Gilt Groupe's new men's website, Park & Bond, is disappointing but has potential
New York based Gilt Groupe has taken the fashion and luxury goods industries by storm since its 2007 inception. The site, which operates on a flash sale model, allows users to buy men’s and women’s clothing, housewares and even hotel stays at significantly reduced prices.
Women caught onto the bargain-hunting site rapidly, but recently, Gilt has been working to expand its male customer base. In 2009, the company separated its men’s offerings by establishing Gilt Man, and the subsequent style blog, Gilt Manual. Shortly thereafter, they started putting together an all-star team of menswear stylists and journalists, beginning with former men.style.com fashion editor, Esquire writer and street style icon Josh Peskowitz.
Since then, the menswear offerings on Gilt have continued to improve, as has the editorial content on Gilt Manual. Gilt’s big advances in the menswear world started to make sense in June, when it announced its latest venture: A full-priced website that would be part e-commerce and part editorial content, not unlike Mr. Porter, also launched this year.
Executives said they chose the name Park & Bond because the Manhattan intersection epitomizes the merger of downtown and uptown style. Things got even more interesting when it was announced that Nick Wooster, former men’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, would be a consultant for Gilt Groupe and Park & Bond.
I pretty excited for the website’s potential, considering that two of the most exciting minds in menswear would be running the show.
And Monday, when Park & Bond went live, I was left feeling extremely disappointed. To begin with, I’m having a hard time determining what type of customer the site is attempting to appeal to. Mixed in with high end, avant-garde designer lines like Thom Browne and Junya Wantanabe is Diesel, 7 for All Mankind and John Varvatos. And on top of that, of the moment lines currently found in specialty menswear boutiques like Gitman Vintage, Common Projects and Woolrich Woolen Mills are also available for purchase.
It’s not that I have a problem with mixing price points or aesthetics: One of Park & Bond’s primary competitors, Mr. Porter, is able to buy Lanvin, J. Crew and Margiela and feature them side by side, often together. But despite Josh Peskowitz’s knack for street style, many of the site’s looks are styled in a way that’s both ugly and unrealistic. One model, for example, is depicted wearing Diesel jeans and a Woolrich Woolen Mills vest, despite the fact that most consumers interested in WWM most likely detest Diesel.
While I respect that an a large-scale online operation like Park & Bond must make money and relies on commercial appeal, the reality is that people can buy Diesel and John Varvatos at Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue. In order for an online site to be compelling successful, it must include the right mix of commercial products, unique products, interesting editorial content and digital components.
Park & Bond has some unique products but the brand list is somewhat overwhelming and the selections are poorly curated. The editorial content isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not unique – in its current state, it’s a compilation of standard men’s magazine fare: articles about dress shoes and liquor. And the web design and photography are definitely lacking.
Some of the P&B shops are interesting, particularly the vintage clothing one curated by Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs of Street Etiquette. The watch collection is also pretty outstanding.
I have high hopes for Park & Bond, and I think it has the potential to be a great site. I just hope that, as the site progresses beyond the current season, the buy and the styling both get cleaned up a little bit.