For my review this week I got curious about Modewalk. One issue that fascinates me is discovery – but not just in finding what you want, in finding what you don’t yet know about. There are young designers and new labels in spades, but without budgets how do they get their name out? And if they have no marketing, how can interested shoppers find out about them? So far this issue has been tackled in a few different ways: Of A Kind offers a single product from a partnership with an under-the-radar designer; Anthropologie has their “Made In Kind” series of collaborations with relative unknowns, and major sites like Net-a-Porter or Shopbop regularly feature newcomers alongside established designers. Based off of previous visits to the Modewalk website, I think of it as a site that presents small, unknown French designers, and uses creative imagery and storytelling to inspire customers to buy. Given the aforementioned methods of promoting new designers, I was interested to see how relevant Modewalk’s unique design and storytelling were to my decision to (possibly) purchase.
What’s interesting is the site really doesn’t seem to focus on commerce. You can certainly begin to search for things, but nowhere on the homepage is an item that you can actually buy (or that you are encouraged to buy); rather, there are a series of vignettes featuring designers, trends, or special photos. Once you’re on a designer’s page you can view their bio, see their past work, and read up on different aspects of their business. Instead of encouraging you to shop, Modewalk encourages you to learn. (side note: this website would make a great iPad app.)
When it comes time to shop you can search by apparel category, just like every other ecommerce site, but once you click into an item Modewalk still devotes ample real estate to the designer’s story . Some of the search functions are buried, which initially made me desire more control over my search experience. For example, the “Shop by District” slider on the home page has three different categories: “Le Marais”, “Fashion Forward”, and “Rue St Honore”. I wanted to be able to see everything within a categories, but I was only able to use that category as a filter once I finally chose to shop by category.
The site certainly feels very high-end, very chic, very expensive (as Nina Garcia might say), but Modewalk actually offers items at price points that you could find in the mall. My impression is that Modewalk is more concerned with presentation and creating a special, luxury experience, rather than simple hawking inventory. There is little to mitigate sticker shock. And I appreciate that. The emphasis on storytelling and craftsmanship makes the $100 bracelet feel as special as the $1,000 dress. Every designer gets special treatment, and the array of designers is robust enough that it can appeal to a wider audience than the prices let on. The verdict? I can easily see this being a website where I go to treat myself, or just nerd out over fashion.