“How do I find good office outfits with an edge?” one user asks on Itsapark, a site that the clothing retailer H&M Group launched in beta mode on April 3. “I want to look ladylike when going out on a friday evening, but heels always kill my feet, and I can’t really dance in them,” another lamented. “But small black dresses and sneakers? 😫What to do!”
The new site is framed as a place for people with fashion questions to get answers from stylish young women, in Instagram-style posts and videos. Any users can respond to questions with advice, but the focus of the site is on the answers supplied by Itsapark’s roster of what it calls “content creators.”
It’s a bit like the question-and-answer site Quora, if all the answers came from influencers: The answers even look like aspiring influencers’ Instagram posts—photos or videos captioned with style tips, complete with links to buy the products shown, many (but not all) from H&M or its subsidiary brands.
The site has been in development since late last year, Business of Fashion reported (paywall), and offers an example of the different ways H&M is thinking about expanding online. “Changing consumer behaviour and technological innovation will continue to transform how and when people shop,” the brand noted recently in its annual report for 2018 (pdf). “The H&M group is taking advantage of the opportunities created by the digitalisation of our industry to meet customers’ new expectations.”
Those new expectations are often influenced by platforms such as Instagram—which included H&M among the brands whose followers can now shop its products directly through the Instagram app—and the influencers filling it with fashion imagery. They’ve proved a valuable asset to fashion brands, such as Revolve and Fashion Nova, and H&M’s new experiment in Itsapark bears that fingerprint as well, but on its own platform.
Though Itsapark says that’s not what it was aiming for. “We see this as an opportunity to develop a space where people can get honest and personalized answers to their fashion questions,” a spokesperson for the company said. “Expertise is key for all the content creators, not number of followers in social media. In other words, Itsapark is a community driven digital fashion guide, we don’t aim to have an experience tied around the world of influencers.”
On the site, Itsapark says creators receive “rewards” for their work, much as influencers do when promoting brands. Brands often pay Instagram influencers in cash or clothes, such as those they post in their images. “We understand that they need to make a living so for this work they are getting paid,” the Itsapark spokesperson explained. There is also “no incentive to recommend any particular brand,” the spokesperson said, and added that creators receive no commissions for products purchased through the links they post “in the beta version.”
This story has been updated with the comments from Itsapark.