Web trends

The world of online fashion retailing is changing and innovating at a rapid pace. Emily Gosling looks at how etailers are successfully using design to harness these developments in order to increase their Web presence

Net-A-Porter has set the benchmark for so long. It has never rested on its laurels and always thinks about innovation – that’s the key,’ says Oliver Walsh, managing partner of Wednesday London.

Walsh’s view demonstrates how the increasingly sophisticated high-street stores’ websites and the stellar rise of style blogs such as The Sartorialist, Style Bubble and Jak & Jil are forcing fashion etailers constantly to reinvent themselves.

Wednesday designed Mr Porter – the ’brother’ site to luxury online retailer and editorial site Net-A-Porter – which launched last week.

Also last week, designer fashion retailer My-wardrobe.com relaunched with a design created in-house, using ’street-style’ photography and focusing on an ’everyday luxury’ aesthetic to distance itself from the high-end look of Net-A-Porter or the high-street focus of Asos. The new website incorporates social media, a blog, editorial, video and street-style photography alongside retail.

Creative director of My-wardrobe.com, Fiona McIntosh, says that, while the photography is heavily influenced by street-style photography (the site uses Jak & Jil’s photographer), the site itself is more informed by printed editorial.

McIntosh says, ’The design is clean, fresh and simple – “effortless style” is one of our mantras, and we wanted that reflected in the look of the site.’

She adds, ’Some people are creating a lot of content online, but we feel that you don’t want to detract too much from easy shopping.’

The site also updates video content weekly. McIntosh says, ’It’s all about showcasing your product, which it does incredibly well if you can see it move.’

Paul Lewis Design has created sites for fashion retailers including River Island and the original New Look website. Last month, founder and creative director Paul Lewis co-hosted a talk at the Pure fashion event at London’s Olympia on Web design for fashion retailers.

Lewis believes fashion etailers are moving towards a blog-style format in both content and design. ’The sites are moving from a print-based mentality to a pure Web-publishing mentality – that’s driving how the fonts are being used and how the pages are being laid out in a more bloggy way,’ he says.

’With the typography, we’re seeing seriffonts and Times New Roman, echoing sites like The Sartorialist.’

We’re great believers in sophisticated, simple design. It’s a balance – you need to get the content across without being overwhelming

Lewis says etailers are harnessing social media as a cheap, effective way of increasing their Web presence, as users enhance brand awareness through comments and reviews. Added to editorial content, these avenues mean ’more eyes on more brands on more pages’, says Lewis, which in turn leads to more sales.

Wednesday London’s Walsh says, ’A lot of sites pile stuff on to the page, but we believe there’s a time and place for focus and simplicity – making it more targeted and impactful to elevate a product or a content story.

’We’re great believers in sophisticated, simple design. It’s a balance – you need to get the content across without being overwhelming.’

Emulating its sister site, Mr Porter heavily features editorial content through The Journal channel.

Walsh says, ’[Net-A-Porter] was the first to pioneer high-quality content on a regular basis and take the customer journey from inspiration to delivery.’

He adds, ’With editorial it’s very important that you have a unique voice. If you’re just trying to replicate fashion news there are lots of places that do that better.

Now, traditional media sources are influenced by the brands – there’s no longer such a traditional hierarchy.’

Asos art director Patrick Waugh is responsible for the artistic direction of the site’s identity and magazine imagery. Asos launched its fashion magazine, designed in-house, in 2007 and this now has the second-highest UK circulation in the women’s lifestyle sector, at 450 000 copies a month. Recently, Asos founder Nick Robertson announced that it will launch the Fashion Finder, a portal that promotes brands Asos does not sell, aiming to transform the site into a ’fashion destination’.

Asos has already harnessed social media through the online community Asos Life, and last year created an Amazon-like Marketplace through which boutiques and individuals can open virtual stores, with Asos taking a cut of their sales.

Lewis believes that the future of etail lies in ’social commerce’, with consumers becoming ’curators’ of their own e-commerce sites.

However, McIntosh feels it is impossible to generalise about the future of fashion etail. She says, ’It’s important to develop your own personality – there’s going to be much more polarisation between brands now as they’re becoming more sophisticated and going for a particular customer. It’s a more fragmented market.’

Walsh agrees. ’People are realising they have to do things in their own unique way,’ he says. ’For many years high-end fashion was frightened of the democratising edge of the Web – now it wants to pioneer.

’It’s something that requires focus, and not trying to be all things for all people. Personalisation is key.’

See also Insight – The shopper journey is in-store and online

Etail editorial

  • Asos head of art Patrick Waugh was formerly Pop magazine’s creative director, and has previously worked for Arena Homme Plus, i-D and Harper’s Bazaar
  • In November 2010, Graphic Alliance collaborated with fashion magazine Tank to create the website for designer Vivienne Westwood, acting as an online base for the Vivienne Westwood brand
  • In September 2010, Hyatt Associates and D3R created online store and magazine Vintage Seekers, which combines an online platform to sell 20th-century design pieces and an online magazine covering vintage design, fashion and lifestyle

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