It's OK for intellectual feminists to like fashion

Blog title from Hadley Freeman's book The Meaning of Sunglasses : "Prada styles itself as the label it's OK for intellectual feminists to like".

The author is a bilingual fashion editor, writer and translator with a serious blog, cinema and magazine habit.

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Email: fashionmemex(at)

When I was a child, around this time of the year, my mum would put catalogues from toy companies and stores on the kitchen table and my sister and I, armed with scissors and glue, would cut and collage our way to a Dear Santa letter. I am not sure we believed Father Christmas would read it but I retain fond memories of this early Advent tradition, which was usually accompanied by the sound of soup stewing in the pressure cooker. It meant “Christmas is coming” more surely than the festive lights being switched on in the city or the trees in display windows.

Although I definitely do not believe Father Christmas will read my Christmas wish list anymore, I have been trying to find a more elegant way to send gift ideas to my family than an email with loads of hyperlinks. 

I settled on a Pinterest board for a few reasons:

1) It somewhat reproduces the feel of my childhood Dear Santa letters by being mostly visual-based. Pinterest could develop the concept by offering alternative backgrounds to its uniform grey, especially during the Festive season. Some users have already created Dear Santa boards, though they are more for photos of actual letters to Santa rather than present desires.

2) It is easy for the board recipients. Say you are after an Alex Monroe necklace (a random idea, of course). You can pin it straight from the site where it is sold. If members of your family live abroad, you can find it on a site which delivers to the country where you will spend Christmas together. You can even add prices to pins so everyone knows what they are getting into. It takes away part of the fuss of gift purchasing; making the chore easier probably increases the chance of you getting what you want. It might not be a LEGO set anymore, but this is the aim of the Dear Santa letter.

3) It can be updated throughout the year and only shared in the run-up to Christmas. This avoids the “Mum do you remember that thing I said I wanted for Christmas back in July? No? Me neither” conversations. Unless it’s my mum of course, she is so organised she would have actually bought that thing in July.

A pinned Dear Santa letter isn’t without a few issues. Making your board available to others could reveal, for instance, an interest in a cheesy 1970s French TV series about a Nordic princess falling in love with an ambassador (another random idea, of course), which you might not want the whole world to know about. The secret feature Pinterest launched this time last year to enables users to track present ideas discreetly, but what happens if some family members are not on Pinterest and don’t want to join?

Another issue, if a board is shared with multiple family members, is how each person will know whether a present is still available to purchase. We can assume some will talk to each other, but it would be helpful if Pinterest could create an easy way to signal something is taken, ideally without forcing them to sign up to the site. On a much larger scale, this could be useful for wedding lists, a huge Pinterest demographic.

Since Pinterest has been working towards monetising its platform, for instance with promoted pins, how can brands integrate the Dear Santa concept in their marketing strategies and drive sales in the process?

1) Pinterest contests have become a part of most self-respecting social media strategy with user generated content. In June, jeweller and luxury watchmaker Piaget, celebrated its Rose collection, Piaget, by asking customers to follow, its official profile on the site, and create a new board called “La vie en rose”. The result? Additional followers and conversation generated across social media. The concept could easily be adapted to Dear Santa letters: pin everything you want from brand X for Christmas, maybe with the added incentive that a few users could win the contents of their board. Or, there could be evolutive boards: a brand encourages followers to pin articles, to take photos of the present being unwrapped, and then of themselves using it. This could provide good cross-platform user engagement in combination with Instagram and Twitter.

2) For a company, having an item pinned is one thing, but the real money comes with conversion. Pinterest represents over a quarter of all social media sales, and in 2012, the average order value was nearly double that of Facebook. Although brands might be happy you want their product for Christmas, the actual spenders, in this case, are your family members. This is a unique chance to convert them to the brand so initiatives like free shipping for customers coming from Pinterest would be appreciated.


Posted at 4:39pm and tagged with: Social media, Pinterest, christmas,.

Pinterest is a picture-based social network. And despite all the traffic-generating promises it held, my blog is so not picture-based I couldn’t see how to use it. But I signed up because, eh, better make sure I owned my name on it. And once I had signed up, I started using it because, eh, better not waste a traffic opportunity.

My first instinct was to pin my "Which" posts. Built with nothing but photos around an elected theme, they make for rather nice, unified boards, as well as being identified by my Google Analytics as my most traffic-generating entries. But they’re limited. Pinning these posts taught me that a successful board is one which can be expanded with time rather than relying on the few pictures previously selected for a post. In the future, I could see these boards being useful to pin all the fashion editorials and movie stills I find while researching, but end up casting aside due to sheer volume.

In an attempt to build traffic, I’ve also started monthly boards pinning all articles I write, but Pinterest doesn’t really work that way for me: over the past 30 days, the social network has only brought me five visitors. None spent more than 1:30 minutes on the blog, with a bounce rate of 60%. People seem to consume visuals on Pinterest itself, rather than clicking through links.

My second move was to use Pinterest as a way of displaying the Fashion Abecedaire world, going to the reader rather than bringing the reader to me. Social networks are all about bragging and showing off to people how much greener life is your side of the fence. In that spirit, my Twitter feed could be summarised as “look how cool and extensive my readings are”. So I started a board "In praise of stripes", because I love showing off about how many stripes I own, another one on my readings as a way to take over my (mostly defunct) book review category, because I love showing off how much I read, and another one on stationery, because I love the idea that I send a lot of letters. In terms of Liking and Repinning, these are my most successful boards.

My third usage of Pinterest is for research. I used it that way for the first time when writing about the sad demise of Beatrix Ong. I found it a great tool to gather all interesting links in one point and to get an easy overview of her work and marketing strategy in one place. At the moment, I have two posts in the work, one on new French ballerina shoes brand Avant-Minuit and one on the role of fashion in The Bell Jar, and the boards to prove it.

My fourth discovery was that Pinterest was a great way to penetrate other bloggers and fashion cognoscenti’s creative and visual world as well as giving an overview of how brands want to be perceived. It also allows for a glimpse of what people are interested in on any given day, is good for trend forecasting and could be useful in coming up with blog post ideas on one of those inspiration block days.

You can follow me on Pinterest at Lucie M (fashionabcdr) - Fashion Abecedaire was too long…

Posted at 5:45am and tagged with: Pinterest, blog, technology, first person,.