Google’s next big idea … an online fashion revolution

It is the behemoth virtual shopping centre to end all shopping centres – and it’s open 24 hours a day. This month, just in time for the Christmas rush, internet commerce is sashaying forward with two new ventures in fashion that could change the way women – and the occasional man – buy their clothes online.

Last week in New York, Google launched boutiques.com, its latest e-tail venture that ties in two western cultural passions – celebrity and fashion.

Essentially a huge web mall full of individual stores, but with the benefits of search engine technology attached, it allows people to look for clothes by genre, silhouette, pattern, shape and size. Consumers will, say the creators, be able to run their own personalised boutiques by drawing up lists of their preferences, following celebrities and designers, and by teaming up with “taste-makers”.

First they partnered with taste-makers of all types asking them not just to curate 10-50 great items they loved, but also to teach our site their style and taste. They did this by telling what colours, patterns, brands and silhouettes they loved and they hated. They took a visual quiz that taught the site to understand their style genre: classic, boho, edgy. Then algorithms use this information to enable you to shop all of the inventory in the style of that taste-maker, on top of the 50 items they have hand-curated. Additional features on the site include filters as well as visual searches, which analyse the photograph of a clothing item and then return similar items.

Later this month the hugely successful, London-based fashion site Asos is expected to launch another new and different site aiming to shake up the way in which shoppers buy and sell clothes. Asos began its multimillion-pound business by featuring photographs of celebrities and then offering for sale similar but cheaper, or sometimes even the same, outfits with which young women could copy the “look”.

Now Asos Marketplace, described by some as a blend of popular fashion blogs and the online auctioneer site eBay, will allow people to sell their own designs or their secondhand clothes alongside the big retail names. It could provide a boost for Britain’s young designers by showcasing talent, although with 34,000 items already for sale on Asos’s main site it remains to be seen how the keen-eyed Asos Marketplace shopper will be guided through the huge selection bound to be found on the e-rails.

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