The Gap has a new catalog out, but you won’t find it clogging your mailbox. Created by agency AKQA, Styld.by is a digital catalog that taps fashion bloggers from popular sites including FabSugar, Lookbook.nu, and Refinery29, to style and showcase pieces of Gap clothing. Participating bloggers use the Gap items as the foundation of an outfit and showing off the resulting look via photos and brief descriptions.
"We’ve reinvented the catalog with this experience," says AKQA director of client services Simon Jefferson. "And by that we mean it’s digital and constantly evolving and also instantly shareable."
Gap isn’t the first fashion brand to rely on the services of these style experts—in recent years, Burberry teamed with The Sartorialist to create ArtoftheTrench.com, and Coach gave a number of bloggers, including the modman’s Danny Chung, a voice on its brand site. Fashion bloggers have become so influential they simply can’t be ignored by the brands they obsessively cover.
Gap’s chosen fashionistas have a lot of freedom. While the Gap staples they use are the only ones highlighted in their posts, they are welcome to add other brands to the mix when creating their looks. "People don’t wear one brand from head to toe," says Shira Bogart, AKQA group creative director. "It’s a reality, and Gap knows that. So we wanted to create an experience that would show many different style points of view, not just Gap." (To the company’s credit, Gap has a history of this kind of openness—users of Gap’s Style Mixer app created a few years back were also encouraged to mix and match Gap clothing with items from other brands.)
If you see a look on Styld.by that you just have to tell your friends about, you can share it via Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, and Pinterest, and the buttons connecting browsers to these social media outlets aren’t tucked away. They’re right up front, superimposed over the featured clothing items.
In addition to being shareable across a variety of social media platforms, the content on Styld.by also lives on the sites of the fashion blogger/content partners who are creating it, and links take the reader to Styld.by if they’d like to see more.
For now, Styld.by, which launched February 9, is promoting Gap’s Spring 2012 line, and the goal is to keep fresh looks in circulation on the main site, the partner blogs, and via social media. "We want to break the pattern of just doing seasonal catalogs," Jefferson says. "We want to be constantly updating throughout a season, trying to get a constant stream of inspiration going throughout the year, not just four times a year when we launch new product."
And while Styld-by relies on picture posts at the moment, there is more to come. "We’ll update it with potentially new experiences and technology," Bogart says, noting, "We want to be scrappy and flexible with this. We have some ideas where we want to take it, but we don’t want to force our opinions on people. We want to make sure we’re going in the right place, so we want to see how people are starting to interact with it and what they like."