I originally wrote this piece for the UCC Motley Magazine, where it was published in this months issue but seeing as it’s quite relevant to the content of my blog I wanted to share it here too!
In July 2014, actress Blake Lively began her entrepreneurial adventure – a fashion and lifestyle website called “Preserve” that was going to be “part magazine, part e-commerce hub, part philanthropic endeavor” by connecting makers and users of Artisan goods and sharing the stories behind their sourcing and production.
Just over a year later after its hyped release date, and Lively has announced the closing of this venture, citing the reason that Preserve did not meet her vision or expected potential. In hindsight, however, surely this isn’t the only reason behind this surprising move.
Preserve set out with the intention of filling a gap in the market for a cultural connection with the goods and clothes we use as consumers. The immediate thought is that this gap could be said to be filled already by Gweneth Paltrow’s “Goop”, a website set up in recent years with almost identical intentions. Both contain multiple features such as life advice, inspiring stories, home decoration features and, of course, fashionable clothing. What stands out the most about Preserve, howerver, is that it doesn’t seem to know how to fill the gap it’s aimed to fill, leading to a confusing experience for the reader.
The failure of this project to take off also symbolises something about the fashion industry. While there are still a minority of people willing to pay big money to dress like a celebrity, buying into the celebrity endorsed name, nowadays the fashion industry has changed and people desire a “fashion independence” inspired by street style worn by bloggers, you tubers and fashionistas rather than simply copying a celebrity. This desire for originality has also inspired a tendency to buy cheaper alternatives, often featured in blog posts and making many consumers more satisfied to find a €20 alternative on Opera Lane than to wear Blake Lively’s $800 jeans.
A vital flaw made in this project was the marketing. Blake Lively has admitted herself that Preserve was launched too soon, without rooted foundations and network support, but on top of that the promotion for Preserve was next to non-existent apart from piggybacking on Blake Lively’s name as an actress, something she specifically stated she didn’t want. It seemed from the start that the main reason to buy items from this website was its association with Blake – not a promising beginning. The website failed to stand by itself for this reason, and never fulfilled its potential. Another major marketing error was the design and aesthetic of Preserve – vintage filters, cheesy and somewhat clichéd messages and retro inspired fonts try to create a nostalgia for the past but ultimately fail at this too as it lacks the vital sense of community, the whole process feeling very “let the peasants eat cake”.
Preserve’s content for sale is described best as “overpriced artisinal nonsense” – a $64 bandana, a $68 t-shirt saying “the scouts are out” with a picture of a Native American on it (“cultural appropriation” jumps to mind but that’s a whole other article),a patterned skirt for $168. Non- fashion items include overpriced hipster ketchup ($7), a $20 spoon and, a personal favourite, a “Porter Cycling” bicycle basket (basically a glorified crate) for $95 – which is available on Ebay for 99c. Readers aren’t being sold on exactly what’s so special about this t-shirt for $68, maxi skirt with a (much) cheaper twin in Penneys, or the bandana which could be sourced for $3 elsewhere – other than the fact that it’s on Blake Lively’s website.
Blake has confirmed in an interview with vogue.com that Preserve will be closing as it’s “not making a difference in people’s lives”. While the whole thing seems like quite a confused effort to do so, it comes off as a sensible move to call it a day at this stage instead of labouring the effort until it falls apart completely. And as for the new project she’s been dropping hints about in interviews? I, for one, am excited to see exactly what it’s about.
I was delighted to see this in print in Motley Magazine – and I can’t wait to contribute again in the future!