It’s never really that hard to find designer knock-offs, but from what we’ve read, Google‘s new fashion venture Boutiques.com is going to make the hunt for fast-fashion fakes as simple as pointing and clicking. And that might be problematic for high-priced designer labels that have partnered with Google on the site.
Frockwriter reports that the site will take advantage of the image-matching technology Google acquired from Like.com in August to show users products that look like one another — and it won’t just find those items from within what Boutiques.com’s partners offer. The image-matcher will also pull from sources recommended by the 12 bloggers who curate boutiques for the site, as well as sites that pay to be featured but aren’t necessarily partners:
Like the $1365 Alexander McQueen dress with trompe l’oeil jewelled [sic] bodice recommended by The Cherry Blossom Girl? Adjacent to that image, Boutiques.com throws up an array of what it is calling “visually similar” garments at varying price points, which click through to the plethora of online retail partners that are paying a fee to Google to be featured (plus, one assumes, a commission). As we noted yesterday, these include Shopbop, Nêt-à-Porter, Nordstrom, Selfridges, Bluefly and, yes, evidently also Forever 21.
If it sounds like business as usual, rest assured it’s not — this loophole means that Boutiques.com partners Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Sui are in bed with Forever 21, and both designer labels have targeted the fast fashion brand in copyright infringement lawsuits. We don’t know whether Givenchy is a Boutiques.com partner, but we’d bet the company would be a little miffed if its Nightingale purse showed up next to a BCBG Rembrandt.
It’ll be interesting to see whether how much backlash there is over this — and whether or not those seeking high-end products online will willingly be redirected to lower-priced versions of what they were originally looking for.