“We want Avenue 32 to offer a fresh and interesting mix of established and lesser known brands as we were both so tired of seeing the same brands on every single website or in every department store,” says Roberta Benteler, founder of the just-launched etail site that aims to give those brands more control over how they’re presented. And it’s exactly that mix that appeals to me about the site. Alongside the likes of Preen and 3.1 Phillip Lim (very likely to be the main traffic and sales drivers to start with) are some newer names that I have come across on my rounds but which until now haven’t had much of an online presence.
My favourite of these are Lizzy Disney, Poplin, Palmer Harding and Body Editions. Lizzy Disney has been around for years in various guises but her own-brand accessories line is still fairly new. However, there’s not much info to be found on her on the Web which is where Avenue 32’s editorial policy comes into play. Each designer/brand can use their space to share their own content, whether that’s written, photographic, video or notes from their sketchbooks. As the site has literally just launched and is in Beta, those areas aren’t fully populated yet but Benteler assures me that new content will be added constantly to keep the site evolving. Lucy Archibald’s Poplin collection of loungewear inspired by men’s tailoring but made with Indian textiles is irresistible – leopard-print jacquard PJs anyone? The ‘Insider’ section shows an enticing taster of inspiration photos alongside Archibald’s English-girl-in-Bombay musings which is well worth a read, not least because her other job is freelance journalism so she knows how to tell a good story.
I wondered if it was a challenge to get these designers to provide content for the site as we all know the increasing demands on their time, but Benteler insists not. “It has been very easy because designers understand the benefit of it. It’s something that has a very positive effect on conversion rates as well as giving customers an understanding of the idea behind a brand.” A good example of this is Body Editions, a line of luxury bodies by Brazilian stylist Raquel Franco. Her ‘Insider’ content includes visual inspirations, a Q&A and a profile that explains her background and aesthetic point of view (plus the product is divine).
I discovered Palmer Harding’s white shirt-centric label at London Fashion Week where Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding bowled me over with their professionalism and business smarts, not to mention their beautifully made pieces. Their shirts aren’t up on the site yet but going back to the mix, I like how Avenue 32 seems to have focused as much on mono-category brands (Poplin’s pyjamas, Palmer Harding’s shirts, Body Editions’ bodies) as brands which have everything covered. I also like that overall there is an edited offer. The site is intuitive to navigate (if slightly glitchy but it’s early days) and not overloaded with endless ‘stuff’. To me, this helps the ‘discovery’ element that Benteler says is so key. I find these days it’s increasingly harder to discover something if you have to wade through pages of other stuff first to find it.