Cyberspace used to be thought of as a territory inhabited
solely by the pocket-protector set _ but with the fashion
industry jumping with both well-shod feet into the Internet, a
modem and a mouse are about to become the latest musthave
Surveys show that women are responding in greater numbers to
the Internet, the international computer network highly touted as
the entrance to the information superhighway. User-friendly
subscriber services such as America Online, Compuserve, Prodigy
and MCI also are noting the trend. America Online estimates its
membership at 70 percent men and 30 percent women, but experts
contend those numbers soon will alter to reflect a 60-40 split.
And the fashion industry is sitting up and taking notice. MCI
recently offered runway photos from the fall/winter collections
in New York in the Mfashion section of its Home Page on the
Internet's World Wide Web (Internet "address":
WWW.internetMCI.com). On-line "chats" with such designers as Todd
Oldham and Cynthia Rowley, a segment on male models, and news
from the shows also were made available.
"Elle" is the only fashion magazine, but one of an increasing
number of women's magazines, to join forces with a subscriber
service, in this case America Online. In addition to the articles
and departments found in each issue. "Elle" Online also offers
features _ reviews of the fall/winter collections, for example _
available only in cyberspace.
"You have to appreciate the power of this medium," said Paul
DeBenedictis, senior vice president and chief financial officer
for Hachette Filipacchi, the New York-based publishing group
responsible for about two dozen magazines, including "Elle."
"There are no deadline constraints, and the lead time is much
quicker. So it's now possible for us to put out daily, weekly
content that's specialized for our consumers and our target
"Elle" Online recently hosted a conference chat featuring
Bobbi Brown, the New York makeup artist and creator of an
eponymous makeup and skin-care line. During the 45-minute on-line
event, 256 subscribers signed on and asked about 600 questions,
ranging from "What is the biggest makeup mistake?" to "Is there a
sure-fire way to find the right foundation color?"
Brown said her conference experience reinforced her beliefs in
what type of beauty advice women are seeking.
"Those questions that most fashion and beauty editors think
are silly really aren't," she noted. "Women want answers to the
most basic questions. I wasn't surprised at all by what they
Ultimately such conferences provide the opportunity for
consumers to enjoy otherwise rare one-on-one contact with
industry professionals. The obvious flip side is that Brown also
reaped the benefits of exposure to an audience that may have been
unfamiliar with her or her products.
With that in mind, would she participate in another
"Oh, definitely," she said. "Elle sent flowers the next day
and has already asked if I'd do it again. …