How To Create An Online Boutique That Doesn’t Hawk ‘Fast Fashion’
Byronesque aims to create new editorial and commercial foundations for online fashion sites that offer vintage and modern designer brands.
While events like Sweden’s DesignBoost maintain a strong focus on sustainability politics and smart design strategy, Gill Linton’s framing of the future of fashion explores notions like authenticity, the persistence of vintage clothing, and the enrichment of the human imagination. Both of the perspectives on fashion are a reaction to ‘fast fashion’. She describes her vision for Byronesque:
Byronesque is the first combined editorial and e-commerce website that treats designer vintage fashion with the same progressive creativity as contemporary fashion magazines and boutiques… Our original editorial pays intellectual homage to the lives and minds of important, but not necessarily obvious, people in fashion history whose work inspires us to challenge today’s fashion and popular culture mediocrity.”
PSFK had the opportunity to chat with Gill about what direction she thinks the industry should move in, and her answers reveal a reinterpretation of intelligent design in fashion.
Tell us about the story behind Byronesque.
It came from a personal frustration about the banality and homogeny of fashion and how ‘vintage’ has become an abused marketing buzzword misappropriated by faux-vintage brands, thrift stores and resale retailers.
There aren’t subcultures like there used to be; fashion brands are designing for the same ‘strong, confident woman.’ Magazines are chasing the same trends and fashion has become so driven by ‘corporate profit first’ that it’s hard to be inspired by fashion anymore, although there are few places online that take the time to create something intelligent, meaningful and beautiful to look at.
It’s easy for people to dismiss fashion as being frivolous and superficial (frankly most of it is) but when you look back at some of the most seminal subcultures in history, the way people dress plays an important role in shaping identity, attitudes, and beliefs. It creates diverse groups that inspire each other. Fashion is how subcultures morph, bifurcate and grow.
Right now the dominant culture is ‘fast’ and I wanted to slow it down and create something better and polarizing.
What is ‘fast fashion’ and how is Byronesque a response to it?
It’s the sheer scale of fast fashion that’s the problem. Environmental issues aside – because we know it’s a big issue – when everyone looks the same, it suppresses people’s imagination. Brands espouse ‘your brand your way’ marketing, but it’s crap when they produce millions of any one item. In the book To Die For, author Lucy Speigel revealed that “An unnamed ‘high-street giant’ placed an order with a Bangladeshi factory for 5 million pairs of ‘city shorts’ – that’s 5 million of one garment in one order.” I also find the blatant pillaging of vintage archive looks and designers ideas shameful and lazy. We end up going around in a creative circle rather than making progress. There’s a fine line between being inspired by past collections and knocking them off.
We created Byronesque as an intelligent, meaningful alternative to bland, disposable culture. Everyone on the team is frustrated about the mediocre culture of fast fashion and the banality of editorial online. There’s almost nothing for people who don’t want to look like everyone else and who want a more considered and intelligent perspective on fashion. Vintage has become an abused marketing buzzword used to sell everything from thrift, re-sale and outdated design considered good just because it’s old. Real vintage is 20 years old, or older, designed by people who pushed imaginations and whose creativity still challenges us to demand more today— our goal is to establish the first industry standard.
We’re collaborating with people who inspire us to demand more than fast-fashion knock offs and vintage that makes you look like and extra from a period drama. So much of fashion editorial and e-commerce is repetitive because everyone’s chasing the same stories and trends. Our goal with Byronesque.com is to provide an antidote to fast fashion and culture with vintage that is provocative, dark and sexy — inspiring people with the unique stories behind each piece and the subcultures that wore them. There’s no subculture anymore. And people buy too much crap.
Tell us about the video content hosted on your site.
We’re equal parts editorial and e-commerce. We have collaborated with writers, photographers, musicians, directors, interactive designers and graphic designers etc. to create original content. Video is obviously an important part of being online and engaging people – the tough part that the fashion industry hasn’t nailed entirely is how to blend fashion and narrative into film without it looking like a moving print ad.
We launched with a fashion film called “The Common Herd,” inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 and a series of talking heads called 20/20, featuring people who create and champion subculture talking about the people who did things better the first time around.
The series kicks of with fashion film doyenne Diane Pernet, Buffalo icon Felix Howard, Unisex designer Rad Hourani, and the legendary Boy George. We’re currently working on a series of interview documentaries, and constantly developing new editorial ideas. We intend to create a growing archive of inspirational content.
Can you explain the breakdown of the website? What’s the idea behind The Back Room, personal shopper, and your editorial services?
Our goal from the outset, along with King & Partners who designed the site and who are also investors, was to create a third way for editorial and e-commerce to co-exist online. Byronesque is the first combined editorial and e-commerce website that treats designer vintage fashion with the same progressive creativity as contemporary fashion magazines and boutiques.
Created for a community of creatives, designers and vintage retailers with a passion for well-made clothes by designers who challenged and pushed peoples imaginations 20 or more years ago—establishing the first global standard for vintage that is authentically 20 years or older.
We don’t aggregate any content. Our original editorial pays intellectual homage to the lives and minds of important, but not necessarily obvious, people in fashion history whose work inspires us to challenge today’s fashion and popular culture mediocrity.
Our vintage is selected from a growing network of progressive vintage stores around the world. We have just one checkout process, no matter how many stores a customer buys from, and all orders are drop-shipped to them.
There’s a complete overlap between editorial and e-commerce, without it feeling like a promotional look book where users are being given the hard sell. Our product pages also provide historical editorial context for each item we sell.
The Back Room
We have created this service specifically for designers and stylists who challenge the traditional notions of what fashion is, like Thom Browne, Gareth Pugh, Mary Katrantzou, Rad Hourani, Havana Lafitte and Nicola Formichetti etc.
The very creative, avant-garde fashion design community is underserved online. They’re under pressure to design more and more collections each year with less time to be inspired. Large brands like Tommy Hilfiger and H&M are well catered to by online inspiration resources like Stylesight and WGSN, but these sites aren’t relevant to designers who don’t follow trends.
Early next year we are launching ‘The Back Room’, a paid subscription service for independently minded fashion designers. The best vintage stores and showrooms have a ‘back room’ where they keep their really special pieces. Often these items aren’t for sale but are an important source of knowledge and inspiration for designers.
As a subscriber to The Back Room, designers get:
– First refusal on all new items and private sales before anyone else
– A dedicated collection of inspiration pieces for designers only
– Exclusive design specific editorial content – we launched with a two-part feature called L’Incroyable, about the creative genius of John Galliano, inspired by rare pieces from his graduate collection, owned by Byronesque.com retailer One of a Kind in London. Part one has been shot by Paris-based photographer Boris Ovini and part two is a filmed documentary featuring those who worked alongside Galliano, including his tutor from Central Saint Martins, who talks about the designer’s creative inspirations and what made him his best student ever.
– A growing archive of beautifully photographed vintage items
– A personal shopper service sourcing items based on a specific design brief
We don’t knowingly sell subscriptions to The Back Room to fast-fashion brands.
The Personal Shopper
The vintage fashion industry is dated and difficult. Vintage stores are scattered around the world and poorly merchandised, on and offline. The experience is an unsophisticated, and uninspiring rummage, marketed around out dated retro imagery, and for a sophisticated online fashion shopper, the ‘you never know what you might find’ associated with buying vintage is a frustrating and unrewarding experience. Byronesque is a discreet and carefully edited selection of vintage ready to wear and accessories from hard to find and difficult to get to retailers that people would otherwise not have access to.
Everything we sell has been carefully merchandised from the most credible vintage stores and showrooms in the world who have unrivaled access to private vintage sales and auctions. This means we’re tapped into a pretty impressive network of vintage experts. If you’re looking for something in particular, or an item isn’t your size or has already sold, we’ll do our best to find a similar item for you.
Byronesque.com is currently complimentary and we’ll be introducing our membership and Back Room trade subscription services early next year.
You won’t have to be a paying subscriber to shop or get select access to editorial, but as a paid member of Byronesque, you’ll get exclusive editorial content, first refusal on new items before anyone else, private sales, access to our personal shopper service and from time to time we will partner with brands that have something Byronesque to offer.
Many trends will work together to shape the future of fashion. What in your opinion is arguably the most important one?
Without a doubt to we have to slow down. The industry, fast or otherwise, needs to stop producing so many collections in one year and establish a quality standard so that not just any one with a check can buy their way into fashion week and WWD. We have to nurture creativity and craftsmanship that lasts.