Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's collection, Elizabeth James, just touched down at ShopBop today, and I couldn't wait to check out the lookbook. Apparently the label's name is based on the statistical study that revealed that Elizabeth and James are two of the most successful-sounding names in our (whose?) society. The idea is that when people hear the name, they will imagine an sophisticated, esoteric, and enviable assortment of clothing. The inner snob in each of us will be influenced to buy Elizabeth James in the hopes that it will endow us with similar qualities.
Now whether you buy into this AT ALL is entirely up to you. I am not a big fan of Elizabeth James but I don't particularly dislike it either. I think the Olsens have been successful in creating a line of simplistic but mechanically creative garments. There's a touch of casual and a touch of professional chic, for whomever is either an obsessive fan of the twins or just somebody who happens to like $225 gym shorts. The problem with celebrity-assisted clothing lines is that you pretty much have to like the celebrity to like the clothing. Your (dis)like for the celebrity can potentially cloud your judgment of the clothing itself. But here, I don't see much of either girl's personality, or maybe I'm just not trying hard enough to look. As with The Row, they've gone very basic.
There are some extreme cases in which celebrity lines are nothing more than a rehash of what that person wears on a regular basis. (Take Lauren Conrad, who brashly regurgitated her favorite pieces of clothing all over the so-called runway of her self-titled "collection.") Elizabeth Charles is the other extreme. It's difficult to difficult to deduce the celebs' taste. I suppose the Marianne jacket is probably the hallmark piece of the collection. But since the personality of the clothing falls flat, the backbone of the advertising must fall to the visual effects, and ShopBop has this technique down to a fine art.
I read Almost Girl's blog on a regular basis and for a while now I have been reflecting on what she said awhile ago about "guerrilla shoots"--e.g. fashion photoshoots done for online publications/websites. For online boutiques, advertising is based just as much on visual seduction as it is on word of mouth or linkage. And because there are so many such sites around, to get into the big league you have to have a competitive clothes turnout; a constant barrage of new and interesting things. Visually, this translates into the need for a super editorial campaign onsite and in banner ads--and these must cycle continually on a fast-paced schedule. ShopBop does a great job of creating their weekly lookbook, as well as their individual item presentation. The photography is creative as well as streamlined, and this is, I believe, even more important than the actual clothes they sell. Some people will buy a toothpick for $20 if it's marketed properly. All businesses aim to do the equivalent.
There are hundreds if not thousands of online boutiques, and it's easy to fall into the void if you don't stay at the top of your game. Don't deny it--we first judge a book by its cover, always, even if what draws each person in is a different feature. ShopBop happens to have a clean layout, a skilled photographic team, and a professional email notification setup. Although I later recanted my love for Elizabeth James after looking closely at the clothing and realizing it wasn't quite my style, the photo gallery at first drew me in with its aesthetically pleasing styling. If I were an impulse buyer, I'd have been snared.