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How Amazon is Using Its Brooklyn Studio to Do Fashion Right

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Photos by <a href="http://peladopelado.com/">Driely S.</a>
Photos by Driely S.

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Amazon is better known for its far-ranging, eclectic inventory and aggressive business tactics than its fashion efforts, but the retail giant is working hard to change that fact. They've recently expanded their operations to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where Amazon has opened the fashion industry's first large-scale photo studio.

Racked visited the studio a few weeks ago to shoot exclusive photos on-site. Nestled deep inside the industrial neighborhood, the 40,000-­square-­foot photo factory resides in what used to be a family­-run glass manufacturing plant. It's a block away from the East River, and one lunchroom offers a breathtaking view of the city skyline. The studio's modern and sleek peripheral is a bit unassuming, considering the North Pole­-like operations brewing inside.

The bi­-level space has 28 bays for styling, shooting and editorial processes, and is fully stocked with everything from photography equipment to video gear to editing material. Clothing racks line the interior, featuring jeans, chambray shirts and more. Models line up to pose for items from all three of Amazon's fashion sites: Amazon Fashion, Shopbop and MYHABIT.

The exterior of Amazon Fashion's photo studio.

"At Amazon, we focus relentlessly on innovating the customer experience, and we approach our fashion business through the same lens. We're always thinking about how we will raise the bar, how we will redefine the way the customer discovers, engages with, and shops for fashion online," Cathy Beaudoin, the president of Amazon Fashion, told Racked. "Our Williamsburg studio is a critical investment in the kind of high-­quality imagery that inspires and educates our customers."

With the studio, the company's overall objective is to give their inventory a more glossy, less stock photography-feel. On average, over 19,000 images a day are shot at the studio, and some 2,400 of those are featured on the Amazon sites.

A photo editing bay inside the studio.

"In fashion e-commerce, high quality imagery isn't just 'nice to have,' it's essential. It defines the total experience. Our editorial inspires the customer, and our product pages—the way we show how clothes fit and move—are our virtual sales associates. Using live models helps show the movement and flow of a garment in a way that is often difficult to replicate with mannequins alone," Beaudoin added.

A shoot in progress.

Amazon has high expectations for their fashion brands. In October, they told the Seattle Times they "want to be a great department store, like Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom and Saks." But a look at some of the brands they are partnering with might suggest their aspirations don't reach high fashion.

"At Amazon Fashion, our goal is to appeal to a broad range of customers who appreciate our vast assortment across trusted heritage brands like Levi's and Pendleton, as well as trend-setting, contemporary designers like Rebecca Minkoff, Rachel Roy, Steven Alan, Jack Spade and Tracy Reese," she told Racked. "Our shoe brands range from designer to athletic, including brands like Kate Spade New York, Bruno Magli, Cole Haan, New Balance, Timberland, and more."

The airy lunchroom.

It's unclear whether Amazon's efforts in the fashion world have been successful thus far; the company is tight­lipped when it comes to details of their business. But a look at the overall success may be some sort of indication. Since the Seattle­-based site first launched in 1994 as a bookseller, Amazon has transformed into a $61.09 billion revenue company (that's as of 2012). In 2006, they acquired the luxury-dedicated retailer, Shopbop, which has become an e-commerce giant. In 2011, the site launched the membership-only flash-sale site MYHABIT, competing with the likes of Gilt and HauteLook.

Loaded racks.

Earlier last week, Amazon Fashion UK (a different constituent from Amazon US) announced more than one million items of clothing and shoes were ordered from their site, making it the biggest week for fashion sales on the site. Currently, Amazon has 35 million active customers shopping for clothing across the globe.

A makeup artist's corner.

Amazon's efforts towards the retail market have worked in their favor, according to investment bank Evercore, which follows Amazon. In October of 2013, Amazon had 400 million unique visitors, according to their data, and the company grew 24 percent over the last quarter.

A model gets touched up.

"We're very positive on Amazon's efforts towards retail in general. They've had a modest success with branding themselves as a fashion destination," one Evercore analyst told Racked. "The company grew 24 percent in the last quarter, and have been growing on a sustained 20% clip since 2004. They haven't slowed in growth over the last nine years, which points to the success of them focusing on what their consumers want."

The gorgeous lobby.

Amazon has not disclosed how much money they pumped into the new photo studio, but did touch on some of their goals. "All of the efforts we have made for this particular studio in terms of technology, scale, and talent are designed to deliver high quality photography and product detail our consumers appreciate, especially when shopping for fashion," Beaudoin said. "With this new studio, we will now have a larger footprint in one of the greatest fashion capitals of the world, which will help us continue to strengthen our relationships across the entire industry—with brands, designers, and creative talent. This is part of our plan to innovate in how fashion is displayed on the site and become the best possible place for fashion brands to present themselves online."