Have any of you ever used Rent the Runway? For those unfamiliar with RTR, it’s an e-commerce site that allows women to rent designer dresses. It’s luxury, on a budget. Many women end up ordering two or more sizes of a given dress they would like to wear, because let’s face it– we’re not all built this way and it can be hard to figure out what will look good on YOUR body.
Many of us have hips, and thighs, butts and boobs. One of my biggest pet peeves is that dress designers don’t seem to understand that not all women are an A cup, and not all women enjoy flashing as much boob as the average Kardashian. But I digress.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that RTR is replacing their models with pictures of real women, uploaded by users themselves, with the ability to search by characteristic (e.g. height and weight). RTR is not the only company that does this– ModCloth is another one that comes to mind. Modcloth lets users upload pictures of themselves in their reviews of an item. These types of ‘modeling’ are so so so helpful because you can actually see what the article of clothing looks like on someone who might look like you.
This shift away from the visual of the stick thin, ‘perfect’ model is notable because retailers are acknowledging that their customers do not fit the fantasy that most brands offer. However, does this mean that the brands are losing some of their cachet as a result? Or does this type of customer interaction make the brand more accessible? SHOULD brands be more accessible? There was an interesting quote from a NYT article on RTR:
“When you present a luxury brand, in my opinion it’s not about being accessible — it’s all about the dream, it’s all about the aspiration,” said Marc Beckman, founder of Designers’ Management Agency, which has negotiated deals for the designers Oscar de la Renta and Stella McCartney. While embracing customers’ own photos made sense for midprice brands, he said, it did not work at the higher end. “There’s a lot at risk,” he said.
In my opinion, luxury brands are always negotiating this tightwire of accessibility, especially in today’s world where social media is so prevalent. Ultimately the brand must decide whether or not they want to embrace new methods of communication, or hold tight to traditional roles and branding. (Eunnie and I explored this very issue with our Digital Beauty blog!)