By  on January 13, 2006

NEW YORK — Nordstrom is taking a trip down the designer road on its Web site.

On Feb. 6, nordstrom.com will launch a designer collections category, a first of sorts for the upscale specialty retailer. The site, which was launched in 1998, already sells collections of Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane von Furstenberg, Cynthia Steffe, Michael Michael Kors, L.A.M.B. and Theory, but never had a designated designer collections area until now. It aims to enliven the online fashion experience by merging the whimsical illustrations of Ruben Toledo with animation technology and photography.

"We wanted a site that was uniquely Nordstrom and reflective of what we are trying to do in our stores," Pete Nordstrom, president of full-line Nordstrom stores, said. "There is a lot of potential and we want to hold ourselves to the same standards on the Web as we do in the stores. Our customers expect that from us."

The designer collections feature will be launched in two phases. Initially, customers will be able to research the collections before calling to place an order, but by the end of the year, the retailer expects the site to be ready for e-commerce transactions.

"The technology is very complex and it will take another year to get a shopping cart, but that year gives our team the chance to directly interact with the customer, and it will teach our specialists how to offer superior service on the Web," said Sue Patneaude, executive vice president of designer apparel at Nordstrom.

"We knew that when we did it, it needed to be something special. It couldn't look like anything else. Other sites have a nice business, but I felt that most looked like catalogue pages," said Patneaude.

The retailer aimed to translate the energy of the store online, so it asked Toledo, who has been illustrating Nordstrom's ad campaign for four years, to create the look for the designer collections area.

"I wanted to give our guests the feeling that they have been handed the keys to their favorite designer shops," Toledo said of the project, so he created an illustrated boulevard of 10 designer boutiques devoted to Giorgio Armani, Blumarine, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Missoni, Ralph Lauren and Roberto Cavalli.

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