At the Skylight Soho in Manhattan, the event was jam-packed with extremely gorgeous people in extremely gorgeous clothing. Guests donned fur vests, oversized eyeglasses, sequins, full skirts, plaids. It was, by far, the hippest, thinnest group this digital reporter has rubbed shoulders with in quite some time (sorry guys). Fashionistas sipped ginger-beer cocktails from porcelain tea cups amidst a trapeze artist, piles of gourmet chocolate, leggy models on pedestals, a giant chess set and an indoor lawn. There was not a single Mark Zuckerberg hoodie in sight.
Toto, we're not in the Valley anymore.
Like the party, the new website, which launched in beta yesterday, bears not a single Google mark. To a web-surfing consumer, there's absolutely no sign that Google has anything to do with Boutiques.com. Gone are the search giant's tell-tale primary colors and, considering the site is after the fashion-forward set with money to e-spend, hiding that link to a tech titan is probably on purpose. After all, while Google is rolling in ad money and beloved for its search box, no one's made a Hollywood drama about Sergey and Larry starring Justin Timberlake.
In that vein, the site is all clean lines and black and white. Shoppers can search for clothing, shoes and accessories within collections curated by celebrities, fashion bloggers and normal people who've cobbled together their own style pages, much like social shopping site Polyvore.
Boutiques.com aggregates otherwise disjointed items from online stores and boutiques across the web and lets users create and share their own looks. If a user wants to buy an item, Google doesn't sell it on its own site, but rather directs users back to online retailers where they can make the actual purchase.
To provide the curation and taste-making that have grown up in fashion rags and blogs, Boutiques.com has received backing from celebrities like Carey Mulligan, Vivica A. Fox, Anna Paquin and Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, all of whom have created profiles on the site and attended Wednesday's event. Past "Project Runway" winner Christian Siriano said the time is ripe for a site like Boutiques.com, which -- if successful -- could serve a latent need. "It's genius," he told my Ad Age colleague Thomas Pardee. "This is the way people are shopping. It's the world of the internet, there's a need for fashion in an accessible way."
Though this celeb-laden, un-Googleness is only skin deep. In all, the site is ostensibly search, just in a more visual and fashion-y package than Google's flagship lists of blue hyperlinks. The project has grown out of the search giant's reported $100 million acquisition of Like.com this summer and borrows that company's enviable, affiliate-fee business model. For driving purchases and clicks to retailers and brands' e-commerce sites, Google collects fees and, when it comes to the cost-per-click or cost-per-action, Boutiques.com is Google through-and-through.
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Contributing: Thomas Pardee