Google Maps Out Fashion Genres for Launch of Boutiques.com

By Jim Shi November 29, 2010, 1:09 PM EST

Photo: Allan Zepeda Photography

Looking to drum up excitement for its new shopping site, Google appealed to New York's fashion and technology community with a launch on November 17 that divided Skylight Soho into six three-dimensional, prop-heavy vignettes. Marking the debut of Boutiques.com, which Google hopes will help make it a larger force by driving sales to retailers and brands, the Web giant recreated the online portal in festive, physical form that encouraged the 550 attendees to engage in an interactive and multisensory experience.

Under the direction of Mujal Shah, Google Inc.'s director of product management and co-founder of Like.com, Empire Entertainment director of production Jessica Bing sought to build buzz for Boutiques.com by introducing the Web site to a mixed crowd of fashion heavies and tech folk. To help them understand the site's various style categories, or “boutiques,” the event's guest list also included a cross-section of bold-faced names Google had invited to curate these sections, including celebrities like Carey Mulligan and Kelly Osbourne, designers Rachel Roy and Catherine Malandrino, and bloggers such as Sea of Shoes' Jane Aldridge, Bryanboy's Bryan Grey-Yambao, and Style Bubble's Susie Lau.

Using a variety of furnishings, the six themed environments represented each of site's boutiques—from “romantic,” “classic,” and “casual” to “boho,” “street,” and “edgy.” For instance, beaded curtains demarcated the boho section, a spot decorated with leather poufs, thatched low tables, jewel-colored votives, and Middle Eastern rugs. The romantic room, on the other hand, had silk and lace accents, chaise lounges, and birdcages, and the street vignette offered laser graffiti and a seating banquette made from tires and orange cushions.

“Empire worked very closely with the lead creative team at Boutiques.com on every pillow and candle selection, as well as the general look, feel, and theme to ensure that the vignettes were a clear manifestation of each style perspective,” said Bing. The timing posed the biggest challenge, as the entire event was conceived and produced in under a month, with many of the custom-designed elements not finished until less than a week before load-in.

To further articulate the look and tone of each boutique and add another dimension to the experience, the team was also as careful with the selection of entertainment and food. There was music—performances by the Misshapes, Becka Diamond, and DJ Earworm—as well as break-dancers, an aerialist, a fortune-teller, and temporary tattoo artist.

The menu from Creative Edge was equally diverse: The casual area served thyme-infused lemonade with lobster rolls and prosciutto B.L.T.s. Visitors to the edgy section dined on jalapeño-infused fin with pineapple juice and bites of yellowtail ceviche in anise seed cones and buffalo mozzarella pearls served with puttanesca tartare and basil in teardrop spoons. And the classic room passed ginger sweet tea, truffled egg salad tea sandwiches and assorted macaroons.

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