The Genteel
October 17, 2017
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A screenshot of The Collection app landing page.
runway, alexander mcqueen, the genteel, the new york times, the collection, app, application, david walmsley
In-app screen shots from
Alexander McQueen's S/S 2013 show.
Source: The Collection.

Finding useful and relevant fashion apps can be a bit of a chore. Try searching "fashion" in the Apple App Store; you'll be bombarded with dress-up games and a small selection of branded apps - by H&M and Forever 21, for example - with only a smattering of apps offering real fashion editorial or style coverage. Of the fashion publications on offer, magazines like GQElle and Harper's Bazaar require you to purchase every issue and, typically, only offer articles from their print editions. Many apps lack high-resolution images, photo archives and video. But, the New York Times seems to have nipped these issues in the bud with its app, The Collection.

Regularly updated and a no-brainer to use, The Collection aggregates the best of the NYT's print and online fashion content in a sleek online package. The app also includes content from the NYT's sister publications, such as its blogs, T Magazine and the International Herald Tribune. The one caveat, for now at least, is that it's only available for iPad. 

Building on the pictorial prowess of the tablet, the app relies heavily on graphic components to reel in the reader. The app's landing page is an uninterrupted visual collage and in-app slideshows supplement editorials with high-quality pictures. The app includes an embedded video player, allowing for in-app viewing of video editorials, and articles can be shared through Twitter and Facebook without requiring clicking friends to download the app.

Swipe motions between editorials and slideshows move seamlessly, resulting in a fluid experience that feels intuitive and natural. It may not replicate the tactile experience of flipping through the pages of your favourite print magazine, but a physical feel is there nonetheless. For the basic iPad user, touch controls mimic those of most other Apple products, making the learning curve non-existent. At the same time, being available only on iPad suggests that The Collection is not only aiming for a specific fashion-conscious demographic but also one that is technologically savvy.

Given that The Collection aggregates content from a number of NYT sources, one would think dozens of articles would be available on the app each day. Perhaps the newspaper doesn't want to overwhelm its readers?

At a time when print sales continue to drop and print publications are struggling to integrate online, the  NYT is offering The Collection for free - even though most of its other web properties have a subscription portal. It appears that the NYT had planned to charge a subscription fee for access to The Collection, however, it hasn't happened (yet). Similarly, although the app initially launched with advertisements within articles, ads don't seem to appear anymore, resulting in a clean reading experience, free of distracting marketing. Even the NYT logo is used sparingly, greeting the user only when launching the app. And rather than sending you on a wild goose chase around the internet (garnering hits and ad revenue in the process), The Collection's content remains in-app for the most part. Together, these factors make The Collection seem like an entity unto itself. 

Without advertising, a purchase price or subscriptions, it's anyone's guess as to what the motivation behind the app was. Perhaps the revenue stream for the app comes from drawing fashion readers into viewing the New York Times (and its related publications) as their preferred online news source, subscribing through those portals instead.

One personal qualm about The Collection is the lack of menswear-related articles. This is likely just representative of the fashion industry in general and, consequently, the scope of the NYT's coverage. Currently, only one menswear collection is shown in the Runway section of the app (Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown), as opposed to 100+ women's collections. In addition, the app feels slow moving at times; on many days, only a few new posts are uploaded. Given that The Collection aggregates content from a number of NYT sources, one would think dozens of articles would be available on the app each day. Perhaps the newspaper doesn't want to overwhelm its readers? While the lack of articles could be attributed to the vetting process that The Collections team has in place, it's also likely that the newspaper doesn't want to show readers too much content; after all, a paywall is in place for most of the NYT's online content. Nevertheless, a little more content would go a long way in capturing the undivided attention of readers.

Overall, The Collection offers an excellent one-stop experience for fashion enthusiasts and industry personnel alike. It's possible that the app will follow the path of other NYT online properties and eventually require a subscription fee or paywall. Still, it is one of the only fashion apps worth using. Its wealth of editorial, videos and slideshows has positioned The Collection as the premier application for this niche. 

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