Fashion and design magazines have always used their pages, and especially their photography, to inspire. In some cases the inspiration hits readers, who seek to imitate the beautiful people, clothes, hairstyles and decors that are profiled. In other cases it’s advertisers and retailers that find inspiration, manufacturing and pitching similar products that will be accessible to a wider audience of consumers.
(Vintage L’Oreal ad in Harper’s Bazaar from 1961.)
I couldn’t track down the first appearance of a “get the look” feature in an American magazine, but as far back as the late 19th century French fashion houses recognized (to their dismay) that commercial retailers were lifting their styles and converting them into mainstream product offerings.
“French design and the superior craftsmanship employed in its realization had always guaranteed access to the world’s luxury markets for all of the decorative arts, including the couture. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, revival styles were common in France, and even art nouveau, created in the 1880s in an attempt to develop a French style competitive with the English arts and crafts aesthetic, was suffering from the omnipresence of cheap machine-made copies.”
For at least my entire lifetime, the editors at leading fashion and entertainment publications have supported the trend by helping readers dress like the beautiful people. Maybe you’re unable to get Vera Wang to sew you a custom-made gown, they imply, but here are some made-to-wear alternatives that affect a similar look.
So perhaps we’re due for a digital make-over — some internet magic that makes it easier for magazine readers to look at inspiring photographs and turn that inspiration into action with a single click. Today Pixazza and Hearst Digital Media announced a partnership to help readers of House Beautiful and Redbook find products (or ones that are visually similar) that are featured in the magazines’ photos. Readers who mouse over images marked with a “Get This Look” icon are presented with an information card that links to products in the picture and advertising offers that are relevant to content tagged inside the image.
“We look for those marketing opportunities that are disruptive, unexpected and true to the brand voice. At the same time, though, any advertising medium must work toward getting do-it-yourselfers going by moving them from inspiration to action,” says Rob Horton, vice president for marketing for Akzo Nobel Paints, maker of Glidden Paint and the maiden sponsor of interactive images on House Beautiful. (More at the NYT’s Media Decoder blog.)
The Pixazza approach uses freelance shopping experts to tag objects inside the image. That’s different in two ways from the traditional magazine approach, where a staff editor finds the “similar look” content. One, the crowdsourcing approach is faster and easier to scale — Pixazza’s shopping experts are tagging images that are viewed 3 billion times per month (and it’s still a relatively small team of taggers). Two, the concept of tagging things inside the image — creating a database of products and brands and even lifestyle attributes such as “is she wearing exercise clothing?” — opens the door to a more versatile suite of applications. “Get the Look,” certainly, is a popular one. But that’s only the beginning.