The Recession Has Forced High-Fashion Companies to Use the Internet

The fashion industry is notoriously technology-fearing, with designers shunning the use of computers like last season’s burlap dress scraps. And so high-fashion houses, like so many fashion magazines, have been slow to bring their brands fully to the web. But labels are learning — amazingly, faster than most fashion magazines — that the web and its full range of functionality can no longer be ignored. Prada’s website used to consist of just flash movies of fairies and things, but now you can do this revolutionary thing there called shopping online.

In recent years, fancy labels were wary of adding e-commerce to their websites because, even though they stand to profit off such a thing, it didn’t seem like a very exclusive, fashion-y thing to do. For example, how would salespeople offer the rich shoppers Champagne and exhaustive customer service? Besides, the Internet is the stomping ground of everyone with a computer and a connection — fashion isn’t generally about such mass inclusion. But in this age of live streams, things are changing.

When the economy took a nosedive and department stores aggressively knocked down retail prices, seemingly devaluing the luxuriousness of very expensive apparel, the labels realized they would have to take back control. Marc Jacobs will launch e-commerce in September as one means of taking a stand against the markdowns the label can’t control. Jacobs’s business partner, Robert Duffy, told the Times he’d have some exclusive online buys to separate the site from those of stores like Saks.

“I want to give people a reason to go there — if I have the same stuff on our Web site that’s at Neiman’s and Saks,” the site would have little appeal, Mr. Duffy of Marc Jacobs said.

Asked if he was worried that retailers might be upset, Mr. Duffy said he was unconcerned. “How can they? That’s ridiculous,” he said of retailers who sell his line. “I’m the one that should get huffy that they have it on their Web site.”

That’s the exclusive high-fashion spirit! Come one, don’t come all.

High Fashion Relents to Web’s Pull [NYT]

The Recession Has Forced High-Fashion Companies to Use the Internet