Thursday, January 06, 2000

Online fashion shopping virtually limitless

The Cincinnati Enquirer

  Here's a sampling of what you can find in cyber fashion and beauty.

Beauty — Launched in November. A comprehensive selection of skin care, makeup, all-natural treatments, fragrance, hair-care, beauty tools and bath/body products. It has an interactive virtual magazine, edited by former Vogue beauty editors, which features product news, industry trends, beauty tips and celebrity profiles. Boasts hard-to-find and boutique brands, such as Joey New York, Urban Decay, Musgo de Real, Aromapharmacy, Mimco and Komenuka Bijin and Philosophy. Drugstore labels include: Almay, Revlon, Corn Silk and Cover Girl. — Launched in August. The site specializes in prestige fragrances such as Guerlain, Halston, St. John and Yohji Yamamoto. Searches can be conducted by brand name, bottle shape, country of origin or fragrance family (fresh, floral, oriental, woody, etc.) Other features include interviews with fragrance industry experts, chat rooms and an auction house especially for collectors of antique and rare perfume bottles and other collectibles. Christie Mayer Lefkowith, noted author and vintage perfume bottle expert, serves as the curator of the site's fragrance museum, where shoppers can learn about the art and history of perfume creation and marketing. — Launched in October. The first Internet-only collection bath and body products designed to help users “center themselves.” Sixty bath/shower gels, body lotions, candles, muscle soothers, fragrances, soaps, teas, masks, and hair care products priced between $5-$25 make up the line. The products are categorized according to their main ingredients, which include arnica, chamomile, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, peppermint, orange blossom, seaweed, algae, St. John's Wort, vanilla and Vitamin C.

Fashion — Launched in November. A fashion site specializing in urban-contemporary clothing. Labels include Patagonia, The North Face, FUBU and Cosmic Girl. Features a virtual stylist named Miss Boo who guides shoppers through the site. features cutting-edge 3-D and zoom technology that allows shoppers to view designs from a variety of angles. — Launched in November A collection of men's, women's, teen's and children's shoes from more than 100 manufacturers. Categories include casual, athletic and formal. This no-frills site allows users to search by brand, activity or gender. Women's categories include corporate, pumps, boots, slip-ons, classics, evening and uniform. Under casual, women will find 27 clog styles. — Launched in December. Fashion-forward jewelry and other ornamental trinkets displayed on artistically photographed nude bodies. provides a wish list registry, gift-buying reminders, jewelry shopping tips and a quarterly fashion magazine. The collection includes necklaces, cuff links, waist laces, time pieces, earrings in yellow/white gold, silver and platinum. Stones are real or faux in a variety of cuts and colors. tries to set itself apart from other e-commerce jewelry vendors by punching up the sensuality factor. Its “erotic diversions” page includes sexy suggestions for romantic gift-giving and “passionate love potions.” — Launched in September 1998. This fashion site's approach is to mix “the discount prices of Loehmann's with the designer fashion of Barney's and the world-class service of Nordstrom.” The company offers products for women, men, teens, kids and the home from more than 200 designers at 25-75 percent below retail. Labels include Anna Sui, Anne Klein, Betsey Johnson, Helmut Lang, Nicole Miller, Prada, Donna Karan, Jil Sander, FUBU, Theory and John Bartlett. The site's MyCatalog feature allows customers to create a personalized search by keying in their favorite brands, product categories and sizes. Their preferences are stored and updated as the Bluefly inventory grows and changes. — Launched in December 1994. A specialized shopping portal that offers a comprehensive selection of apparel, accessories, beauty/cosmetic options for men, women, teens and children from 90 top brands, such as The Gap, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Joseph Abboud and the Cashmere Co. Consumers can access experts to receive fashion and beauty advice from such industry leaders as Todd Oldham, Kate Spade and Vivienne Tam. Consumers can shop by brand, product category or by such shopping districts as Madison (uptown chic), Soho (cutting-edge downtown fashion), Galleria (upscale) and Main Street (essentials and activewear).


        When Georgina Curran of Terrace Park went shopping for a basic little black dress to wear to a party last March, she left the malls empty-handed and frustrated.

        “I saw just about everything but what I wanted,” Mrs. Curran says. “There were embroidered black dresses, beaded black dresses, long black dresses, short ones and others that were too trendy, sleazy or cheaply made.”

        Believing she was not the only woman who had such an experience, she and her sister Petra Vester of Indian Hill launched the e-fashion site on Dec. 1.

        The site features three basic black dresses designed by the partners and made by a factory in Los Angeles. Priced $65-$200 (sizes 6 to 14), the designs come in poly twill, satin-backed crepe and velvet. In the next few months, four additional silhouettes, including a maternity style, will be added to the line.

        “Everybody knows the Internet is a booming place right now, and during our research we discovered that fashion/apparel is one of the fastest-growing segments,” Ms. Curran says. “The response to has been good. We've made sales to women as far away as Washington (state).”

        By the end of 1999, 29 million people were shopping online, according to Jupiter Communications, a New York consulting firm specializing in e-commerce. By 2003, it's projected to reach 85 million.

        While apparel/footwear and personal care products (beauty and cosmetics) comprise a smaller segment of sales compared to books, music/CDs and software, the numbers are rising.

        Jupiter estimates that the U.S. market for online cosmetics, fragrance and skin-care products for 1999 was $23 million, but is expected to rise to $533 million by 2003. Apparel sales reached $804 million in 1999, but have been projected to soar to 6.7 billion by 2003.

        “The apparel category has surprised a lot of people and done better than expected,” says Evie Black Dykema, an analyst with Forrester Research, a Cambridge, Mass., e-commerce consulting firm. “Because of the touch-and-feel aspect that goes along with shopping for apparel, it probably won't ever catch up with books, CDs and videos, but improved technology will make the decision to shop online more comfortable for people.”

        Ms. Dykema notes such advances as “e-color” that companies such as began using on its site this month.

        “Color is a big issue when shopping online,” Ms. Dykema says. “The color that you were seeing probably wasn't the exact color of the item. Now with this new software, the color will be truer.”

        Proper fit is another big issue.

        “It's the same old story that direct sales and catalog companies have always had to contend with,” Ms. Dykema says.

        “Companies such as Lands End have an innovative virtual model that allows shoppers to see which clothes are better suited for their individual body type. And also look forward to seeing more features where online shoppers can key in their exact measurements and get individualized feedback.

        “For instance, if you try to order slacks and you're between a size 8 and 10, you'll get detailed information that will tell you the waist may be a tad too tight if you get the 8 or the seat may be too full if you go with the 10.”

        Lara Hodgeson, a consultant with, a strategic Internet service provider in Atlanta, believes the fashion sites that will be most successful in the long run will emphasize service as much as product.

        “Easy returns and exchanges should be a priority,” Ms. Hodgeson says. “Top-notch interactive options, such as providing prompt feedback, something that guides the users through the best products for them or the capability to shop with another person, will also heighten the e-shopping experience.”

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