Friday, January 8, 2010

Fashionology—An Unfortunate Retail Failure

Fashionology’s fate was probably sealed a year or so ago when ICSC named it one of the country’s Hot Retailers for 2009. This tween based concept that allowed customers to custom-create their own t-shirts and other apparel certainly had promise and a number of cool elements. But, as we have seen so many times before, there is a huge difference between a promising concept and a successful one. We had just visited (and shopped) at Fashionology and the ideas and flaws were readily apparent.

What was great about Fashionology? The ability for girls to custom design their own clothing brings out the Project Runway in all of us and the high tech and high touch machines made it easy to bring the customization to life. At the end, the customer could have their picture digitally taken with their creation and e-mailed to their friends or posted on the Fashionology site. The store could handle birthday parties and it would be a blast. And yes, we did buy something for our daughter, who said she loved the design.

It’s easy to see how it grabbed initial publicity. However, getting named a “store of the year” or “hot concept” often seems to lead to failure rather than success.

Our visit revealed some gigantic problems. As clichéd as it may seem, the retail adage of ” location, location, location” always seems to come into play. The first (and it turns out) only retail location was in Beverly Hills, on Canon Drive, a good block away from the real (and really expensive) retail activity. But, even had it gotten closer to the heart of Beverly Hills retail, it still would have been the wrong place for this concept, which would have been much more at home and much more accessible to its customers in a mall.

Additionally, it was expensive. By the time we were done “blinging” our shirt and buying a few buttons, we were staring at a $40 + price tag, which is a lot for a girl’s long sleeved shirt. Fun to do once but not necessarily a place to build a wardrobe. Patterns, colors and styles were also fairly limited, which further reduced the overall appeal.

Fashionology announced a January 21 closure. As with many concepts with promise, the fixes may have made a huge difference, beginning with a better location. But, funds obviously dried up and we may never know if there was something lasting here. It reminds us again just how difficult it is to start up a retail concept. Fashionology joins the unfortunate ranks of new concept failures.


  1. It's an interesting story, and always interesting (and very tricky) to assess whether something like this represents true innovation or self-conscious gimmickry. Completely agree this may have had more of a chance as a mall-based idea--kind of like Build-A-Bear meets Runway meets Flat Top Grill.

  2. The idea is good but there is little to no need for sticks & bricks locations. I haven't met a teenager that is not wired in. My girls recently ordered custom Converse tennis shoes on line. You pick all your options online and a UPS box shows up at your door. The fashion trend went through the ranks of my daughter's two schools like a wild fire. Both of my daughters play around with virtual makeup and clothing games. A virtual fashionology may be a better mousetrap. Once those teenagers discover it, they will devour it if it is reasonably priced.

    Mark Nelson
    RFP Commercial