It’s no secret that Amazon is leading the online retailer pack. They are, by far, the largest, the most profitable and the most talked about online retailer, and they’re in front by miles. Not only that but they do a decent business in AWS (a cloud storage service), original programming, logistics, and a subscription model that is the envy of every other; Amazon Prime. In the realm of fashion they do well with commodities and recently executed a tremendous coup when they announced Nike would sell a selection of product on their platform. In June they launched Prime Wardrobe, which allows users to fill a box with clothing and accessories, try them on, then return everything they don’t like or doesn't fit via a re-sealable return box. Then there are the exclusive lines with Sarah Jessica Parker and pro basketball player Dwyane Wade. The one area they’ve had trouble in succeeding though, is the luxury fashion sector. With competitors such as MatchesFashion and Farfetch to contend with, Amazon is somewhat of an afterthought when it comes to luxury fashion and accessories. But now they’re actively trying to change that.
On Tuesday July 25th, Amazon feted the launch of ‘The Fix,’ an in-house accessories line focused on shoes and bags. Consider it as somewhat similar to MatchesFashion’s in-house ready-to-wear line Raey (which has proven extremely profitable for the brand), or The Outnet’s ‘Iris and Ink.’ It’s a smart move for Amazon, who is offering The Fix to Amazon Prime customers exclusively with a price range of $40 to $140. To begin, 45 styles are on offer: 36 shoes and 9 handbags, with product assortment changing monthly. But in attempting to join luxury fashion Amazon has also joined the copycat game. While it’s (unfortunately) now typical for a large retailer to create knock-offs of smaller, independent designers, it’s sad to see that Amazon—with its huge team, financial backing, and the ability to create a truly innovative, fresh customer experience with all of their brand touchpoints—has chosen, with fashion, instead of leading the pack as they do so well elsewhere, to blatantly recreate some of the industry’s most popular styles. In their lineup you’ll find replicas of Miu Miu’s ballet-inspired flats (complete with wraparound ribbon straps), Gucci’s backless loafers, Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s suede slides, and Tabitha Simmons-esque pointy toe Mary Jane flats. Amazon’s Fashion Director Katie Dimmock, who was previously the Fashion Director at People StyleWatch magazine, calls these designs “trend-driven.” But “trend-driven” shouldn’t mean blatantly stolen (or subtly borrowed, however you choose to look at it). In an industry where new, privately-owned labels have a tough time trying to make a profit, create a presence and retain customers, their point of difference becomes their proprietary advantage. It’s what sets them apart from the competition and helps them make a name for themselves on a global scale. When a major retailer like Zara—or Amazon—takes advantage of those ‘on-trend’ designs, it’s the smaller label that suffers.
If anything is to be taken away from this new venture, it’s that Amazon is trying but has fallen short on this occasion. Let’s not forget (besides their immense size and infrastructure), they are a startup, and typical startup mentality dictates that the best thing is to not wait too long to launch a product before receiving feedback from your user's, than moving to improve that product through iterations based on feedback. If Amazon’s history is anything to go by, they’re masters of iteration and perpetual forward motion that results in a great user experience—all tailormade via data driven insights that allow them to create a level of ultimate customer satisfaction and loyalty. In short, Amazon has the funds and cache to create something that could truly move them forward in the fashion sphere, perhaps making them a major player in the luxury fashion arena—so what went wrong here?
While it’s understandable for Amazon to capitalize on trending designs and, as Dimmock said in multiple interviews, “It’s always our goal to give the customer what she’s looking for,” it’s somewhat of a shock that they would launch a label with such indiscretion. Like any creative industry, the fashion world takes imitation seriously—and to heart—even whilst trying to boost sales.
Amazon missed the mark this time but if history is any guide, they’ll keep improving.