In the latest episode of “Things we thought would never happen that have happened”, such as the death of fashion magazines, the return of matching pastel tracksuits and Donald Trump being elected President of the United States, now Amazon has launched a Luxury Stores mobile app.
Kicking off as the first designer shop-in-shop for the world’s largest e-retailer is Oscar de la Renta, with more ready to wear, accessory and beauty brands slated to come.
It was long thought that a truly luxury shopping experience had to be about bricks and mortar, the hushed tones of a lavish, immersive mega store, staffed by helpful professionals, profering coffee on silver trays or chilled champagne while you perch on a velvet chair and they wrap your purchase in expensive tissue and ribbon.
No one was going to make a significant fashion purchase by simply clicking on Amazon, were they? The same place you bought your six packs of socks and a new drill? But a worldwide pandemic and the fact that Amazon customers bought 1 billion fashion items last year has changed the game, forever.
Snobbery has always existed in the fashion world, it’s built into it, there is indeed a nefarious cool club of style insiders which exists to convince people they should pay $1800 for a designer Mickey Mouse sweatshirt with holes in it. I recall being terrified to enter certain up-market boutiques in the Nineties, fearful of being patronised by uppity sales assistants wearing Comme des Garcons.
Does anybody remember the very trendy Trellini boutiques in Melbourne and Sydney in the late Eighties and early Nineties? I would rather have had a wisdom tooth extracted than dare to ask the salesperson if they had another size in that black Yohji Yamamoto jacket.
Now the luxury stores, and their staff, are quite rightly designed to assist and entice the customer, and you are just as welcome in a high-end jewellery boutique, whether you are a workman wearing mud-covered Blundstones or a Balenciaga-clad teenager, because no one is making rude assumptions about where the cash is coming from, or whether you are the desired client.
However, many luxury fashion houses still discriminate against the customer in one area only – and that is size. Refusing to produce clothes larger than a size 12 is probably one of the last stupid vestiges of elitism – we don’t care how you make your money but please don’t be chubby.
Amazon has apparently been working on a nifty sizing device which will show the customer exactly how the item will look, a 360 degrees digital model which can be tailored to their size, height, hair and skin colour.
It sounds like a clever way to not only prevent a high rate of returns but also empower the customer to shop with a degree of judgement. By launching its luxury stores platform, Amazon is challenging the luxe world’s resistance to the ‘odious’ idea of a mass audience, (one which might even be a size 14).
The CEO of Oscar de la Renta, Alex Bolen, summed it up witheringly. “This idea that you don’t want to speak to a customer where she’s spending a lot of her time is a mistake”.