Condé Nast has shuttered its fashion news site-turned-e-commerce venture Style.com. According to the New York Times, "The company said in a statement on Tuesday that Style.com, a global multibrand e-commerce site in which it had reportedly invested more than $100 million, had ceased all trading operations. Effective immediately, visitors to that website will be redirected to that of its new partner, Farfetch, a rapidly growing online marketplace for high-end boutiques in which Condé Nast was an early investor."
The New York Times further notes, "Currently, the only evidence of a partnership that consumers see is the redirect to Farfetch from Style.com. Farfetch has also acquired some of the assets of Style.com, including the domain and the current inventory."
In light of such news, here is a look back at an article that was originally published in July 2016, documenting the slow roll-out of the site, which according to no small array of sources, was doomed from the get-go.
It has been over a year since Condé Nast announced that it will integrate the content of its wildly popular Style.com website into Vogue’s site under the newly-launched Vogue Runway headline, turning Style.com into an “a brand-new luxury shopping experience.”
Aside from an array of preparatory changes – including laying off a handful of employees, hiring a new team and bringing the runway reviews and collection galleries, for which Style.com was known, under the Vogue umbrella – little tangible output has come of the planned e-commerce transformation of the Style.com site. The lack of activity has left many asking whether the Style.com rebrand is little more than a failed venture.
According to a 2015 statement from publishing giant Condé Nast, which plays parent to Vogue, W, Vanity Fair, Glamour, and Allure, among others, the new Style.com was slated to launch in the U.K. in early 2016 – with 100 to 200 brands available for purchase. It would expand stateside and to other markets around the world subsequently thereafter. Condé Nast elaborated, outlining its “mission is to sell merchandise to consumers, including readers and users of its magazines and websites such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and Gentlemen’s Quarterly.”
As for how the new Style.com will work, exactly, President Franck Zayan said that readers will be able to purchase through two channels: the magazines they’re reading and the Style.com site. Interestingly, Style.com won’t hold any stock, and the brands – which will eventually range from fashion to food and wine to travel – will take care of fulfillment.
Zayan told WWD he sees Style.com as a “connector” between the magazines and the products, and an added layer of service to readers. Part of Condé’s plan is to embed commercial links earlier in the online reader’s journey, and also give them the option to switch off the e-commerce bit altogether.
WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON WITH STYLE.COM?
Condé Nast’s most recent Style.com-specific announcement, which came in November 2015, centered on hiring of fashion consultant Yasmin Sewell, who was enlisted for the role of the site’s fashion director. Aside from that revelation, however, the re-launch of the Style.com has been seemingly non-existent, suggesting that things may have gone awry behind the scenes for the London-based operation, potentially derailing the venture for the foreseeable future.
But alas, the site is slated to go public in the not-so-distant near future, or so an array of clues from those most intimately involved would suggest. In mid-June, for instance, Sewell posted a photo of a film clapboard with the “Style.com Condé Nast” designation, along with the caption: “Hold tight kids, won't be long. @styledotcom Coming soon.” Christine Centenera, Fashion Director for Vogue Australia, posted the same photo, writing: “Coming (back) soon.”
In early July, Patrick Devlin, who holds the role of Head of Business Development at Style.com, took to his Instagram to share a photo that read: “Typing in Style.com will soon no longer bring you to Vogue Runway. Make sure you type in VogueRunway.com or add it to your bookmarks to get the latest fashion news!” The photo mirrors a pop-up box that appears on Vogue Runway, alerting readers of the impending change. As of publication, the Style.com URL still auto-redirects to Vogue Runway.
It appears as though the site has its team – upwards of 100 employees – largely in place. In addition to Sewell, Condé Nast has been working to put a rather significant team in place for the new and improved(?) Style.com. Franck Zayan is on board as President; Melissa Dick (formerly editor of ElleUK.com and previously the global editorial director at Asos.com) as Editorial Director; Olivier Breton (formerly in charge of online trading and customer acquisition at Galeries Lafayette) as Chief Marketing Officer; and Patrick Devlin as Head of Business Development. Also on board: Celenie Laura Fleur Seidel, who occupies the role of Market Editor; Mo White (formerly of the Net-a-Porter Group), who is Chief Product Officer; Jane Gorley, Creative Director; Natalie Varma (formerly head of e-commerce at Anya Hindmarch), Head of Product; and Mary Binding, Womenswear Product Manager.
A number of these individuals have held their roles for the past two years, prepping for what has been a relatively drawn-out production, which has left industry insiders questioning the status of the re-launch. The site is currently on a bit of a hiring spree, still looking to fill Business analyst, Visual designer, Accountant, Senior iOS Developer, Project manager, and various assistant roles, among others.
Just when we had all but given up on the Style.com reintroduction project, it appears to be very much still in the works and quite close to launching - its commencement is slated for this September. Of the impending launch, Zayan told TFL: "Good things come to those who work hard... And it's been a year of relentless work." He also added that we will not have to wait "too much longer" to see what the Style.com team has been working on.
"The new Style.com is coming soon, and we've collaborated with a series of collage artists for our teaser campaign, which launches in the next week," said fashion director Yasmin Sewell. "They'll show our bold, playful approach to style, and our agenda-setting position. Expect something a little different."
* Style.com ultimately launched in September 2016 to less than stellar reviews. According to BoF's scorecard, “Overall, while the new Style.com may have been a competitive proposition in the luxury e-commerce marketplace of five years ago, in today’s landscape, it may struggle to secure a strong position without significantly revamping its product assortment and underlying business model.”