The situation is familiar: You see a gorgeous article of clothing worn by someone on television, but you do not know what the brand is or where to get it.
Now, Shazam’s upcoming fashion ID app, which has yet to be named, aims to solve that problem. The company behind the hit song identification app announced last month its plans to develop an app that can identify any fashion product featured on television and direct you to the brand it came from. No launch date has been announced.
Yesterday, regional online retailer Zalora rolled out a free shopping app on iPhone, which lets shoppers browse the more than 500 brands and 15,000 products that it stocks, on the go.They can receive notifications on new arrivals and flash sales, as well as quick overviews of product details, images, ratings and reviews.
These new creations add to a fast-growing list of fashion and shopping apps. From pure shopping and fashion magazine apps to fashion photo-sharing, closet management and even educational fashion apps, there are choices galore.
Most fashion and shopping apps are free and paid ones usually do not cost more than $5. Retailers are jumping onto the app bandwagon, and with good reason.
Early this year, Adobe’s survey of 1,003 consumers in the United States, called the 2013 Digital Publishing Report: Retail Apps & Buying Habits, revealed that usage of retail mobile apps would see an increase of about 15 per cent this year, with more than 50 per cent of mobile shoppers likely to make a purchase through an app the following year.
Aside from shopping, photo-sharing fashion apps, such as Pose, Fashism and Go Try It On, are also popular. These Instagram-style apps allow users to post their looks, get real-time feedback on their outfits and share their newest shopping buys with one another.
Pose is currently listed under the “What’s Hot” lifestyle category on the Apple App Store and, as of September last year, was reported by online publication TechCrunch to have an international community of more than one million users.
Mr Quek Siu Rui, 25, co-founder of home-grown fashion shopping app Carousell, says: “Fashion apps have evolved from mobile versions of websites to interactive catalogues. They are now becoming more social- and community-focused and user-generated.”
For example, the free Carousell app, launched last August, is a shopping site that lets users buy and sell items within Singapore.
Snapette is another community-based shopping app that not only lets users share their online buys, but also find nearby stores, products and sales offers through location-mapping, mostly in the United States.
It was listed by the International Business Times, an online global business newspaper, as one of the “top 10 must-have fashion apps” in 2011.
Ms Cheyenne Koh, 18, a Carousell user, says: “Fashion apps are really convenient as they can be accessed anytime and anywhere. I also enjoy connecting with a community which has the same interests as I.”
Read on for eight useful fashion and shopping apps.
Free, available on iOS and Android/Launched last August
Marketed as the first of its kind here, Carousell is Singapore’s newest mobile marketplace for people to buy and sell fashion, beauty and lifestyle products from their smartphones.
There are 16 categories, including For Her, For Him, Beauty Products, Design & Art and Music Instruments.
It has amassed more than 40,000 listings since it was launched, with women making up 68 per cent of registered users. More than 60 per cent of the items on sale are women’s products, such as apparel, shoes, bags and beauty products.
Hits: Carousell has a great user interface that makes navigation a breeze.
Each category has three icons – Popular, Recent and Nearest.
Item listings under Popular are curated by the app creators, based on criteria such as aesthetic quality and the number of likes and comments. Recent lets you view the latest item listings that have been uploaded.
The Nearest icon is particularly useful as it lists sale items under each category that can be picked up through meet-ups at a location nearest to you. The kilometre radius can also be adjusted according to your preference.
I was also able to customise my own marketplace by “following” users of my choice and viewing their sale items under the Following category.
Buying and selling on Carousell was a breeze. To buy an item, click on “Chat to Buy”, which allows you to engage in a private conversation with the seller and negotiate a price.
It was fuss-free putting my H&M glitter black sweater up for sale. I just had to upload a picture of it in the For Her category with a brief description of its condition and list a preferred meeting place to pass the item to my buyer. (This last bit is optional if you choose to post the item instead.)
My listed item was then automatically uploaded and within 10minutes, four interested buyers responded. I had put my sweater up for sale at $5.
I was also given the option of posting the item on Facebook, Twitter and ST Classifieds, helping my single Carousell listing reach more prospective buyers.
Misses: Not all the item listings, when sorted out by the Nearest icon in the feed, had a meeting place indicated.
Best for: Those who want to clear out their closets or get some money back on purchases that do not fit or live up to expectations.
Free, available on iOS and Android/Launched in 2009
Chicfeed showcases the latest street-style snaps gathered from six top fashion blogs – The Sartorialist, Face Hunter, Jak & Jil, Cherry Blossom Girl, LookBook and Altamira. Browse through a myriad of photos showing outfits worn by everyday fashionistas from all walks of life.
Hits: The ability to view a variety of looks compiled from all six blogs saves a lot of time as one need not browse each blog individually.
The viewing layout is simple – only one outfit picture is shown full-screen each time in a slideshow format. Swipe to view the other photos, which are all organised individually in a continuous stream.
Misses: It might be better to show a set of smaller photos first, so that users can then pick and choose the photos that they wish to view in full screen individually.
For those who enjoy viewing only certain styles, it can get a bit tedious going through every photo.
There are also no icons to allow one to save or share favourite looks.
Best for: Bored fashionistas looking to kill time or those looking for some style inspiration.
Free, available on iOS/Launched in 2008
Launched by notable fashion website Style.com, the app gives you your daily fashion fix on the go. It offers comprehensive fashion coverage with exclusive runway videos and collections from an array of high-street brands. It also carries photos and reports of fashion events and articles from Style File Blog, a blog section covering style news.
The app is a summarised version of all the main features that can be found on the Style.com website.
Hits: Designed in black and white, the home screen has a sleek and minimalist look.
The app is updated regularly, with ample coverage of the four big Fashion Weeks via runway videos of the major shows, as well as the latest images from more than 100 high-street and designer labels, including Banana Republic, Anna Sui and Louis Vuitton.
The collections shown are extensive and each comes with a detailed review. There is also a separate Men’s Fashion category featuring the latest top menswear shows and collections by season.
Likewise, social events under the Parties category come with photos and detailed reports.
One can also access collections from previous seasons all the way back to spring 2000. Seasons are well-organised and easy to find as they are listed in chronological order.
Users can also vote for their favourite fashion daily moments under the category Look Of The Day, which showcases photos of outfits worn by celebrities and personalities captured at events.
Misses: Only the 10 most recent articles are available for viewing under the Style File Blog and there is no way to view any of the previous articles.
The app lags often and it takes at least a minute to open some pages.
Images under collections from earlier seasons, such as in 2000 and 2001, were also of much lower resolution compared with those in newer collections from recent years.
Best for: Fashionistas who want constant updates and comprehensive trend reports.
$1.28, available on iOS/Launched in 2011
Did you know that intarsia is a knitting technique for yarn? Or that the fancy-sounding boutonniere actually just means buttonhole in French? These are things you can find out on Fashion Terms, a fashion dictionary. It divides terms into four categories – Fashion Terms, Garments, Accessories and Textiles – and offers detailed definitions of each.
Hits: The app offers a rather comprehensive list of fashion terms, ranging from basic ones such as “shirt” and “trousers” to more specific design terms such as “cowl neckline” and “peplum”. It also carries more obscure words such as “croquis” and “muumuu”. The former is a rough sketch of a live model and the latter, a long loose-fitting cotton dress originally worn by Polynesian women.
Terms under each category are arranged in alphabetical order. Each definition includes phonetic spelling of the word so you know how to pronounce it.
Misses: Most terms are not accompanied by illustrations. For example, only four terms out of 30 in the Accessories category have them.
A fashion rookie may have trouble wrapping his head around certain terms without accompanying visuals.
For example, one could easily mistake argyle, which the app describes as “large diamonds in bright colours with contrasting diagonal overstripes” for a tacky piece of patchwork rather than the preppy Scottish patterned work it really is.
The few illustrations present are all pencilled cartoons in greyscale rather than actual pictures.
There are also a few spelling errors, with “sneaker” being spelt as “skeaker” and “sweatshop” as “sweatchop”.
Best for: Fashion newbies looking to beef up their fashion knowledge.
$4.98, available on iOS/Launched in 2009
Stylebook, which has more than 90features, helps you organise your wardrobe by allowing you to import images of all your clothes into the app so you can mix and match pieces to create a variety of outfits, set against a magazine-style backdrop.
With an in-house calendar to mark which look you wore on which day, “Style Stats” that track your most and least worn items, a holiday packing list and more, this app is perfect for those with overflowing closets who want to plan their outfits for any occasion.
Hits: The abundant features make the app worth the price.
The biggest highlight is the option to remove the background from images of your clothes, allowing users to drag different clean images together to create a variety of outfits on an appealing magazine-style layout.
The official Stylebook website (www.stylebookapp.com) offers easy tips on how to take good pictures and then, how to remove the background from clothing images, using the background removal tool provided.
The app also lets you browse through items from more than 7,000high-street and designer labels, which can be bought via featured online stores such as Asos and Net-A-Porter.
Misses: There were a few instances when my actual clothing and product images were slightly cut off upon using the background removal tool, even though I had followed the instructions on the website.
Best for: Anyone who has more clothes than she knows what to do with and wants to milk the most from her overstuffed wardrobe.
Free, available on iOS and Android/Launched last May
Want to get the same pink patent peep-toe wedges worn by your favourite blogger? Turning fashion inspiration into reality has been made easier with Fashion Kaleidoscope, an innovative app that combines fashion and shopping with a twist.
The creators personally photograph and select outfit images from street-style fashionistas, fashion bloggers, fashion editorials and fashion shows from around the world.
Users can then view their favourite outfit images and “shop the look”, as the app sources for products from stores that match the items worn in a particular image.
Hits: Fashion Kaleidoscope has a good user interface that shows a set of photos on the home page and allows users to pick and click on those they would like to view in full screen. They also have the option of sharing favourite looks on social media platforms Pinterest and Facebook.
I was impressed by the app’s ability to generate similar products for most items featured. It also offers a range of price points per item – from affordable to pricey – as well as alternative options. By clicking on the specified product image, users will be taken directly to the retailer’s website, where they can buy the product online.
Misses: Clicking on more unconventional items, such as those with elaborate printed designs, generated few or no similar products.
Best for: Shopaholics in need of style inspiration from trendsetters
Free, available on iOS and Android/Launched in 2011
Described as the “Instagram” of fashion, Pose is a photo-sharing app that lets users upload snapshots of their outfits and beauty and shopping finds.
You can like and comment on photos posted by celebrities, brands and fashion bloggers in a worldwide fashion community of more than onemillion users.
Hits: Unlike Instagram, which shares photos of all nature, Pose is filled only with fashion content and would please users interested in viewing other people’s outfits.
The app is well organised with five streams – your main stream shows poses from users you follow; Activity shows poses liked and saved by users whom you follow; Shop shows items in poses that can be bought; Featured shows images selected by the app’s creators; and Popular shows recent pictures which have garnered the most number of likes.
Misses: Several photos in the five streams overlapped, making the flow of pictures rather repetitive at times.
Best for: Instagram junkies who love posting and sharing their outfit of the day (#ootd) with a wide audience.
$2.58, available on iOS/Launched last January
Featuring audio pronunciations and the phonetic spelling of nearly 300 brands and designer labels, this app teaches you how to pronounce complex-sounding fashion and beauty brands. No longer will you fluff up when saying “Yves Saint Laurent” or “Kiki De Montparnasse”.
Hits: Brands are well-organised in alphabetical order in a sleek brown and white layout. Rather than having to scroll through the entire list, the search bar on top allows you to type and find certain brand names instantly.
Every brand has its own audio pronunciation and phonetic spelling guide. All audio pronunciations are crisp and clear and can be played again with the click of the play button.
Speak Chic also has a section titled “15 essential fashion pronunciations” – a list of popular and iconic fashion names which includes Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin and Rodarte. Each name or term on this list comes with useful detailed information on its history and origins.
Misses: With only a few features, the app is a tad pricey.
The detailed information offered on the “15 essential fashion pronunciations” list should be extended to all the brands so users can learn more.
Best for: Those who frequently embarrass themselves by tripping over difficult fashion names.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on April 26, 2013. For similar stories, go tosph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.