If buying clothes today is about creating a unique online experience, is The Secret Catalog the future of clothes shopping?
The Secret Catalog – a bespoke, password-protected physical and online experience – is the perfect marketing equation of mystery, membership and Instagram aesthetic, to create an experience that feels exciting and special. It’s also competitive; when the online shop launched yesterday, people can buy items on a first-come-first-served basis after ordering the winter catalogue and receiving the password.
The vibe, according to style website Racked, is: “SkyMall meets Kinfolk.” The Secret Catalog’s founder Adrienne Antonson, meanwhile, describes it as “a cosy, joy-filled experience.” The bespoke, limited-edition clothes, accessories and homewares are shot with a warm Nashville filter in soft pastel colours and presented in a stitched-together layout that shares the same fanzine-esque quality of Rookie. This warm and fuzzy feel is underlined by the Hygge-ish theme of the Winter catalogue, Comfort, which seems increasingly important as the year tumbles along. The retro quality is also highlighted by the fact you have to order using a physical catalogue, reminding hipsters of a certain age of the joys of Argos.
Antonson, who runs the company out of B-52s heartland in Athens, Georgia, says she wanted to return to a pre-internet era. “We wanted to connect with customers in a more personal way,” she says via email. “With all the time we spend looking at screens, an object like a print catalogue connects us to something tactile – it helps us stop, consider and be present.”
Traditional methods of buying clothes are falling by the wayside with high streets across the country resembling burnt-out visions of dystopia. As destination shops as diverse as M&S and American Apparel finding it difficult to attract customers into bricks-and-mortar shops, people are looking for alternative shopping experiences, as the success of Etsy and Wavey Garms have highlighted. Antonson adds that, as we live more and more of our lives online, there will be an emphasis on shopping experiences that are more personal. In the future will everyone be shopping with The Secret Catalog? “I think business will try to craft interactions with customers that are customised and original,” she says. With the likes of Gap already offering customised experiences, it seems more than likely.