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Amazon Luxury Is Here—What to Expect

App-first and upscale.

Luxury landed at Amazon early Tuesday morning with the launch of the Seattle e-commerce giant’s anticipated push into premium fashion. Branded Amazon Luxury Stores and available through the company’s mobile app exclusively by invitation, the experience makes its debut with the help of renowned fashion icon Oscar de la Renta. Eligible U.S. Prime members can shop a range of the Dominican designer’s pre-fall ready-to-wear, handbags, accessories, jewelry and new perfume inside the curated store, which will also offer children’s wear in the coming weeks. Customers will also have early access to the brand’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection, currently available in Oscar de la Renta’s boutiques and website.

Amazon opted to fete the Oscar de la Renta luxury launch with a video starring model-turned-movie star Cara Delevigne, “celebrating the imaginative intersection of fashion and technology.” The pair tapped Canadian, Britain-based filmmaker Bunny Kinney to direct the visual experience, with Hollywood stylist Jason Bolden lending a sartorial assist.

Though Amazon has long faced questions around whether it can offer the kind of experience well-heeled consumers expect, the company says its “View in 360” feature not only helps shoppers better gauge fit and product details but also makes “shopping for luxury easier and more engaging.”

And while brands like Birkenstock and Nike have broken up with Amazon over counterfeiting chaos and product control disputes, the online leader says participating designers maintain full authority over the selection of items that appear in their “store within a store” and how goods are priced. The platform simply makes available its powerful merchandising tools that aid in telling each brand’s unique story, Amazon said.

Amazon Fashion president Christine Beauchamp said the company has been “inspired by feedback from Prime members who want the ability to shop their favorite luxury brands” on the same familiar platform where they shop for virtually everything else, too.

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“We are excited to offer luxury brands the services and technology to build an inspiring, elevated customer experience,” she added. “It’s still Day One, and we look forward to growing Luxury Stores, innovating on behalf of our customers, and opening a new door for designers all over the world to access existing and new luxury customers.”

Amazon launched Amazon Luxury Stores on Sept. 15, launching with an Oscar de la Renta shop in shop.
Customers shopping Amazon Luxury Stores gain early access to Oscar de la Renta’s Fall/Winter 2020 collection. Courtesy

Luxury has famously lagged the rest of fashion and retail in modernizing with the times, leaving plenty of room for innovators like Farfetch, Matches Fashion, MyTheresa and Moda Operandi to reimagine how shoppers with money to burn can get their hands on luxury goods. Bain estimates that luxury brands might see one-third of their sales disappear this year as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll. Amazon’s luxury debut might further erode the long-held belief that the experience shoppers encounter in brick-and-mortar boutiques is reason enough to keep their dollars in stores versus online.

Plus, Amazon’s massive reach and covetable base of high-income Prime members presents an undeniably attractive opportunity for brands struggling to survive this year’s choppy waters and find their footing in rapidly shifting sands. The company closed out 2019 with more than 112 million members in the U.S. alone, where the fee for access to perks like speedy shipping and video content reaches $119 annually, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners reported earlier this year. Nearly one-quarter of Prime members claim annual earning power of $100,000, versus just 9 percent of non-members in the same income bracket, according to Jungle Scout, which helps brands grow their businesses on the Amazon marketplace.

Still, Oscar de la Renta CEO Alex Bolen seemed to acknowledge the urgency of fully embracing digital, pointing to Amazon’s “relentless focus on improving the customer experience through constant innovation, utilizing technology and customer feedback” as the impetus for bringing the brand’s gowns and more to the e-commerce platform. “We admire Amazon’s customer-centric focus and look forward to telling our brand’s story in compelling and engaging ways to even more customers through the Luxury Stores experience,” he added.

The launch comes in a busy year for Amazon and its ambitions to grab a larger slice of the fashion pie. In May, the digital dominator partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Vogue to throw reeling independent brands like Hunting Season, Tanya Taylor and Adam Lippes a lifeline with the launch of Common Threads: Vogue x Amazon Fashion, despite research showing that most apparel consumers purchase generic “unbranded” garments on the platform.

And Amazon has grown its influencer-led fashion drops into a formidable force. Leveraging social media personalities with faithful flocks of followers, Amazon’s The Drop taps into influencers’ style savvy to create fashion capsules typically offered for sale for just 30 hours before being manufacturing according to demand. Amazon’s July drop with fashion blogger Caralyn Mirand marked the influencer initiative’s foray into size inclusivity, with styles serving a range of women in sizes XXS-3X. Meanwhile, last month Reebok became the first footwear brand to take advantage of The Drop, showing shoppers how to style a curated cohort of sneakers for daytime or going-out looks. The latest drop arrived Tuesday morning, offering polished, Parisian style from @sabthefrenchway, who commands an audience of more than 50,000 on Instagram.

Amazon tapped model-turned-movie star Cara Delavigne to front a new video feting the Luxury Stores launch and Oscar de la Renta partnership.
Amazon tapped model-turned-movie star Cara Delevigne to front a new video feting the Luxury Stores launch and Oscar de la Renta partnership. Courtesy

Despite the sustainable aspect of cutting and sewing only when customers place an order, which largely eliminates carrying a glut of excess inventory, The Drop occasionally finds itself with leftover product on its hands. Last week, Amazon alerted shoppers to the opportunity to rediscover some of The Drop’s previously launched limited-time styles, most of which were items that customers had returned or were the byproduct of the manufacturing system, Amazon said. Eco-friendly fabrications like Tencel are showing up in The Drop, too, with Amazon noting its commitment to helping customers “choose high-quality sustainable products.”

“As we work to lower the environmental impact on our Amazon-owned Private Brand apparel products, we are also continuing to explore more ways to keep the planet in mind with The Drop’s releases,” a spokesperson said.