Yesterday frockwriter revealed the name of Google’s new fashion e-tail venture Boutiques.com, which is launching tomorrow in New York. It was in fact a world scoop........by about 40 minutes (WWD had a page one story in yesterday’s edition). Today we can add some more info. The site, we understand, is moving very rapidly towards the unveil and its offer now embraces boutiques curated either by - or around - 76 celebrities, 27 retailers, 55 designers and 12 bloggers. But the list of designers simply reflects those names who have thus far, apparently, agreed to participate in the venture. A designer directory lists over 200 designer names (including Australians Bassike, Willow, Thurley, sass & bide, Lover and Ksubi). But even that doesn’t embrace the full scope of the Boutiques.com offer, because products from a raft other brands and outlets that are not, it seems, officially involved, are also featured. They include US-based fast fashion chain Forever 21, the bête noir of the US fashion industry, which has been the target of numerous trademark/copyright infringement lawsuits initiated by US designers - including participating Boutiques.com designers Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Sui.
How are these non partner brands involved?
From our understanding, by recommendations - from, for instance, the bloggers and notably, via Google’s own in-house curation using the image-matching technology it acquired from Like.com in August.
Like the $1365 Alexander Mcqueen dress with trompe l’oeil jewelled bodice recommended by The Cherry Blossom Girl? Adjacent to that image, Boutiques.com throws up an array of what it is calling “visually similar” garments at varying price points, which click through to the plethora of online retail partners that are paying a fee to Google to be featured (plus, one assumes, a commission). As we noted yesterday, these include Shopbop, Nêt-à-Porter, Nordstrom, Selfridges, Bluefly and, yes, evidently also Forever 21.
Beyond mere trend matching, frockwriter will be curious to see if Google plans to moderate any direct copies of its designer partners' products that might pop up in the search fields.
The Boutiques.com launch coincides with the possible imminent implementation of some rather groundbreaking new federal IP legislation in the United States: the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act. The first statutory protection specific to fashion designs, the bill was introduced in August, reportedly has bipartisan support and may be passed by the year's end.
If passed, the legislation would provide designers with three year copyright protection on all fashion, accessory and eyewear items from the moment they are first promoted in public and it is fully supported by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, of which von Furstenberg is current president.