Social Curation for the Fashion Industry

Source: Business of Fashion, Apr 2011

a new generation of niche social curation services is on the rise, offering discerning consumers a way to discover quality content and product selections, handpicked by others and unpolluted by content farms and SEO spam.

Founded in late 2010 in Palo Alto, California, and still in private beta, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard where users can create collections of things they find interesting — images, products, recipes, quotes — and “follow” collections created by others whose tastes they like. “Imagine picking up a catalogue where every single item is handpicked by someone you find interesting,” said Pinterest co-founder Ben Silbermann.

Part microblogs, part social bookmarking tools, Pinterest and Svpply (alongside similar sites like Fancy and Wanelo) have hit on a powerful formula: the hand-curated quality of a magazine plus the speed of a blog plus the personal relevance of a social network.

Interestingly, fashion has emerged as one of the most popular categories on these sites and even sparked specialist services. “Right now it’s hard to discover fashion online,” said Chris Morton, CEO of Lyst, a social curation site that focuses specifically on fashion. Having quietly established a core community in its private beta, Lyst will have its official launch next week. “The space is becoming increasingly fragmented: every day there are new online retailers, designers and blogs, making it even harder to sift through all the noise.”

But in the long run, hand-curation by your social network may not offer a complete answer to the personal relevance problem. At the recent Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Russian venture capitalist Yuri Milner, whose company, Digital Sky Technologies (DST), has put money into Facebook, Zynga and Groupon, was quoted as saying: “The question is, ‘How do you select what’s relevant for you?’ And my guess is that it’s probably going to be 50% driven by your network and 50% driven by algorithms.”

Looking ahead, the question becomes, who in fashion will be the first to meld machine-based predictions with the power of social curation to help solve that timeless problem: what should I wear today?

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