Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — All-too-many e-commerce players have approached the Web with an “if we build it, they will come” philosophy, hawking cheese-graters or pet food from online shops and hoping demand would take care of itself. Those people are now attending pink-slip parties all across America.
Fashion house Nicole Miller, on the other hand, faced just the opposite situation. “When we first put up our Web site, we thought of it as more informational than commerce-oriented, as an extra way of selling ties and scarves, but then the online business started booming,” said designer Nicole Miller.
To respond to this unexpected surge in e-sales to about $5,000 a week by yearend 2000, up from $1,000 a week early in the year. Nicole Miller has revamped its Web site, converting it into a full-blown e-commerce hub scheduled to go live today.
The redesign was undertaken by Web design firm Odd Flavor, a multinational team of techies resembling Tom Cruise’s accomplices in the first “Mission:Impossible” movie, and the results are fully in keeping with the prevailing e-commerce design sensibility: The new Web site is sleek, sexy and most important, streamlined. It boasts a pastel-laden, tropical, South Beach-inspired, color palette, while Flash animation greets users at the home page. The rest of the Web site is visually compelling, while steering clear of gratuitous use of Flash animation, with a persistent toolbar assuring that shoppers never lose their way.
Most importantly, the e-commerce offerings have been significantly expanded and visually enhanced. Nicole Miller accessories — handbags, totes, umbrellas, ties, socks — are all offered, as well as sleepwear and select outerwear such as leather jackets. Eyewear and fragrances are also available for online purchase. The notable exception is the Nicole Miller ready-to-wear/sportswear collection, which the firm decided to omit from its online offerings for a number of reasons.
Still, Nicole Miller clothing is prominent on the e-commerce site. In two of the online departments, “Hot Looks,” and “Big Night Out,” select outfits are displayed; and clicking on a given item will reveal the style number and product description as well as listing stores where it’s available. Another section, called “Catwalk,” caters to the multimedia crowd. Viewers can check out the latest Nicole Miller runway collection on video.
The “Boutique” and “Must Have” sections form the e-commerce component of the site. Products, from eyewear to fragrances, are displayed for easy online purchase via the familiar shopping-basket device.
The new site also addresses the firm’s most dedicated constituency: bridal shoppers. A “Getting Married” section showcases the bridal collection, sweaters and shoes, although the collection itself is sold only off-line — except for bridal handbags. Plus, bridal shoppers can now order the Nicole Miller bridal catalog directly from the site, or even better, download it in PDF format and print it out.
The crew at Nicole Miller seemed pleased with the revamped Web site preview held last Thursday, although in characteristically cavalier fashion, president and chief executive officer Bud Konheim made it clear that Nicole Miller’s bottom line doesn’t hinge on the Web. “We’re not a dot-com, and we don’t rise or fall if this thing is successful or unsuccessful,” Konheim noted.