High-fashion is one of the few product categories that Amazon has struggled to incorporate into its offering successfully. Designer brands have had their reservations and resisted the advances from Amazon since 2012. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that the high-end brands had to reevaluate their plans.
If we played word association, I don’t think any of us would associate “Amazon” with “high-fashion.” And it’s not like these words are impossible to pair, but, historically, they wouldn’t go together.
Amazon has had many attempts to lure high-end brands to its platform, but they would always refuse for the same reasons. The luxury brands’ image has never gone together with products you’d typically buy on Amazon, like books or consumer electronics. Apart from their products, designer brands also sell a specific mindset and a lifestyle, and Amazon has never been a place you’d visit in search of those.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic has started, and it upended all aspects of our lives, including the way we shop. With luxury spending down by one-third or more, independent designers, heavily reliant on in-store purchases, are living a nightmare.
On the flipside, “E-commerce sales in apparel, department stores, and beauty products have increased by nearly ten percentage points, on average, since the onset of the pandemic.”, according to McKinsey. Amazon hasn't been nearly as much influenced by the pandemic, with reported sales up by $15 billion year-to-year in Q1 20202. I think we’ve all connected the dots by now.
Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) have helped Amazon launch a digital shop selling fashion from 20 independent New York designers. The magazine and the CFDA both stand behind A Common Thread fundraising that has raised over $4 million so far. The designers who struggle because of store closures and changing consumer behavior can now use the long-awaited financial support. Amazon itself donated $500,000 to support the fund.
Coming back to the shop itself, Common Threads, is Merchandised by Vogue and Amazon fashion division. Some of the brands such as 3.1 Phillip Lim or Vitor Glemaud, were already available through Amazon-owned Shopbop. Batsheva Hay and Alejandra Alonso Rojas are among the ones just added to the available names.
Common Threads operates similarly to the concession model known from department stores. The designers will have full control over the look and feel of their presence on the website. They’ll be the ones responsible for choosing the clothes they want to sell and if they’re going to apply any discounts to them eventually.
What’s a substantial benefit to the struggling designers is the logistics network that Amazon offers. Too busy to stay afloat in the current circumstances, they couldn’t afford to set up ecommerce versions of their stores, let alone take care of the distribution.
There’s still a long way to go before Amazon starts selling some of the brands owned by LMVH or Kering. Still, Common Threads can be a step in the direction they’ve been unsuccessfully trying to take for almost a decade.