Trying to get the girl next door to adapt to online fashion is big business. From ASOS to Amazon, Showpo to Bambi Boutique - e-commerce is booming to levels we could never have expected when fashion first appeared online (now almost 20 years ago).
With free-returns, constant sales and up-to-the-second trends, it's never been easier to buy your wardrobe online. Whether it's a discount code or simply your favourite Kiwi gal sporting THAT dress, subliminal messages are being cast out to reel us into popping our pin into our internet browser as often as possible. The times are changing fast, and nowhere more so than in the Instagram influencer space.
It's a tempting idea. If you simply swipe your card, you too can be the proud owner of a new outfit just a week after purchase or even less. E-fashion retailers are competing on speed, price and customer service at all times. It's a race to bottom to get you what you want, when you want it, faster than you can say 'impulse purchase'.
For a time, I've had a creeping feeling about the pressure to go digital when it comes to my wardrobe. Lots of the UK bloggers I like buy their wardrobes online. For example, YouTube videos are dedicated to 'My Boyfriend Does My ASOS Haul' or 'Topshop Haul'. There's a reason that these people are promoting online sales. It is their job! You can't make a commission or show your value to a brand if people are only buying in a store. And yes - it works! To be frank, I wouldn't have known ASOS from a soap brand had it not been introduced to me by online influencers.
So why do I still prefer to buy nearly all my clothes in person, in bricks and mortar store in Wellington? It's a complicated thing!
First of all, I might be a digital native but shopping your wardrobe has only become commonplace in New Zealand in the last few years (even more so since Instagram has launched its shopping function for Kiwis). Growing up, through the 90's and 2000's, it was all about the coolest shops on Cuba Street and the surrounding Te Aro neighbourhood - Area 51, Karen Walker, Service Depot and of course, Good As Gold.
As a customer, I have a relationship with these shops, having seen them through seasons and seasons. I also have a personal familiarity with their stock, its quality and service. When I need a new Summer dress, I can go to somewhere local where the pieces have been chosen with the New Zealand woman in mind.
You can't feel the texture of a fabric online, let alone hold it against your body, see its length, or even smell it. I remember the one fashion purchase I made from ASOS for a wedding and the dress arrived STINKING of chemicals. It honestly reeked and I felt quite bad about who might have made that item, thinking about the fact that they were exposed to those chemicals.
There's nothing like being able to go into a shop and see a colour in person and go through the ability to assess an item of clothing. Even if it is convenient being sent a top or dress in the post, there's little point if you have to go through the hassle of sending it back. Yes, you might get free postage, but it can be as complicated as breaking the code to the Da Vinci Code to figure out the right form to attach and where your local UPS depot it (that could just be me though!).
I basically would much rather get out of the house, off my device, and walk into a store where I can go and pick out some items and try them on my actual body. That way, I can see how it drapes, the quality of a fabric and ask questions about the label IRL (that stands for 'In Real Life' for those of you not quite up to speed with the internet generation!).
Engagement and Experience
If I wanted, I could go onto Farfetch tomorrow and buy myself a YSL handbag. Does that in anyway compete with the experience of actually going to Paris to Gallerie Lafayette and buying that handbag myself (don't worry Matt - I'm speaking hypothetically)? Not in the slightest. What I remember the most about the most exciting fashion purchases of my life isn't the item per se. It's the person who sold me the dress or the bag, the person I was with at that time (generally my mother, the enabler), the weather that day, the city I was in or the occasion it was for.
The least memorable experiences I've had? Those ASOS shoes I bought for my friend's wedding which were WAY too high when they arrived (I wore them anyway. Maybe there's a pattern - I only seem to purchase online for weddings?!) There was no interaction, no context and no experience or engagement to be had. Pressing a few buttons and putting your card details into some blank boxes while you lie in bed on your phone, wearing your track pants, simply can't compare to a detailed conversation with a shop assistant about the philosophy behind the brand, who started it, why they're referencing a past collection or anything else.
I like speaking to an experienced team who greet with with a smile and are helpful in educating me about my purchasing decisions. For instance, Good As Gold brings their expertise to their fashion buying and can tell you more than you can imagine about any item in their store. For example, did you know that GAG has been stocking KowTow since the very start of their journey as a New Zealand ethical fashion brand?
Further, you are far less likely to accidentally buy something that you didn't expect to love online. When you filter by colour, size and brand, spontaneity and serendipity is reduced substantially. This is one reason I love shops like vintage havens Ziggurat and Hunters & Collectors - you never know what you'll find!
I can't say I have a totally clean record when it comes to buying online. Yes, there has been the off-hand purchase, normally when I am in a tizzy about where to find a specific thing for a specific event. But have I ever bought anything significant online? No. I just can't bring myself to drop $300 - $400 on a big fashion item, only to receive it and find something didn't work. I just think that buying online is really far more hassle, and far more boring and prone to regret purchases (especially once the adrenaline has worn off) than the internet giants would like you to think. Perhaps I'll change my opinion in time, but for the time being, I'll be keeping it old school, stomping the Wellington streets.