Style Junkie: Online and in fashion

A new website helps to take the wear and tear out of shopping for clothes in stores.

By ORI J. LENKINSKI
September 6, 2011 13:17
4 minute read.
Runway model

fashion outfit 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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‘You look great in that,” says the overly perky salesgirl as she insinuates herself into your mirror space.

“Really, it’s totally versatile. And if you want, you could always put a belt on it,” she asserts, as if a belt could magically transform the leopard-print velour moomoo you have on into one of Sarah Jessica Parker’s jaw-dropping Sex and the City numbers.

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These are the moments that have driven so many women to seek alternatives to shopping in stores. These are the fractions of an instant when it seems that wearing a potato sack would be a triumph over the pushy, insincere, gum-chewing army of retail hawkers in the world. Anything to avoid the hot, crowded dressing rooms and the artificial smiles designed to sell you something you’ll see yourself wearing in a photo two months later and cringe. Anything! “I don’t miss stores one bit,” declared Inbal Boussiba over an iced coffee at Café Noah in central Tel Aviv. Since launching her online boutique Belle&Sue in October, Boussiba has officially traded in her shopping bag for a laptop and a credit card. She is a true Web fashionista, a demographic that is rapidly growing in Israel and abroad.

When we met up, Boussiba was wearing a pair of YSL ballet flats (on sale at www.belleandsue.co.il) and a vintage ring over which she had gone to war on eBay with a woman from Australia. Her website, whose clientele has already tripled in number, boasts international brands that are selected and imported by Boussiba, her twin sister Adi, and a longtime friend of theirs who lives in New York.

Prior to the inception of Belle&Sue, there was no site devoted to fashion imports in Israel. “It was only a matter of time until online shopping became popular here,” said Boussiba. “Israelis absorb trends very quickly. Look at the number of computers in our country.”

Their service offers door-to-door delivery, free of the tax hassles that deter most buyers from shopping on the Internet.

Years ago when online music sales threatened to close the record stores we all adored, there was an outcry. Could we really buy an album without the cover art? Could we trade the hours spent browsing through dusty-smelling, vinyl-lined rooms for the click of a button? It is perhaps this fear, this disappointment at seeing our local hang-out shut down, that keeps many people from buying into the thriving online retail market.



“I’m a sucker for nostalgia. The loss of cover art with online sales makes me very sad,” said Boussiba. She went on to explain that clothing and music are opposites when it comes to sentimentality. “Nothing is lost when you buy clothing online, other than those moments in the store, which I don’t miss. In the end, you receive the article you purchased,” she said. “Even more so, as a young mother I’d rather spend my free time taking my son to the beach. Websites like ours allow women and men to shop on their own time, after work, after the kids are asleep. It frees us up.”

A question Boussiba is often asked about is fit. “What if the shirt I ordered doesn’t fit well?” Or “What if I don’t like it once it arrives?” Belle&Sue is more than ready to iron out any kinks in its customers’ buying process. Its customer service staff has a wealth of knowledge about the merchandise and about the buying history of each client.

“If I see that a certain customer bought a size 28 in J Brand jeans three months ago and now has ordered pants from Cheap Monday, I can tell her to go up one size because that label runs small, for example,” said Boussiba. “We also have women who send us photos of themselves and ask for fashion advice, a service we are happy to provide.”

The twins are about to depart for New York Fashion Week, where they hope to fill their goodie bags with pieces that will inspire their local shoppers.

“We go to New York twice a year to choose items for the coming season; then we go through an extensive process of trying on the clothes with our staff, photographing them and writing detailed descriptions of everything, from the color and the cut to what will look best with the item,” said Boussiba.

In addition, the price and size ranges are deliberately wide. “Our cheapest item is a tank top that costs NIS 69. The most expensive is a Charlotte Ronson dress for NIS 1,290, which is an awesome price,” said Boussiba. “It’s important to us to keep the options open, as we have customers of all ages from all over the country.”

To close the interpersonal gap created by the Internet, Belle&Sue is adamant about making the clothing feel accessible to their clients. “All our photos are of real women, like me – mothers and working women who want to look good. We never photograph models because our online market isn’t about that. And we pay a lot of attention to fabric. Our merchandise is comfortable, relatively simple and self-explanatory.

You won’t find anything that would require a salesperson’s help to put on,” boasted Boussiba. “Overall, I would say it’s the most pleasant shopping experience a person can have.”

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