PARIS — In a bid to stand out in a crowded e-commerce field, Printemps has adopted an inclusive approach to its new web site, which went live Thursday.
“It expresses strong convictions in terms of inclusivity, personalization, I would say ‘care’ — both when it comes to corporate responsibility and looking after our clients,” said Karen Vernet, e-commerce director for the department store.
Printemps.com took two years to develop and will feature more than 200 brands, including big luxury labels such as Gucci, Balenciaga and Prada, as well as designers and smaller brands Y/Project, Ambush and Telfar — with more than 40 labels exclusively in France, including Vivienne Westwood, Simone Rocha, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Palomo Spain and Mugler. The store has also signed 30 exclusive collaborations, adding up to more than 550 exclusive pieces on the site.
The site, which has gone live in France, will be rolled out first in Europe and the U.K. in the fourth quarter, followed by the U.S. and Asia at a later stage. It is billed as a key element to the Paris department store’s plans for international expansion.
The new e-commerce site comes at a challenging time for French department stores, which were struggling to recover from a series of strikes before the spread of coronavirus halted tourist flows from Asia to Paris — a key source of income. The department store’s longtime chief executive officer Paolo de Cesare was abruptly dismissed last week by the company’s supervisory board, which cited a need for new leadership to accelerate development plans given the challenging retail environment.
Printemps.com will offer services for disabled clients, a broader range of sizes and a gender-neutral section that shows the same clothing on a man and a woman side-by-side, and a lot of content.
The web site can be adapted to cater to specific needs associated with color blindness, dyslexia or Parkinson’s, for example.
“We are the only ones to do this,” Vernet said. For clients indicating they have Parkinson’s disease, extra space is added between sections to make it easier to click on something, while it changes color for people who are color blind — the group has signed an exclusive contract with the French start-up that developed the technology.
The site will also offer a wider range of sizes than is customary for the luxury fashion industry.
“For us, thinness is not necessarily a symbol of beauty, and beauty is not necessarily symbolized by thinness — it’s an equation that has dominated the realm of luxury for years and years. Today things are starting to change, and I think we need to act — Printemps has responsibility in this area, we don’t want beauty to be associated solely with one specific body type,” Vernet said.
For the site, the store asked designers to expand their range of sizes and is buying more sizes than it had in the past.
“We know it will be difficult at the beginning, because like any budding activity, we’re not necessarily known for it and everyone doesn’t come running to your store naturally — there will be investment, that we know, and it will take several seasons, but this is a real shift that we believe in strongly,” she added.
Printemps.com will also stock size-inclusive brands like Universal Standard — it is bringing the American label exclusively to France — and Ester Manas, a designer who makes adjustable clothing meant to accommodate a range of sizes.
As part of Printemps.com’s strategy to root out new talent, the site will also include around 34 smaller brands from around the world, including a Peruvian jewelry brand, and others from Greece and Ethiopia, Vernet said.
“We chose them because their stories moved us or because they had a specific know-how — this, too, is part of our strategy of rooting out talent,” she added.
The gender-neutral approach is also another important element to the site.
“For a number of sites you have collaborations, or capsule collections, but you always still have the men-women divide. We decided to make a mixed category,” she said.
“It’s built into the structure of the web site — it’s not just a trend,” added Vernet.
Printemps worked with Antidote magazine for the editorial content on the site, with plans for long articles on specific themes each month, accompanied by related interviews and photo shoots.
On the environmental side, packaging is made with paper made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, giving clients a choice between reduced packaging or the gift-wrapped option.