Google turns fashionista with

Online clothes shopping has evolved from traditional mail-order catalogues plonked onto a website into a multi-billion dollar industry that gives anyone the chance to own the world’s top designers and brands – if they can afford it of course. Now Google has entered the fray with, a concept that’s unlike any other, yet quintessentially Google.

Back in 2001, broke the online shopping mould with its exclusive magazine-style site and unprecedented access to luxury clothing. Women simply ‘page’ through the Net-A-Porter online magazines, filled with the latest high-end designer gear, and click on any item to buy it. Want that fuchsia Marchesa embroidered gown? If you have R46 000, it’s yours. They even ship to South Africa via DHL.

Then there’s, which offers the best in international high-street fashion, as well as discounts on ready-to-wear designer ranges. While Net-A-Porter lets you personalise the updates you receive according to your favourite designers, regularly features clothing items as worn by celebrities, for example, the “Kate Moss gingham bikini.

Enter Google, who have taken customisation and celebrity style references to a whole new level with this month’s (beta) launch of

However, the site is not an online retailer. Rather Google has done what they do best and created an aggregator with intelligent matching and filters, using the visual search technology developed by (which Google acquired in August 2010). It gives users the ultimate shopping experience.

When you sign up, you’re asked to specify colours, shapes, patterns, silhouettes and brands that you “love” or “hate”. It then builds your very own “boutique” (see mine) based on your taste. It shows items based on your personal style and redirects you to the retailers of those items.

You can also rate each individual item suggested, specifying why you love or hate it. All this information allows Google’s engine to customise your boutique even further. Hate Calvin Klein more than three times? You’ll see less of his stuff in your boutique. You can also share an item you love via twitter or email and mark it as a favourite.

Another fantastic feature is that when you hover over an item, displays “visually similar items”. This is a great way to find the less (or more) expensive version of that Burberry pea coat. It also shows you “ways to wear” it.

But where really shines is in the celebrity sphere. Actresses, stylists, fashion bloggers and socialites have created their own boutiques that you can follow. So if you love Anna Paquin’s elegant punk style, you can check out her favourites in her boutique and leave a comment.

How does Google make their money? They charge retailers to appear on Retailers are happy to pay, because it’s not just driving traffic to a retailer’s site, it’s giving them “hot” sales leads on specific items. It’s the equivalent of a woman walking into Stella McCartney to buy a pair of shoes she saw in a magazine.

Some of the retailers even ship to South Africa, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Moschino. Unfortunately you will have to factor in the massive import duty that customs charges (up to 40% of your delivery’s value).

You can look at local sites instead, but there is very little to choose from in the way of high-end online shopping, which is a pity as we have so many talented designers. and feature predominantly overseas labels. Although does stock local designers, including Lunar, Michelle Ludek, Missibaba and Stiaan Louw. Still, we’re unlikely to see anything like in the near future.

As a shopaholic, the variety and choice out there can be overwhelming. But now the phrase, “I’m just browsing” takes on a whole new meaning thanks to Google. Just like their search engine revolutionised how we find information online, will change how dedicated followers of fashion shop online.



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