pages several features tailored on the season or current trends, listing their own products. This is the latest trend for catalogues that seem less invasive or pushy and, in turn, are more effective in selling the stock. If before you needed to walk into the shop to be sold a skirt that could be paired with the sales assistant’s suggestion of a certain top and shoes at, for example, your next Christmas party, now you need only to flick through the pages of ASOS’s glossy to see features about what to wear for such an occasion from head to toe, nails included.

Moda Operandi website, with links to trunk shows.

Magazines used to help designers sell, at times even guaranteeing coverage to those who buy advertising spaces in their pages, but now they are starting to represent competition to traditional retailers and high-end department stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. There are no more boundaries between these two industries. Vogue recently teamed up with the new online luxury catwalk looks retailer Moda Operandi to get closer to the consumers and Style.com has also started selling clothes.

Style.com website with a link on the top right to purchase a Rebecca Taylor top.

A technique widely used by both gloss magazines and online retailers is the Editor’s recommendation. Websites such as my-wardrobe.com and Net-a-Porter.com often feature Editor’s Pick pages, which lure the consumers into feeling “if a fashion Editor has picked this product, it must be good”.

Designers' picks and links to their collections on Net-a-porter.com.

Indeed, these two business trend changes are related by the fact that retailers started producing catalogues that look more like glossies than mere marketing products paired with the fact that magazines have been experiencing advertising losses for years now, due to the threat constituted by online competition and recession. The readers and consumers have changed their expectations too, in the last few years. It is so common these days to have links through to whatever object we covet and wish to purchase, that if a magazine or website shows us a great frock, and then does not let us buy it, we get frustrated and are, in turn, unhappy readers/customers.

However, Lauren Santo Domingo, a contributing editor at Vogue and Moda Operandi co-starter believes that her site, which provides an online version of a shop’s trunk show, has in fact a positive impact on designers’ sales figures, offering a real service by enabling them to understand, before the clothes are produced, which styles customers are interested in buying. Through the website, designers are also able to sell high-fashion, super-expensive and eccentric pieces which traditional stores would normally steer well away from. Although the site was only created about a year ago, Aslaug Magnusdottir, the other half of Moda Operandi, expected to gain 120,000 subscribers in the last quarter of 2011. More than 40% of their customers went back to the website to purchase more items after their first buy and the average transaction is about US$1,500 (ca. £950).

Aslaug Magnusdottir, left, and Lauren Santo Domingo at their The Madison Avenue office of Moda Operandi. Source: http://www.nytimes.com.

Ms Magnusdottir said that “the consumer becomes the buyer”. That sounds like a good way of putting it, however they are a buyer who is still heavily biased by trends dictated by glossies, be it a catalogue magazine or a traditional publishing one.