Google

Much to-do over the weekend at SXSW following Google SVP of Android, Chrome & Apps Sundar Pichai’s announcement that they were about to release a software development kit for wearables, so that your clothes could talk to Android devices. Immediate speculation on motives followed. They were looking to corner the market by owning the common platform! They were going to make more wearables of their own (Well, duh)! It was sneaky and smart strategy! But here’s what I was thinking, reading about all this: there is enormous fashion potential here, if they want to seize it. 

Lately it is beginning to feel like for every shopper there is a new technology start-up — maybe because so many new technology start-ups are driven by shoppers trying to solve their own problems. Like, for example, how, when you see a really cute blue blouse by you are not sure who, sold you are not sure where, pinned to someone’s inspiration board, you can find it and buy it. Good luck with googling that one. Which, presumably, is why ASAP54, just raised $3 million from, among others, Carmen Busquets of Net-a-Porter investment fame.  

Well, finally: Google glass has made the leap from nerd-wear to pretty acceptable actual glasses. They just unveiled four new styles of titanium frames – lightweight black numbers that range from a kind of sexy secretary style (my personal favourite) called Curve to a thick-rimmed architect look (Bold). They can take both prescription lenses and non. The weird Google viewer that, when worn alone as previous turned people into Star Wars-geeks, attaches to one side. It’s still a little odd, but not odd enough to cause the sort of double-takes it did on its own. It could actually pass as…a fashion statement. 

Reading my newspaper over coffee this morning, I almost fell out of my chair while perusing a tech story on Google, Amazon et al, which ended with the following observation: “Google, Microsoft and Amazon all have the potential to adopt Apple’s vertical model of combining software, services and hardware to gain complete control over the design and function of future mobile devices.” Because the thing is, dear reader, it’s not “Apple’s approach” exactly – or it is, but Apple got it from somewhere else first. And where would that be? Fashion, of course.
 

I, for one, was quite chuffed at the news that Marissa Mayer, latterly of Google, has just been appointed Yahoo’s new CEO – both because I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything, she can do with the lagging search engine, and because Ms Mayer is a notably good dresser, and I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything, she can do with the lacklustre image of an internet superstar. Put another way: she’s not a hoodie-and-Teva sort of exec. 

The question of how to balance virtual stores with bricks and mortar stores is a thorny one, with various theories fighting for dominance. Some say it’s all going virtual and point to the search for value (see the FT today, and the report on shoppers deserting the High Street for home pages), while others say things need to be felt to be appreciated, and point to the recent Zappos debacle as something that will also drive people back into stores (see many luxury executives). The only thing that’s clear is the lack of consensus on best strategy going forward, something that was brought home to me pretty tangibly thanks to two recent bits of information I stumbled onto.

 

I’ve spent the last day playing around on myhabit.com, the flash fashion sale site Amazon sprang on the world Tuesday afternoon. There we were, shopping happily at Gilt and Rue La La and Ideeli, and the next thing you know: BAM! The elephant had entered the arena, ready to crush all in its path.

 

It’s starting to seem like practically every week there’s some new digital love story happening with fashion, and hey — you’ll be happy to know this week is no exception! There’s a very good piece this morning on BusinessofFashion.com about the rise of Tumblr as the platform of choice for the fashion world, and the company’s decision to make fashion a central core of their community.
 

All is revealed! Google has posted the following announcement/explanation of their fashion site, courtesy of Munjal Shah, product management director. And, because companies tend to dress up such statements, I’ve done my best to parse the patterns underneath:

“The way we shop for fashion is different from how we buy cameras—especially online. With fashion, reviews and specs are less important; fashion shopping is about discovering something that fits your taste and feels right.”

Wait! I thought fashion shopping was about trying things on and sharing them with your friends to get comments? Isn’t that what other sites have been selling? Google is telling us whatever dot com we’ve been visiting is wrong.

“The web works well for buying cameras and other hard goods but for soft goods, such as clothing and accessories, it’s not the same as shopping in a store.”

Have they been talking to the luxury guys? This is their rap. 

So Google is moving from search to shops. Rumours have been circulating since last week, when Save the Date invites started going out about a party being held in New York Wednesday, hosted by the search company and theoretically filled with fashion people, and now Women’s Wear has confirmed: plans are in the works for boutiques.com (that seems to be the working name, anyway), a new Google site, where you can set up your own virtual boutique, and then, if you like the stuff you’ve picked (or if you mom likes it, or your best friend, and thus approves of your choices), click through to the source of the product – ie Gucci — and buy it yourself.