What Alexa isn’t telling you

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS OPINION -

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so far be­hind it that ev­ery­thing I have in the sar­to­rial Nar­nia that is my wardrobe is prob­a­bly 20 years out of date, or at least looks it), I am here to tell you that I am in­trigued.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?

Pic­ture: Getty Images.

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.

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