Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Google launches seriously cool

 Google has launched a new fashion website, that allows you to shop in dozens of celebrity, designer, blogger, and (soon) user-generated e-boutiques.  As the NYTimes says in a piece that sounds like an ad for the site: has so many capabilities and components that even Google engineers have a hard time qualifying it. It is a collection of hundreds of virtual boutiques merchandised — or, in the new parlance, “curated” — by designers, retailers, bloggers, celebrities and regular folks. You can shop in the style of, say, the actress Carey Mulligan or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen — among the celebrities who signed up for the launch — or you can build your own boutique and amass followers who can comment on your taste.
...In every boutique on the site, there are dozens of additional choices inspired by a designer’s or celebrity’s style — generated by algorithms — with product photos that are much larger and sharper than on other shopping sites.
Yes, it's part of the unrealistic fashion industry that wants us to spend $495 on "investment" jeans.  Ultimately, it's a way to change the model for how people shop for fashion, in a time when high-end designers are finally feeling the pinch of recession (luxury goods held strong for a while in the real-estate bust).  But what I like about it is the potential for it to become a sort of fashion twitter.  Each boutique creator has followers and can follow other boutiques.  That means that if you have impeccable taste and have always wanted to open a store, now you can with zero start-up cost.  I can imagine users who scour the internet for beautiful, unique items at great prices amassing thousands of followers, a la twitter.  Moreover, that means if I find a few boutique proprietors who I like, someone else can do my online shopping for me!  [Note, I tried out the feature, and it seems that google might limit the items you can put in your boutique to what it has in its "catalogue." If this remains the case, the potential for bargain-scouring might not be as great as I hoped.]

Special google magic also means that fashion searches that usually yield frustrating results are now going to work well, at least according to the Times:
And that may be’s ultimate game-changer — how precisely it analyzes your preferences to give you what you requested. As many online shoppers know, search engines tend to give you stuff you don’t really want. A request for fern-colored shoes might yield fern shoes, plus fern-print blouses. But, as two experienced online shoppers found when they tested the site earlier this week at Google’s New York office, if you ask for cobalt blue shoes, you get them. And if you refine your preferences with a click or two, you get even more specific styles.
Time will tell whether the site lives up to its potential for fashion democracy.  In the meantime, I'll be doing some shopping in Carey Mulligan's boutique.

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