It all started last year with a sweater. Not just any sweater, but The Sweater. I am referring to Bella Freud’s “1970”’ pullover. The swanky top is the sartorial equivalent of a Beatles song: edgy and enduring. Who is Bella Freud? That is precisely what I wanted to know when I saw a street-style photo of the cool-girl Jeanne Damas looking ever so soigné in a scarlet version of the knockout knit. Being a staunch believer in the power of maximum verbiage, I frantically typed these exact words into my Google search: “Which red 1970 sweater was Jeanne Dumas wearing?”
Upon learning the sweater was a Bella Freud intarsia, I proceeded to swiftly unravel (pun indeed intended) who this enigmatic and absolutely brilliant designer (A direct descent of arguably the most recognized therapist of all time?) and why I had yet to stumble upon her until now. The fashion geek in me started researching like a paralegal. I inferred from a T Magazine article that the British designer had eclectic, off-kilter taste, a love of Jane Birkin (and Gainsbourg, as her cheeky sweaters suggest) and that, like me, she was essentially a nerd – I say this in the most veritable sense of the word-one with a rock n’ roll spirit. An in-depth interview with Fashionista.com revealed that her sweaters were available at Bergdorf Goodman, so I was puzzled as to why I had never chanced across the piece.
The answer was that I didn’t know what I was looking for and am often overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the legendary 5th Avenue store. Bergdorfs does have an outstanding website, but a Polyvore search produced the indie-cool designer available at distinctly nouveau e-tailers Matches Fashion, Farfetch and Net-A-Porter. It was then that I came to the realization that the brick-and-mortar shopping experience was somewhat antiquated, having become limited in comparison to the cornucopia of chic, namely avant garde fashion destinations online.
Lauren Santo Domingo recently summed up the appeal of e-commerce in a New York Times article: “Shopping online is already the perfect experience.” And with Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder of revolutionary luxury retailer Moda Operandi and a noted “gatekeeper of fashion” who could/would want to argue? The model and Voguee started a sartorial revolution with Moda Operandi when she brought the customer behind the velvet curtain to pre-order looks straight off the runway. But hers isn’t the only online destination to elevate the experience to new lofty heights.
Natalie Massenet created a paradigm shift to online selling with her sophisticated and unbelievably seamless website Net-A-Porter. Net-A-Porter, like its posh packaging, is a smooth and incredibly satisfying shopping experience. Delivery is prompt and returns are hassle free. The founder created an easy-on-the-eyes layout with the glossy pages of a magazine in mind and soon began publishing “Porter” the brand’s magazine. Fusing urban and urbane, brains and beauty, Massenet managed to strike a harmonious balance between substantive text and sumptuous treasure; literati meets glitterati. The site’s stunning photography and carefully curated symphony of trend-driven pieces culminates into a thematic style crescendo each week with The Edit, an on-point, shoppable style guide. And like Moda Operandi, Net-A-Porter is first to take chances on fashion newcomers (read: Monses) that quickly become design forces to reckon with.
Two other noteworthy e-tailers from across the pond, Matches Fashion and Asos have become fast favorites of the fashion pack. The former is a luxury site like Net-a-Porter, but a more eclectic, quirky-cool version that offers an artsy selection of high-end picks paired with breath-taking editorials and whip-smart text. Witty, interesting and instantly engaging, Matches Fashion is worth visiting even solely for it’s editorial content. That, and the Pollack-esque marbleized packaging delivered to door.
Asos is an addiction. Although it is technically a fast-fashion purveyor and supplies the reasonable pricing that comes with such sentiment, it’s also an invaluable resource for women who want to dress modestly. No matter the season, Asos offers midi/maxi-length skirts in the most coveted styles and eye-catching fabrics. I recently purchased a grey velvet pleated number from the dot-com that fit like a glove, was soft as a lamb’s ear and cost well under a hundred dollars! Asos is also very liberal in it’s layering. Following trends wildly – in a very ManRepeller manner to wit – jacquards mixed with suedes mixed with denims; chunky knits flanking silky metallics. Shopping on Asos is basically like having your cake and eating it too.
Speaking of eating cake, the French have also stepped up their e-commerce game, specifically in the very Parisian genre of vintage with Vestiaire Collective. Shopping on Vestiaire is like being given carte blanche to raid insanely chic people’s closets. Scratch that, Vestiaire literally does let you raid insanely chic people’s closets, like, say Julia Restoin Roitfeld. You can also sell designer goods on the vintage site, something I have happily done in the past. The site offers authenticated, jaw-dropping designer finds for a fraction of retail cost, high noted by promos that change daily and apply to all items on the site (no pesky exclusions), plus the ability to submit offers lower than the asking price. I can personally attest to a very positive experience selling and buying in their space.
Farfetch, yet another member of the online elite, is like buying Prada with a passport. The innovative e-tailer is actually an aggregate of the most stylish shopping destinations around the globe – mainly niche boutiques like Forty Five Ten of Dallas, Texas and Dante 5 of Italy – all under one easy-to-navigate, attractive umbrella site. Shipping is lightning fast (Can you say DHL? It’s not just a T-shirt.) and customer service is top notch. If Diane Vreeland were still alive, I can only imagine her delight in quite literally “traveling” from Paris to Milan to Miami all from the comfort of her comfy, crimson couch.
Before my Freudian slip into online shopping, websites just didn’t seem to have the same élan as going in-person to gargantuan, Narnia-like department stores or exquisite boutiques. But now I am a changed woman. I like that when I shop from device I’m discerning, purposeful and not under pressure. Sure surfing the web for clothes is just as enticing as it would be in person, however, there is no justification factor. I don’t “have” to get something because I shlepped all the way to the store and now it’s here in front of me begging for a nice new home. When shopping online, I feel most in control of my purchases and maybe that’s just me. (I stay clear of the computer come Wine ’o clock). But it’s also more than that.
E-tail for me is very much a holistic approach. I cull style acumen from supreme edits: interpreting the look and re-creating outfits in my head as I read the background on the influencers behind the threads. Whilst online browsing, I can don my Caudalie instant detox mask, something I probably could not do in public (although in New York..) and I can even feed my daughter, Lily, her avocado – something I most definitely wouldn’t do amidst the racks at Saks. And I don’t feel like I’m compromising on style. In fact, I feel like I am receiving a masterclass in fashion every time I visit any one of these enriching sites. Despite their nuances, these destinations share in their ingenuity, innovation, and the tendency to veer toward edgier, artsier, more exclusive pieces that stand alone shops most probably won’t ever stock.
So this year, maybe wait till Cyber Monday for deals. On Friday, you won’t have to run like a madwoman through the hectic crowds, shvitz on jam-packed subways or lug your booty home. You can channel that time and energy toward preparing for Shabbat. Oh, and about that sweater (it always comes back to Freud doesn’t it?), I ended up waiting – something I ironically learned from online shopping – and buying it from Matches Fashion in an autumnal shade of gold. The spectacular, speckled box it came in presently resides on my bookcase and I catch myself gazing at it every now and again. If having a toddler has taught me anything, it’s the delight that can be had from a playful cardboard box.
Shop the look: Bella Freud 1970 wool sweater ($417), matchesfashion.com