High Fashion to Amazon: You Can't Sit With Us

By Chandra Steele Features PCmag

Amazon Fashion last week lost its president, Cathy Beaudoin, who struggled to make the site a stylish fashion destination.

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In her five years at the helm of Amazon Fashion, Beaudoin put it on the path to becoming the top clothing retailer in the US. But the site had little clout in the world of high fashion. Amazon might have killed retail, but its reputation as a repository for basic ensembles is hard to shake. An unattractive site design doesn't help matters either.

Beaudoin did attempt a cinematic makeover scene. Amazon sponsored men's New York Fashion Week with the CFDA, it started the Style Code series, and produced The Fashion Show. None were runaway—or runway—successes. Men's Fashion Week is a poor shadow of its glamorous older sister, New York Fashion Week, Style Code is more QVC than Fashion Police, and The Fashion Show is a Project Runway wannabe with all the threads showing.

Sensing desperation, top fashion brands stayed away. Amazon Fashion attracted midrange brands like Michael Kors, but true luxury brands like LVMH—home to Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Fendi—did not mince words. "We believe the business of Amazon does not fit with LVMH full stop and it does not fit with our brands," LVMH CFO Jean-Jacques Guiony said in an investor call last year.

It's not just the coolness factor. Amazon's third-party selling structure means knock-offs abound, so many high-end brands refuse to do business there.

Without these brands to give it caché, Amazon is trying to win over customers with its own style savvy. But the Amazon Echo Look will likely only appeal to 90's girls who wish they had the closet from Clueless.

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With Beaudoin's departure, Amazon should embrace the fact that it doesn't have front-row status. It's never going to have the niche appeal of Barneys or the luxe look of Neiman Marcus. Instead, Amazon should set its sights on Macy's, the epitome of an American department store. Macy's sells a broad range of brands presented on straightforward display racks filled with a range of sizes. Nothing in a Macy's is intimidating or seems out of reach. That's the (non-high fashion) model Amazon should emulate.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.