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CYBERSPACE | POSTCARD FROM CYBERSPACE / TERRY SCHWADRON

Web's Fashion Sites Stage a Good Show

May 19, 1997|TERRY SCHWADRON

It makes sense that these sites are among the most well-designed, visually captivating information sites on the Web.

They are the Web sites devoted to fashion.

The sites are practical as well as elegant, and they teach about trends and tastes even as they allow us to consider who we are by what we wear and how we adorn ourselves.

Of course, fashion itself and the models who wear the clothes are attractive all by themselves, but what these sites show off is something else about the Web: Elegance in typography, clever use of color, layout planned to draw the eye can so enhance pages that design itself becomes a reason to visit.

Web designers debate just how much electronic presentation should resemble print choices, and the argument is louder among those using both media. What Web fashion pages remind us is that intelligent, artful design can itself drive traffic to a site.

So the pages from Fashion Live (http://www.worldmedia.fr) show off words and photos with lots of white space, type fonts much more common to print than to the Web, a minimum of words arranged in ways that explain--but do not interfere with--displays of clothing, furnishings and even computer links. The presentation complements the content; nothing seems haphazard.

Also attractive is the electronic entrance to the Fashion Mall at http://www.fashionmall.com, a simple presentation of type with guide information that looks perfectly designed for the space of a single computer screen.

Long before the reader hits clothing, then, there is already an inviting setting with a relaxed tone. In fact, this kind of mood might be especially necessary with these sites, because the higher-than-normal use of graphics makes for very slow page loading.

There are a few dozen fashion sites, far fewer than for many other subjects, but enough to reflect diversity in approach and content.

The big magazines and print sources are represented, of course, including Elle (http://www.ellemag.com), which also has separate sites for its international editions, and Women's Wear Daily (http://www.wwd.com). These sites follow the pattern of other magazines on the Web, republishing print content and offering past articles in searchable archives. Women's Wear Daily offers only part of its articles, with more available to subscribers.

The non-magazine sites seem more interesting. They include some electronic magazines, some online shopping sites and clearinghouse sites with myriad referrals to smaller design pages.

Among the best places to start are Fashion Net (http://www.fashion.net), WeWeb, which features design work of all sort (http://www.weweb.com) and the Fashion Institute of New York (http://www.finy.com), as well as Fashion Live from Paris.

It was from WeWeb that I got a link to the Cindy Crawford Concentration Game, for example (http://www.Facade.com/fun/concentration), where the supermodel appears over and over again repeatedly in a photo-matching game--clearly a more lighthearted look at the fashion world.

One learns quickly that fashion is split to a certain extent by geography--groupings of sites pay attention variously to New York, Paris, London and elsewhere. One site, called Total Fashion (http://www.magna.com.au/~slade/fashion.html), reflects work by Australian designers.

Which school of fashion appeals the most depends, naturally, on the kind of fashion/beauty/accessories one wants to explore. For the casual viewer, I recommend a stop by the e-zines Lumiere (http://www.lumiere.com) and Ruse (http://www.ruse.com).

Both feature outstanding photography that takes advantage of digital presentation. There are also digital manipulations of photos that place people in fantastic settings. Lumiere offers the sounder fashion orientation, with reviews, designer interviews, summaries of recent runway shows and more.

A site called Hypermode (http://www.hypermode.com) allows for more interactivity than most. There is a game-like sequence in which the viewer can order up different combinations of clothing, then vote up or down on whether what the computer has presented meets the specifications of "fun" but "not too sexy," for example.

Shopping and ordering are part of what fashion sites offer--though for the moment they rely mostly in banner advertising for revenue. The Fashion Icon site (http://www.fashion-icon.com) is a Day-Glo-green site with cartoonish characters who guide the reader to catalog choices.

The Fashion Mall site assembled a few dozen clothing makers to make it easier for the reader to find a single source for online catalogs.

Purchases generally are available either through online credit card entries or through a toll-free telephone number.

The problem of fitting clothes or conveying the feel of a fabric is something the electronic world has yet to conquer--though many hope that it eventually will through virtual-reality technology.

A recently opened site from Santa Monica displays interesting photography. Piece Unique (http://www.pieceunique.com) revolves around the photography of Catherine Leroy, a former Vietnam combat photojournalist and magazine photographer who has gravitated to fashion work.

The clothes highlighted are all name-designer pieces by Giorgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Issey Miyake and others. The site boasts that the clothes were worn only once for shows and now are offered for sale in a revolving electronic catalog.

For a chance to see the Web used to display brilliant design and information about a topic of interest to many, try fashion. You'll like it.

*

Terry Schwadron is editor of Life & Style and oversees latimes.com, The Times' Web site. He can be reached via e-mail at terry.schwadron@latimes.com

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