Category Archives: FASHION 2.0

“Asian Americans in Fashion” on CUNY TV

Below is a video of a program called “Asian American Life” that aired on CUNY TV on October 10, 2013. I appear in clips about the work of fashion blogging. While the show just aired, my bit was recorded in June after a panel discussion Mimi and I were a part of about race, fashion, and economies at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA).

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LINKAGE: New Essay!

Some news! An article I wrote last year called “‘Susie Bubble is a Sign of the Times’: The Embodiment of Success in the Web 2.0 Economy” is now available online at Feminist Media Studies. In it, I consider the enormous popularity of fashion blogging phenom Susie Bubble (also, Susanna Lau) as a case study for examining the cultural frames that now shape how we see and recognize “success” in the digital creative economy. Understood more broadly, the essay explores the new racial and gendered formations of the labor market in the creative digital economy. This article builds on and expands some of the ideas from my blog posts tagged under the label “Fashion 2.0″ (in the Departments pull-down menu, right column).

Also! This week I was super excited to learn that an older article called “Blog Ambition: Fashion, Feelings, and the Political Economy of the Digital Raced Body” in Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies was the journal’s most-read article in March 2012! WOOOT!!

(I know we’ve been a little quiet on Threadbared for awhile but wanted to share these essays as alternative ways you can keep up with what we’ve been doing.)

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LINKAGE: Mediating Modesty, Fashioning Faithful Bodies

Hana Tajima-Simpson, blogger at StyleCovered (http://www.stylecovered.com/)

I’m practically giddy about having just discovered the podcasts from
a symposium
held this past June at the London College of Fashion called, “Mediating Modesty:  Fashioning Faithful Bodies.”

The list of speakers include powerhouse transnational feminist scholars like Emma Tarlo, Reina Lewis, Annelies Moors – just for a start.

I don’t have comments about the talks yet as I’m just beginning to listen to them – but seven minutes into Lewis’ talk: LOVING. IT. (I tried to upload the podcasts here but WordPress isn’t having it. You can easily download and save the podcasts from the Religion & Society website. I’d recommend doing so since websites tend to change!)

The list of speakers and (sometimes abbreviated) descriptions of their talks below:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Reina Lewis (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London)

Fashion Forward and Faith-tastic! online modest fashion and the development of women as religious interpreters and intermediaries

Lewis describes and analyses, with examples drawn from representative modest fashion online retailers and modest fashion bloggers, the growing market in internet retail of modest fashion, and the online commentary accompanying it.

Annelies Moors (University of Amsterdam)

Mediating Muslim Modesty Online

Researching Islamic fashion online, modesty is likely to be the most common term one encounters. The slogans webstores employ to brand themselves often include references to modesty. Yet the meaning of this term is far from unidimensional. On the contrary, this particular concept is polysemic, ambiguous and sometimes highly contested. It is not only through verbal debate, but also by means of visual imagery that claims to modesty are presented and particular publics are shaped. The visual imagery displayed may well stand in a tense relation to common-sense notions of modesty. In this contribution, I intend to untangle the investment of particular actors in modesty as a concept and sartorial practice and to investigate what kinds of work this term does.

Emma Tarlo (Goldsmiths, London)

Meeting in Modesty? Jewish-Muslim encounters online

This paper sets out to investigate to what extent the notion of modest fashion as promoted online is operating as a new meeting point for religiously oriented Jewish and Muslim women keen to assert their modesty, identity and faith through dress. It examines the different channels and forms of interfaith engagement enabled through the online marketing, discussion and transmission of fashions as modest. It asks what these moments of interfaith engagement tell us about the points of convergence between Muslim and Jewish ideas of modesty? To what extent are similarities in understandings of modesty recognised and encouraged? To what extent are feelings of sympathy and identification stimulated through the process of online interaction itself or through shared appreciation of particular products and tastes?

Barbara Goldman Carrel (Associate Adjunct Professor, The City University of New York)

Hasidic Women’s Fashion Aesthetic and Practice: The Long and Short of Tzniuth

For the Hasidic woman, the tension between wanting to be fashionably dressed yet appropriately modest and markedly Hasidic is precisely what engenders their distinctive mode of fashion and clothing practice. This tension guides Hasidic women’s aesthetic choices and serves as a constantly fluctuating symbolic solution in the face of the American fashion system’s indecent merchandise. I will explore not only which mass-produced elements of dominant American-style fashion are preferred by Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jewish women, but also the ways in which these fashion elements are appropriated, both physically and ideologically, towards the construction of their own female Hasidic aesthetic distinction in opposition to the fashion displays of dominant American culture. A discourse of royalty is shown to promote the Hasidic woman’s style distinction both on the streets and online.

Jane Cameron (London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London)

Modest Motivations: Religious/secular contestation in the fashion field

The internet has provided a medium through which women with the desire to dress fashionably yet compatibly with their religious beliefs can freely express, discuss and debate fashion and ideas of modesty. This paper discusses the method of entering the ‘virtual field’ as a non-participant observer and highlights the discourses taking place within fora and modest fashion blogs that expose divergences in perceived communal ideas linking modesty, dress and religion. This paper asks to what extent is modest fashion as a topic of debate and a trend marketed online considered the preserve of the religious by those both within and without religious spheres? What questions are raised when an ideology or concept such as ‘modest fashion’ is discussed or studied in terms of being religious or secular?

Daniel Miller (University College London)

How Blue Jeans Became Modest

Blue Jeans represent a paradox with respect to the project on modest fashion. On the one hand there are many examples of religious organisations such as ultra orthodox Jews banning blue denim as immodest, and yet I will argue they have today a greater capacity for modesty in the sense of self-effacement than any other garment in the world. As such they draw attention to two very different meanings of the word modesty. One concerns the exposure of the female body and the other concerns invisibility. In this case the two meanings may actually contradict each other. The capacity for modesty that I am concerned with is not intrinsic to blue jeans, it can only be understood by looking at the way blue jeans have changed in their meaning and significance over the last twenty years. I will argue on the basis of a recent ethnography that in London today they have developed this unique capacity for modesty and try and explain both how and why this is the case.

 

 

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Talking about virtual fitting rooms in New Orleans

I’m leaving for New Orleans Thursday to give a paper on the social codes and values embedded in virtual fitting room programs like My Best Fit at the Association of Asian American Studies conference. The paper draws on a Good Morning America clip about My Best Fit which aired in April 2011 (posted below) as well as a 2007 evolutionary psychology study that purported to contain scientific evidence verifying the maxim that “women are born to shop”. I examine both for what they reveal about the convergence of science and consumerism in the cultural and social construction of femininity and womanhood.

As I was completing the paper this afternoon, my friend Judy Rohrer sent me Eli Pariser’s TED talk on “filter bubbles” that I found incredibly useful for thinking about virtual fitting rooms. Pariser doesn’t mention fashion technologies as such but his comments about the “filter bubble” raise really important points that clearly apply to virtual fitting rooms and other technologies based on mass customization. In fact, because digital fashion media (from blogs and apps to fashion search engines, e-tailers, and virtual fitting rooms) are increasingly focused on tailoring information about fashion, beauty, style, and shopping to individual consumers – this is one of the revolutions in fashion’s digital revolution – Pariser’s concerns about Web 2.0  turning into a “Web of one” has real implications that fashion media producers, consumers, and prosumers should heed. By the way, the YouTube headline (“Beware”) for Pariser’s talk is ridiculously salacious. Pariser’s no technophobe; I actually think he’s a techno-optimist. I’ll post an abridged version of the paper when I get back from NOLA. For now, the videos!

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What’s Missing in Vogue Italia’s “Tribute to Black Beauties”

Word in the blogosphere is that Vogue Italia has published yet another all-Black editorial in the current issue, titled “Tribute to Black Beauties.” This, following their February 2011 editorial called “The Black Allure.” Recall too that in the same month, American Vogue ran its own all-Black editorial called “Gangs of New York” featuring Joan Smalls, Ajak Deng, Arlenis Sosa, Chanel Iman, Anais Mali, Jourdan Dunn and Sessilee Lopez in Rodarte. (Also, who could forget the much-hyped all-Black issue of Vogue Italia in July 2008?) I haven’t picked up a copy of the current issue yet but from what I’ve read about the issue, there’s some room for optimism.

For example, the feature article takes great care to recognize the heterogeneity and diversity of Blackness. Here’s a translation of the article, written by Claire Sulmers, (founder of The Fashion Bomb):

With bright eyes peering out under deliciously curled lashes, cheekbones and jawbones contoured as if chiseled from sharp stone, full noses, and sumptuously lush lips, black women are unquestionably beautiful.

A tribute is due to the woman whose skin tone ranges from alabaster to mahogany to smooth onyx, who can flawlessly carry any makeup look—from gold dusted lids to fuchsia blush to ripe purple and pink glosses. These pages pay homage to the versatile woman whose hair can oscillate from a tightly coiled and coifed Afro, to sleek layers, to a slicked back pixie cut in a matter of minutes. To the divine woman whose enviably full lips, strong, white teeth, and delightful smile have been known to electrify the hearts of many. To the siren whose smooth, velvety skin blocks the sun yet remains supple and unblemished with the passage of time.

Variable and diverse, black beauty escapes simple classification. But no matter the incarnation—whether the color of molasses, café au lait, bronze, tan, or tinged like desert sand—black beauties radiate with poise and multidimensional splendor.

It’s great that we’re seeing more non-white models in the representational landscape of fashion but clearly, traditional fashion media can do better. First, the separation and containment of non-white models in “special” editorials in mainstream rags ultimately reproduces and secures whiteness as racially normative.  Second, the bodies of the most popular Black and Asian models are also physically normative – thin, tall, young, and able-bodied. And finally it’s important to remember that despite all the hype surrounding all-Black editorials or “the rise of Asian models,” major fashion magazines and industry events continue to be glaringly white. That is to say, most of the modeling jobs continue to go to white models.

Despite Alexa Chung’s views on blogs, they are important sites of new fashion media because they introduce into the fashion imaginary a diversity of bodies that are still being shut out of traditional fashion media. In fact, a great many non-white, non-tall, non-model thin fashionable types featured in fashion magazines are bloggers like Susie Bubble, BryanBoy, Tamu McPherson (my new favorite!), Tavi Gevinson, and Lesley Kinzel – though they often appear in special feature stories about bloggers.

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The Digital Decade in Fashion (and then some)

The End-of-Year List reflecting back on the best, worst, biggest, funniest, etc. is by now a popular culture tradition. The CBS-run website BNET has already come up with its “10 Biggest Fashion Business Faux Pas” list (the Rodarte/Juarez debacle gets top billing, deservedly). And Newsweek has just published its “13 Worst Trends of 2010″ (jeggings get no love). Since this month also marks the end of the first decade of the 21st century, I expect (and look forward to) many more lists that recount this historical period. It is not difficult to imagine, for example, a TVLand tribute to reality television competitions (beginning with Big Brother, Survivor, and of course American Idol) which came of age—and for some, is now well past its prime—in the last decade.

On behalf of Threadbared, I offer this (annotated) list tracing some of the roots and routes of what has become a defining event in the fashion industry, in particular, and in global commercial culture, in general: fashion’s digital revolution. (The focus is certainly on the post-millennium but, as with all cultural phenomena, it has a history so my list begins in the mid 1990s.)

  • 1994: The Stanford Federal Credit Union and Pizza Hut establish their place in e-commerce history by being the first financial institution to offer online banking and the first commercial business to record an online sale (a pepperoni and mushroom pizza with extra cheese). Also in this year, the Dutch company Stork Prints launched the first digital textile printer which not only increased the speed and scale of garment production but also helped to initiate the business practice of mass customization, which would later come to define fashion in the digital age.
  • 2002: Friendster, the first popular social media site, helps establish computer-mediated communication (CMC) as an everyday practice of daily life in the new millennium. In the new fashion media complex, CMC is not only an everyday practice but, for many, an all-day activity.
  • 2002: LookOnline Daily Fashion Report and She She Me invent the fashion blog. (Both are still in operation!)
  • 2003: Isaac Mizrahi debuts his diffusion line of classically-designed fashion sportswear made exclusively for Target’s female customers.

While Mizrahi certainly didn’t invent affordable fashion (this distinction, as we know from Joan DeJean, belongs to the 17th century French couturieres’ trade guild) or even designer affordable fashion (Halston had a similar idea in the 1980s with his J.C. Penney’s collection), Mizrahi did successfully re-brand the concept of affordable fashion for a 21st century U.S. market. Claiming that the Target line “celebrated the style of American women of all ages and all walks of life,” Mizrahi successfully inaugurated a sartorial-political philosophy of democratic fashion that resonated strongly with post-September 11 patriotic consumer values while still being attentive to recessionary levels of consumer confidence. (For more on democracy and fashion, see my essay, “The Right to Fashion in the Age of Terrorism.”)

Mizrahi’s mass market partnership was both a commercial success (to the tune of $1.5 billion over its five year run) and a cultural sensation. Boldface named designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Roberto Cavalli, Vivienne Westwood, and Oscar de la Renta followed Mizrahi’s business model by collaborating with Target but also other mass market retailers including H&M, Payless Shoe Source, Macy’s, and Kohl’s department store. And style icon Sarah Jessica Parker teamed with discount (and now defunct) retailer Steve and Barry’s to create a line of fashionable clothes and accessories under the label Bitten that she promised would never cost more than $19.98 for any single piece. Meanwhile, prominent tastemakers such as American designer Tom Ford and Gucci creative director Frida Giannini publicly boasted about shopping at the Gap, Banana Republic, Target, and H&M.

Though certainly not without its detractors, the idea that fashion is a cultural form and practice that every woman had a right to—a right coextensive with her right to self-expression and self-determination—was firmly established in the cultural imaginary by the mid 2000s. However, the global economic crisis, widespread un- and under-employment, and the emergent trend of eco-chic in the latter half of the decade strained, if not ended, U.S. fashion consumers’ love affair with cheap chic fashion, now often disparaged as “fast fashion,” the sartorial equivalent of fast food. (Parker’s move away from Bitten to Halston Heritage where she now designs is reflective of a larger shift in popular sartorial philosophy from the logic of cheap chic to that of investment fashion.) Nonetheless, the neoliberal democratic discourse around fashion has a second life in fashion’s digital revolution and particularly in the rise of fashion bloggers.



While some critics contend that social media spectacles like D&G’s are nothing more than marketing ploys to show off a designer’s technocultural relevance (and thus curry virtual street cred with the highly influential consumer market segment that is the Teen Vogue and Nylon fashion crowd), the impact of social media in fashion is more than symbolic.

A recent study finds that instantaneous user-centered viral marketing—also called word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing—“is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.” It is no surprise, then, that the WOM marketing industry is growing at an exponential rate. In 2001, U.S. companies spent $76 million in WOM marketing; in 2006, spending increased nearly 67 percent to $981 million. Analysts expect that by 2013, U.S. companies will spend $3 billion on viral marketing. Interactive fashion media, in general, is expected grow into a $55 billion industry and represent 21 percent of all marketing spending. These numbers are especially staggering when we consider that fashion’s traditional commodities like the stock overseen by the chief executives of Saks, Neiman, and Bergdorf’s and print magazines are on the wane. Recall the decline of advertising in 2009 in Vogue and Lucky (each 44 percent), Allure (41 percent), and Glamour and Vanity Fair (15 and 15.5 percent, respectively). Some magazines like Jane, Cargo, and Men’s Vogue shuttered their offices altogether. Fashion business – like the creative economy in general – is fueled more and more by the nonmaterial, though highly valued, goods of images and information than traditional material goods.

However, even the most popular of fashion’s new technologies and nonmaterial commodities – fashion blogs – remains a relative minor player in the digital commons. Political/news blogs; celebrity culture/gossip blogs; and tech blogs rank highest in terms of online traffic. Still, the digital fashion media complex on the whole is an incredibly significant cultural, social, economic, and, yes, political site. In addition to the 2 million or so fashion blogs, there are countless more fashion-focused blog posts on non-fashion blogs and websites like The Huffington Post, Jezebel, and Mashable; fashion/style/beauty vlogs; microblogs; and through Facebook pages/links/updates. The digital fashion media complex thus generates at breakneck speeds and unprecedented frequency countless web streams of popular knowledge (and nonmaterial goods) everyday.

Taken together, the proliferation of online sales information and product reviews on e-commerce sites as well as on fashion search engines like Google’s latest venture Boutiques.com, blog posts, tweets, how-to-dress and what-to-buy advice streamed to our mobile devices, and of course online magazines begin to illustrate fashion’s central and organizing role not only in the new creative information economy but also in digital literacy and the very nature and form of public culture today. In other words, not only is fashion experiencing a digital revolution, digital culture is experiencing a fashion revolution in which fashion objects, images, and information are the stuff of which digital imaginaries are now made.

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Boutiques.com: The Scientization of Style and The Promise of Happiness

Yesterday, I created a virtual boutique on Google’s new website, Boutiques.com. The process begins with The Stylizer quiz which involves answering something like 40 – 50 questions about whether my style was more like Jennifer Garner’s or Beyonce’s, Rachel Weisz or Jennifer Biel, Kate Moss or Serena Williams, Courtney Cox or Kristen Stewart – [sigh] – Chloe Sevigny or Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Biel or Alexa Chung, M.I.A. or Rachel Bilson, a margarita or a tequila shot, Las Vegas or New York City, and on (and on) it goes. I’ve never really understood the appeal of personality surveys so this process felt really interminable to me. And while I do want to give Google credit for trying to think outside of the binary box by providing users the option to not choose either Courtney Cox’s style or Kristen Stewart’s, for example, there were times I would’ve liked the option to choose Style A and B.

Following the Stylizer quiz, there was another set of questions regarding the types of silhouettes, patterns, and colors I love or hate in dresses, tops, bottoms, and shoes. And still another set of questions about which designers I love and hate (organized in categories of Boho, Casual Chic, Classic, Edgy, Romantic, or Street). Note: my personal style category, The Softer Side of the Matrix Warrior, was not an available choice.

Having taken all my sartorial vitals, the website then generates a Personal Storefront filled with clothes that are scientifically determined to match my taste. In some ways, it was spot-on. I loved the Opening Ceremony black loopy poncho, the 3.1 Phillip Lim gray t-shirt dress, and the Alexander Wang Addison platform ankle boots (which have been a personal sartorial fantasy of mine for weeks now). But the bowler bag, the multitude of flat strappy sandals (think: suburban mom on vacation), and the 7 for All Mankind halter top (I definitely remember checking “halter” as a silhouette I hate) are inexplicable. In other words, after 20 or 25 minutes of testing, the system’s accuracy rate was about 50% – not unlike flipping a coin? Maybe I need to edit my answers . . . then again, maybe it’s not me. Cate Corcoran of WWD relates: “the number of inappropriate, random or unappealing suggestions it throws out is overwhelming.”


Longtime readers of Threadbared know my propensity for sample sale shopping but what I haven’t mentioned before is that I’m an avid and, if I do say so myself, expert online shopper. In the past few years, I’ve teased out a good number of small e-tail sites devoted to independent and emerging designers; keep abreast of about 20 fashion blogs from which I regularly poach shopping and style ideas, learned how to game sites with more e-coupons, promotional codes, and friends and family discounts than I (sometimes) know what to do with; and am a member of half a dozen or so members-only shopping sites. (A recent example of my e-shopping prowess: 60% off the price of a pair of this season’s Surface to Air ankle boots from an outlet e-tail site using two coupon codes. The boots are going back but the achievement remains.)  All of this is to say that I approached Boutiques more as a hopeful consumer than a skeptical critic. And while the website failed to impress, its appeal is real.

The defining feature of the site and one repeatedly highlighted in every review (see here, here, and here)  is its tacit claim to have scientifically “cracked” style. No longer elusive and mysterious, style is now a set of codified information in the form of “hundreds of style rules” – an algorithm implements these rules and separates friendly style pairings from bad pairings and then these scientific codes are inscribed onto the user’s body via the automatically generated style suggestions in my personal boutique. An example of a bad pairing, according to Google, is “heavily patterned handbags don’t tend to go with heavily patterned dresses.” Should a user attempt this pairing while building her outfit, (the site doesn’t yet include men’s clothing), the website will automatically suggest different options – and not just any ol’ option but, using “computer vision and machine learning technology” it “visually analyze[s] your taste and match[es] it to items you would like.” And voila! The scientization of style!

The words algorithm, precision, hone, analyze, and vision technology that pepper every review and description of the website are suggestive of fashion’s recent turn to science. The “art of fashion” might be OK for the industrial age (new means of mass producing and mass distributing clothes meant that more women than ever before could aesthetically, sartorially express themselves) but in the digital age, it’s all about the “science of style” – the digital age being a time when scientific advancements in information technologies have dramatically increased the cultural and economic value of digital or nonmaterial fashionable goods (e.g., blogs, viral marketing campaigns, and web-hosted fashion films) and decreased the values of fashion’s traditional material objects (e.g., print magazines and brick and mortar shops).

The appeal of and desire for a scientifically rationalized method of consumption and self-fashioning are endemic to what scholars describe as a “risk society”. As a result of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (1965); social justice movements for women, gays, and racial minorities; the growing privatization of welfare services; and declining personal economic security (due to wage stagnation and increased work hours) throughout the latter half of the 20th century, traditional structures of U.S. society have been profoundly destabilized. Americans experienced these instabilities or risks most acutely in the changing structures of their neighborhoods, workplaces, and families. To alleviate their anxieties, Americans turned to an expanding and welcoming market of self-help literature, time-saving and self-empowering consumer goods, and life coaches.

An array of TV chefs, shopping experts, style gurus, and therapists promise time-poor and anxious Americans quicker meals, better sales, no-fail style tips, relationship strategies, career advice, more efficient workouts, and so on. Such lifestyle expertise gives us a sense of control (a feeling backed by the surety of science) in a changing post-traditional world. It also resonates with and reifies key principles of neoliberalism including self-responsibility and self-management that are now commonsense ethics in a post-welfare society. What were once concerns of the state and the rights to which citizens were entitled (jobs and health care, say) are now responsibilities of individuals who are tasked with making good choices among a wide range of products and services. Tanking economy? Shop for America! Feeling sick and under- or uninsured? Web MD! Un- or underemployed? Don’t just be a blogger! Diversify your skills by also being a photographer, a stylist, a social media expert, and a dogwalker!

Against the backdrop of this risk society, fashion’s new technologies (the Stylizer as well as mobile device apps, vlogs, blogs, and 3D imaging body and garment simulation technologies) emerge as “happy objects” – objects as Sara Ahmed has written, that are culturally and socially endowed with the capacity for happiness-making.  As happy objects, fashion’s new and “democratized” technologies (because, ostensibly, everyone has access to the Stylizer quiz) promise the ultimate kind of happiness in a risk society: risk free choice-making in one of the most important areas of our lives, our self-presentation.

Fashion, we are repeatedly reminded in the deluge of makeover TV shows, fashion magazines, blogs, and even our colleagues, is an external expression of an internal character. Unkempt look = low self-esteem and bad lifestyle choices. Polished appearance =  strong self-esteem and good lifestyle choices.  Evidence of good choices mark individuals as good workers, good citizens, good parents, etc. Thus the scientization of style that fashion’s latest technologies promise are nothing short of, to borrow the title of Ahmed’s book, a promise of happiness. And who doesn’t want that?

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LINKAGE: E-Commerce

I found this nifty and useful infographic on Zippy Cart depicting the history of e-commerce. Meanwhile, I’m working on a paper that traces the history and terrain of fashion e-tail, specifically.
More on that later.

The History of E-commerce in a Nutshell

(Credit: Amy at Zippy Cart)

The history of e-commerce is filled with many ups and downs, with dot-com bubbles, dot-com busts, a variety of sales models, and more.  Understanding what has led the e-commerce industry to its current state can help merchants better prepare for the changes ahead, as e-commerce evolves into mobile commerce, social commerce, and so much more.  Above, you will see a detailed visualization of how e-commerce has evolved and shaped the way we do business online.  The data is also detailed below for those who wish to read all of the information rather than view it above.

  • 1979 – Michale Aldrich invents online shopping: Aldrich was a British inventor who created a number of things including the Teleputer, which was a computer-based entertainment center. In 1979 he developed a predecessor of online shopping to enable online transaction processing for B2C and B2B needs.
  • 1981 – Thomson Holidays submitted the first ever B2B electronic transaction using online technology.  Thomson Holidays was a UK based travel operator that used online technology to help users book travel and pay.
  • 1982 – France Telecom invents Minitel – Considered the world’s most successful pre-World Wide Web online services.  Users could make online purchases, train reservations, and more through the Videotex online service, accessible through telephone lines.
  • 1984 – Jane Snowball, age 72, was the first ever online home shopper.  She used the Gateshead SIS/Tesco System to buy online.
  • 1987 – The first electronic merchant account was created by Swreg.  It was created so that software developers could sell their solutions online.
  • 1990 – Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser using a NeXT computer, thus creating the World Wide Web.
  • 1991 – The National Science Foundation (NSF) lifted restrictions on the commercial use of the NET, which cleared the way for e-commerce.
  • 1992 – J.H. Snider and Terra Siporyn published Future Shop: How New Technologies Will Change the Way We Shop and What We Buy.  This book was an amazing predictor of the future of e-commerce.
  • 1994 – This was a big year of firsts for e-commerce.  Netscape Navigator released their browser, SSL encryption became a reality (ensuring secure online sales), Pizza Hut had the first recorded Internet sale (a peperoni & mushroom pizza with extra cheese), the 1st online bank opened, the first e-commerce solutions are built for merchants to sell online, and the first ever email spam occurred (known as the Green Card Spam)
  • 1995 – The dot-com bubble began with the IPO of Netscape.  Meanwhile, Jeff Bezos sat in a garage in Bellevue, WA to start Amazon.com.  South of Bezos in California, eBay began as “AuctionWeb.”  Craigslist launched and VeriSign launched as a way to verify merchants online.
  • 1997 – Dell.com became the first company to make $1,000,000 in online sales
  • 1998 – The US Postal Service entered the e-commerce space by selling stamps electronically through e-stamp.  At the same time, two Stanford students began their plans for world domination by launching Google.
  • 1999 – The US Supreme Court ruled that domain names are property.
  • 2000 – The dot-com bust
  • 2002 – Ebay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion.  Meanwhile, niche retail start ups CSN stores and NetShops created the concept of selling products through several target domains rather than a central portal.
  • 2003 – Facebook began as a college website called Facemash, which let students rate whether or not other students on campus were good looking.  At the same time, Amazon posted its first ever profitable year.  Finally, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 changed email marketing forever by ruling that marketers “can spam” as long as they follow certain standards.
  • 2006 – Google bought YouTube.  In the same year, Sex.com sold for $14,000,000 which was the highest recorded sales price for a domain name.  Finally, iTunes became the largest digital music retailer with over 1 billion downloads.
  • 2007 – US Broadband users reached 200 million, which aided in e-commerce success for small and large companies.  Google Adwords surpassed $21 billion in revenue.
  • 2009 – Yahoo and Bing teamed up to better compete with Google.  While the full merger is still taking place, soon Yahoo will adopt the Bing algorithm, making search results almost the same across the two search engines.  Near the end of 2009, Facebook made headway in traffic by becoming the site with more traffic than Google.
  • 2010 – 2010 is expected to reach $173 billion in e-commerce sales, an increase of 7 percent over 2009.  This is due to an improvement in the economy mixed with new e-commerce trends like mobile commerce, social commerce, group buying, and private sample sale sites.

The future of e-commerce remains to be seen, but it is clear that the industry will continue to grow and opportunities are there for the taking.

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LINKAGES: Maquiladoras Enchant Rodarte and Fashion Pretends Technology Is Not Its Friend

I’ve been working at a frenetic pace lately trying to toggle between researching and writing a chapter on the relationship between fashion, creativity, and copyright (from a critical race and gender studies perspective, naturally); responding to queries about our exhibition on the fashion histories and practices of women of color (such queries are increasing so YAY!!); and playing Julie the cruise ship director for our impending family trip (we are not going on a cruise).

All this is to explain why this post is full of links rather than original writing. If I had the time to blog, I’d finish this post about Rodarte’s upcoming Fall collection, inspired by the maquiladora workers in Juárez, Mexico. (I have to admit that I missed the news on this collection and only caught up with it when a link showed up this weekend on my personal Facebook wall to a blog post on Oh Industry. So thank god for social media doing its thing!)

As Nicole Phelps from Style.com explains, the collection came to the Mulleavy sisters (the design team behind Rodarte) as a brainstorm while on a recent roadtrip from El Paso to Marfa, Texas:

[A] long drive from El Paso to Marfa, Texas, got them thinking they might like to explore their Mexican roots. From there, they became interested in the troubled border town of Ciudad Juárez; the hazy, dreamlike quality of the landscape there; and the maquiladora workers going to the factory in the middle of the night. And that, according to the designers, who certainly know how to romance a pitch, led to this conclusion: They’d build a collection off the idea of sleepwalking.

While it is frequently speculated that the Mulleavys were attempting to comment on the mass murders of maquiladora workers along the Juárez border with this collection, their message clearly did not telegraph. Consider the ways in which luminaries from the runway show describe the collection (see video below).

Glossed over by the fantasies of fashion (consider the descriptions by Glenda Bailey and Nadja Swarovski in the above video: enchanted forest, the modern American fashion spirit) are the harsh physical and economic realities of the thousands of maquiladora workers who provide the hidden labors of globalized fashion and the hundreds (some argue, thousands) of women who have been murdered between Tijuana and Juárez. (For more about maquiladoras, check out Vicky Funari and Sergio de la Torre’s documentary Maquilapolis.)

I know Mimi would have a ton of smart things to say about this collection as well as Rodarte’s forthcoming collaboration with MAC on cosmetic products inspired by their latest collection, which was inspired by their depoliticized aestheticization of maquiladoras. Beginning on September 15, 2010, customers can purchase lipsticks called “Ghost Town” and “Sleepless”; lipglass called “del Norte”; eyeshadow called “Bordertown”; and nail polish called “Factory” and “Juarez” (and there’s more). Addendum: Looks like MAC is backing off maquiladora-chic: see here and here.

Mimi already has several posts in her draft queue for when she returns from her much-deserved vacation but I’m hoping she’ll have a few choice words about this collection as well. But for now,  why not revisit her crazy smart post on a related topic on the tangled complex of race, gender, labor, and fashion representation in Background Color?

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As anyone who peruses the fashion media complex with any regularity knows by now, luxury fashion designers and companies have both praised and vilified new media communication technologies for democratizing or massifying (depending on your perspective) fashion.

Here are two recent pieces on fashion’s vexed relationship with technology. The first is Amy Odell’s blog post called “The Recession Has Forced High-Fashion Companies to Use the Internet” and the second is an article in the New York Times titled, “High Fashion Relents to Web’s Pull” . . . “Forced” and “Relents” – ha! – as if the fashion elite hasn’t already benefited enormously from the free labors of bloggers and other social media types who deftly use these technologies. Sigh. So much to post and so little time.

Ok, see you next week when I get back from week-long vacation from thinking about work (hopefully)!

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Filed under FASHION 2.0, FASHION-INDUSTRIAL-STATE COMPLEX, LABOR AND THE CREATIVE ECONOMY, LINKAGE

LINKAGE: “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture”

One of our fabulous readers, Emily Kennedy (who also blogs at A Radiant Mephit) just tipped me off to Johanna Blakely’s TED talk called, “Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture.” Like all TED talks, Blakely’s talk is informative, accessible, lively, and quick. After cataloging the “magical side effects” of the “copying culture” of fashion (including the democratization of fashion and the acceleration in creative innovation), Blakely concludes with a question about the relationship between creativity and ownership:

The conceptual issues are truly profound when you talk about creativity and ownership. We don’t want to leave this just to lawyers to figure out. [Y]ou want an interdisciplinary team of people hashing this out, trying to figure out: “What is the kind of ownership model in a digital world that’s going to lead to the most innovation?”

The answer for Blakely, of course, is fashion. But how digital technologies increase creative innovation is a different question, I think, than asking how digital technologies increase freedom (creative or political). In other words, Blakely’s “free culture” is only free in limited ways and in fact, can produce unfreedoms in the process.

I began drafting another post having quite a lot to do with that question so it’s absolute serendipity that Emily clued me into this TED talk! While I finish writing that, check out the video.

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Filed under COUNTERFEIT GOODS, DEMOCRATIZATION OF FASHION, FASHION 2.0, LINKAGE