Welcome to fashion’s Internet democracy.

In these days of fast fashion, mass-meets-class and “Project Runway,” where consumers call seemingly anyone and anything “designer,” brands have less control than ever over information, image — and their channels of distribution. A great outfit on the runway can whip around the worldwide Web faster than Michael Phelps swims the 100 meters — and a bad one gets the thumbs-down even quicker.

This story first appeared in the August 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Given that consumers are in the driver’s seat these days, what fashion brands are they most curious about? Well, on one level the most famous: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Ralph Lauren. But then there are brands the
industry wouldn’t consider “fashion” per se, but shoppers clearly do — and one of those, Nike, tops the list of most-searched-for fashion brands in the month of July.

There is a common denominator, though. If consumers are taking the time to type the brand name into a search engine, each brand has to be one they are aspiring to.

The list reflects many of the top fashion trends of the last few years: increased fashion awareness among the masses, thanks to TV and the Internet, the mix of high and low and the exploding trade in counterfeit goods. Nike, Adidas and Diesel are most likely common searches for men.

“The fact that they are so highly searched tells me these brands are extremely popular among the masses,” said Milton Pedraza, founder of the Luxury Institute. “These brands are the most popular, they are ubiquitous. And they’re looking for product. They’re not searching these brand names because they want to read about the history of the founder. They’re also looking for counterfeits very often.”

Heather Dougherty, an analyst at Internet research firm Hitwise, agreed. “The list is an interesting mix of aspirational brands that are being searched due to their status appeal, but the brands are also subject to the unfortunate issue of being imitated with counterfeit versions that are easily available online,” she said.

The list paints a picture of a young, label-conscious consumer whose idea of a great outfit is the Juicy label on her hips and the Chanel logo dangling from her wrist. Click here for the most-searched-for fashion brands on the Web during the month of July.

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