INSTYLE FORGES PACT WITH PURPLESKIRT

Byline: Valerie Seckler / Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — Fashion commerce and content have found a new crossroads online.
Fashionistas browsing fresh trends at InStyle.com can buy five items of apparel — each reflecting a key look for spring — through an e-link forged Wednesday with PurpleSkirt.com, the contemporary fashion site launched in November 1999 by actress Tracey Ullman, TV producer Stephanie Cone and Jeannine Braden, owner of Fred Segal Flair. At the same time, PurpleSkirt.com will display up to six items per trend in the “focus” area of its e-tail site.
The spring trends, which went live Wednesday at InStyle.com, are florals, shirtdresses and military, with examples culled from such collections as Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta and Helmut Lang. URL’s and toll-free numbers will be posted to give users a way to contact brands not carried by PurpleSkirt. On Wednesday, for instance, visitors of PurpleSkirt could find a Marc Jacobs cotton sateen military jacket, for $249, and a Patricia Fields camouflage tube top, for $48.
“We contacted them when we noticed a lot of their picks of the week were things we carried,” Cone noted. “We told them we thought it could be a good brand extension for both of us. The hardest thing now is finding companies with the same point of view that will be around tomorrow,” referring to deals struck last June with defunct Eve.com, and in February, with the former thinkamerican.com, whose financing was pulled on March 12 by Soros Fund Management.
According to one source at thinkamerican.com, staffers at the downed site have no clear sense of why Soros pulled the plug after spending roughly $10 million on building it, attracting trendy fashion players like Cynthia Rowley and Steve Madden, devising ads that were to break in April — and launching e-commerce on March 11. The Soros group had backed thinkamerican.com as part of a broader financing deal with the Web site’s parent, American Malls International, a venture created in 1996 with the intent of building large value malls in Japan.