The New Age Of Accessories: Part I

From those YSL caged booties to Louis Vuitton’s doorknob-sized beaded hoops, it’s clear that we’re entering a new era in accessories design. Although every recent season has had one or two notable “It” pieces, recent months have seen a rebirth of categories that had started to feel a little stale.

A red sole is no longer enough to make a statement shoe. Now your feet aren’t worth walking on if they aren’t clad in their own miniature sculpture—from Dior’s carved tribal heels to Proenza Schouler’s steely, architectural platforms. Similarly, spring’s status bags have traded their logos and hardware for luxurious simplicity—the better to show off the season’s coveted craftsmanship and timelessness. Jewelry, too, has moved beyond the confines of bling, giving a nod to the costume jewelry of yesteryear and all of its flamboyance, craftiness and wit.

For the next few weeks, we’ll closely look at the two categories that are undergoing the biggest renaissance, jewelry and shoes. But first, we’ve decided to examine the medium by which their meteoric rise is being charted: the accessories press.

Ever since the dawn of the “It” bag, accessory-centric publications such as Italy’s Vogue Gioiello and Vogue Pelle, WWD Accessories, L’Officiel 1,000 Modeles and Elle Accessories have proven to be solid elements of their publishers’ stables given their inherent ability to attract luxury advertisers and an audience that primarily uses each issue more as a buyers’ guides than for each article. But as magazine advertising pages continues to trend downward, this longevity seems uncertain. Elle Accessories, for instance, recently announced a reduction in publication to one issue for 2009, a decision that spokesperson Erin Kaplan attributes to “an industry-wide focus on core business.” She added: “That said, our long-term plan is to continue to support the accessories category wholeheartedly with a significant amount of editorial pages, through marketing programs and through new business endeavors such as the ELLE Dailies newsletter.”

In light of the economic climate, many brands are devoting more advertising dollars to the web, where a host of niche accessory sites provide cost-effective, highly targeted ways to achieve impact. One such portal is Shoetube.tv, a “video magazine” and online shoe community that debuted early in 2008. From “Shoe of the Day” segments to interviews with designers and video uploaded by users, each section of the site is tailored for the footwear-obsessed—an element that’s catching the attention of many footwear brands. “With the state of the economy, advertisers are forced to try something new and innovative to get the most out of their media buys,” says Katie Losito, Director of Sales for Shoetube.tv. “Niche sites like Shoetube.tv provide a lot of bang for their buck—a built in community of women who love shoes, as opposed to a more general fashion website or magazine that might only attract a quarter of the response.”

For a fraction of the price of most print ads, Shoetube.tv advertisers are privy to interactive campaigns that run throughout the site’s pages. Nine West, for example, is hosting its own branded boutique, while new label Dani Black sponsors “Daily Shoe” video segments and runs regular contests on the site’s pages, allowing visitors to interact with their brands in a way that isn’t possible in the one-dimensional print sphere.

In addition to the big guns, there’s a growing cadre of independent blogs that look at accessories from a highly personal perspective, providing brands with that all-important word-of-mouth cred. Outstanding upstarts such as Sea of Shoes, Shoes Mend Hearts and Bagaholic Boy all have the quality of content and cult following to start attracting the attention of the brands they cover.

But for now, at least, their work is a labor of love. “I’ve chosen to be independent so I can write what I want, the way I like it,” says Alvin, editor of Bagaholic Boy. “Sometimes I’m too blunt with my reviews, which brands may not like—but my readers certainly do!” It’s a mindset that’s sure to make the world of accessories become even more interesting in the coming days.

—Mary Robinson




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