You can watch a short film by Karl Lagerfeld, listen to Gucci creative director Frida Giannini’s custom playlists and gaze at Donna Karan’s snapshots from her Ethiopian holiday. We’re talking smart-phone apps here, the latest It item for fashion houses. Yet while plenty are jumping on the bandwagon, only a handful are making sure their mobile applications are shoppable. And no offense to Giannini and her favorite songs or Karan and her vacation, but the sartorial-minded know what’s most important in the grand scheme of things: shopping.
“An app is about wasting time or saving time, and one of the easiest ways to save time is to make shopping very quick and easy,” says James Gardner, founder and CEO of CreateThe Group, an interactive marketing agency for fashion and retail. “A key reason for doing m-commerce is to allow you to purchase whatever you want, wherever you are.” (M-commerce, by the way, is techspeak for mobile commerce, and it’s a catchphrase that could soon become as popular as “e-mail.”) Gardner’s company has collaborated with David Yurman and Karan on their apps, neither of which offers m-commerce, but Team Karan says to expect it before the year ends.
Apple’s App Store—where more than 140,000 apps are available—has yet to give fashion its own category. So all designers are located within the Lifestyle genre, which is upwards of 430 pages long and chock-full of everything from “Adorable Kittens” to “Zen Proverbs.” (Google features apps for its phones at its Android Market, and BlackBerry does the same at its App World, but so far designers are taking the more popular Apple route.) Apple doesn’t comment on the ifs and whens of launching new categories—there are currently 20—though one executive, who wished to remain anonymous, says there “might” be a fashion classification around the corner, but the company “likes surprises to be surprises.”
Diane von Furstenberg has a few tricks up her chiffon sleeve: The designer’s first app is set to arrive this spring, offering about 20 key pieces via “Looks We Love,” a compilation of press and buyer favorites updated quarterly. “It’s a step in growing our business, because we want to give people the option to shop in whatever way they want,” says von Furstenberg. “We already do so many things from our phones, so shopping is a natural progression.”
Tommy Hilfiger has been at it since last fall with his free app (most designer ones don’t cost a cent), which offers his entire collection for sale. “It’s just like shopping in our stores but without the crowds,” is how he puts it. Lacoste will make a similar move this spring, when its m-commerce app hits the iPhone circuit. “We’re not doing anything too gimmicky,” says CEO Steve Birkhold. “Our customers want their polo shirts, and they want to get to them quickly and move on to their next application.”