What Alexa isn’t telling you
Being the dedicated follower of fashion that I am (as in following so far behind it that everything I have in the sartorial Narnia that is my wardrobe is probably 20 years out of date, or at least looks it), I am here to tell you that I am intrigued.
There is, apparently, a new gizmo available from the ubiquitous Amazon: a device called an Echo Look that is basically a smart camera to help you get dressed in a suitable fashion. Smartly, presumably. Kind of like a voiceactivated version of the butler who allegedly applies the toothpaste to the Prince of Wales’s individually-crafted Oral B. Or having a finger-wagging personal stylist in your bedroom. We should all be so lucky, as Kylie once almost sang.
It features input and advice from said stylists, “influencers of fashion” and those whose business it allegedly is to help us all make the best of ourselves by telling us how terrible we look without their help and guidance. Like a new best friend who isn’t afraid, in the words of the old ad about personal hygiene (and boy, does that date me!), to tell you what your best friend won’t tell you.
As someone who stopped looking in the mirror about the same time as I stopped buying new clothes, this has limited appeal for me personally but it has nonetheless piqued my curiosity about exactly how the wonders of technology can be applied in this case. I thought this was what mirrors were for.
Look, I’m not saying a bit of wellintentioned help isn’t welcome. I speak as a woman who can’t even make a decision in a restaurant, let alone in the presence of racks and racks of schmutter. We all need a bit of good, old, honest advice occasionally but I would put it to you, m’lud, that a proper chum with no axe to grind might be a better source of truth and a level of kindly tact than a machine bought from a company which is, let’s face it, only in existence to sell you more things you didn’t know you needed until it told you you did.
Suggestions of a choice of outfit based on “what suits you” and “current trends”? Great. Needless to say, you can buy all this suddenly essential clobber from – Amazon. Quelle surprise…
This also, I surmise, comes at a time when the beleaguered High Street as an entity is in even more of a parlous state than ever. Stores are closing left, right and centre at a large human, as well as financial, cost. Unless all these suddenly redundant shop assistants are going to be able to morph seamlessly into “style advisers” and “fashion influencers” for Amazon, which I very much doubt. And now Mr Gary Smith (praise his name!) has successfully challenged the gig economy mentality, at least in the world of plumbing and domestic engineering, they’ll all be wanting totally unreasonable “perks” like the odd day off and a bit of a fiscal safety net when they’re seek no’ weel. How very dare they.
I am not a shopper. Which is akin, in some circles, to saying that I am not a proper woman. But like the aforementioned Prince of Wales, I have people to do that for me, if by a rather more distant form of proxy. I don’t buy very much (and when I do, I expect it to last forever) but I have dear and wonderful chums who make up for my lack of outlay. They Hoover up ladieswear and panic-buy pants like there’s no tomorrow on a regular basis, stashing it away against the day when the world might just run out of bras. Or be hit by a sudden leopard-print boots shortage. All credit to them, I say, even if their credit card companies might not absolutely agree.
Shopping as we know it (or in my case, don’t know it) is changing beyond all recognition. But this is what always intrigues me when people complain that another coffee shop, eatery or restaurant is proposed for a former retail space. “We don’t need that!” they trumpet. “We need more, good stores and quirky, independent shops!” And they’re probably right. Except they’re obviously not buying in the ones already there so what’s to say that if the good ship John Lewis sailed into Reform Street tomorrow, it would launch a whole new world of wonders for those who shop until they drop? And ask yourself this: when was the last time you bought your coffee in Braithwaite’s instead of Tesco? Or your cheese in The Cheesery instead of Lidl? I can’t recall myself, so I’m in no position to blame anyone else.
But having thought about this for these meanderings, I think I might just go out now and do a bit of quirky, independent shopping. After all, if Alexa tells me my bum looks big in whatever I’m wearing, surely small is beautiful must be the only way to go?
Shopping in the real world, and not with the help of an online butler, is, perhaps, more likely to put a smile on your face.