Are Souped-Up E-Boutiques the New 5th Avenue?


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Within the past few weeks, four luxury brands — Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Lanvin, and Donna Karan – have launched digital flagships. These new Web expansions are hybrids, offering both e-commerce and editorial elements — and the ability for users to share products via social networking. In other words, the fashion industry, which in the past as been very reluctant to embrace the Web, is now diving in head first.

Both Karan and Jacobs’ sites were sketched out and built by firm Createthe Group, and each reflects the individual designers’ personality. Click to MarcJacobs.com, and you’ll enter a virtual department store. The shopping element resembles a videogame, and the overall tone of the site is playful. Jacobs has dedicated sections for runway video, press clippings (“news and gossip”), and even a corner for “employees of the moment.”

Karan, on the other hand, uses her virtual plot of land to promote both shopping and charity efforts. She’s created a section to feature “women who inspire,” like Demi Moore, who with husband Ashton Kutcher have created a foundation to end human trafficking and child sex slavery; there’s also information about Karan’s own charity, the Urban Zen Foundation.

Both marcjacobs.com and donnakaran.com offer the designers’ collection lines and lower-priced secondary labels under one roof. James Gardner, CEO of Createthe Group, noted to WWD that, “Our view is that the Collection and the DKNY consumer are different, but there is overlap and cross-sell opportunity between the two.”

All of which is great, but the emphasis on editorial content on both sites feels unnecessary. As online shopping’s popularity continues to rise, high-end brands need to offer e-boutiques that are both visually appealing and easy to navigate — on all platforms. On the web, functional always trumps pretty — and that’s something we think luxury brands may have a hard time with. Time (and sales numbers) will tell whether we’re right.