Once upon a time I played Veruca Salt in the school play. This was in the days before internet shopping and it’s a pity that Veruca fell down the Bad Egg chute and into a furnace, because her classic hit I Want It Now! could have collected millions in royalties as the theme to the age of e-commerce in which we find ourselves.
I’m sure we’ve all spent many hours buried in Instagram holes, or on wild, Google-y goose chases when we should be sleeping, or doing our jobs. And me – oh I’ve lost considerable chunks of my life cyber-browsing. What else are you meant to do when it’s 2am and your baby is suckling at your mammaries? You squint into blue light, and scroll, that’s what!
Anyhow, my extensive experience patrolling the interwebs gives me the pulpit to proffer a little advice to those less accustomed with the joys of online purchasing. I am like a high priestess of this stuff (don’t tell my fiancé please), so here goes: my top tips for finding and buying the best clothes on the internet.
Instagram shopping: be selective, be speedy
Along with 660,000 others, I follow the Italian fashion boss Giovanna Engelbert (@bat_gio) on Instagram. Often, I’ll see what she’s wearing and involuntarily moisten my lips with my tongue. Delicious garments, and usually very expensive and not practical for my life, which is a fraction-of-a-landslide less glamorous. However, during the Venice Biennale this year (her trip, not mine) I saw she wore an outfit that could actually work for me: Comme des Garçons T-shirt, ankle-length skirt, and sensible sneakers. This neo-Yiddish Mame ensemble was really quite appealing and the heat rose up my neck as I realised that perhaps, if even just one per cent of her other fans were thinking the same, then I was suddenly in a race with 660,000 similarly possessed loonies to “shop the look.”
How many Comme des Garçons Play T-shirts in my size were even out there? There wasn’t a moment to waste. After a quick check on local fave stockist Incu (sold out!) I went straight to Farfetch, which has products sourced from more than 700 boutiques around the world. So essentially I was browsing 700 shops simultaneously for the CGD T-shirt and By George – there was ONE LEFT. Some obscure outlet in Spain had it in stock, and mailed to me within the week. Victory!
Entertain “sponsored posts” and “paid posts” at own risk
Imagine you are perusing the racks in a particular (bricks and mortar) store, minding your own business, when a sales consultant from an entirely different boutique stomps through the door, dangling wares in your face, demanding attention. Well, the e-equivalent of this is a “paid” or “sponsored post,” gatecrashing your carefully curated social media.
Don’t fall for it, as my poor unsuspecting mother almost did recently when a picture of a charming pale-blue and white-striped linen (yes, we love linen) dress elbowed its way, uninvited, onto her Instagram feed. The frock was mid-calf length with a grandfather collar, and had red and navy trim on the cuffs – very smart, and perfect for her plentiful leisure activities. Maman had never heard of the brand, though found herself seduced.
But lucky she’s of the ilk who believe most online providores are fraudsters plotting to steal your lifesavings and identity. After a little due diligence involving the Google, she unearthed hundreds of reviews decrying the company’s appalling quality and customer service. Not all ads are bad ads but beware of strangers with lollies, as they say. The shamsters are sometimes real.
The world is your digital oyster
To me the best thing about buying apparel online is that you can buy a Panama hat from Ecuador while residing in a far more dull locale. You don’t need to go to the Scottish Highlands to buy a kilt, or Arizona to buy a bolo tie. You can legit be in your knickers with a Milo moustache browsing Moda Operandi. It’s incredibly liberating.
During these wintry climes, I like to wear as much polar fleece as humanly possible and let my jazz hands unleash on these exotic e-tailers (discovered mostly on Instagram):
Dôen: A Californian-based women’s collective making whimsical dresses and knits.
Muzungu Sisters: Colourful accessories hand-crafted by artisans from diverse cultures to stimulate local economies and promote fair labour practices.
Reformation: Sassy and quintessentially Los Angeles vintage looks with sustainability creds.
Retrouvaí: Modern heirloom jewellery. Love the Compass and Fantasy Signet collections.
TheRealReal: Consignment store for authenticated designer goods. Vintage Hermès scarves galore.
SSENSE: Canadian multi-brand e-store for high-end hipsters. Extra points for cool content and editorial archives.
Lane Crawford: Hong Kong and China’s best high-end department store with all the big names, but more interestingly, some emerging Asian designers.
Vestaire Collective: Another “re-commerce” gem for both buying and selling pre-owned luxury brands.
The .com economy is a dog eat dog world, and the hyenas in the Instagram vortex are waiting for you. But fear not: there are many oases of excellency awaiting your custom. So get flexing those phalanges, rub your palms together like a blowfly and enjoy the rush of a fabulous find.
Michaela Davis has worked for global brands including Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy for over 10 years. She is also a mother on her L-plates, to a nine month old son. Read her first column in this series, In Praise of Linen.