Stylists have long scoured vintage racks, dollar stores, sex shops, even Forever 21s and Zara for surprising pieces that might add a little oomph and newness to commercial shoots and magazine editorials. But as of late Amazon, in all its corporate vastness, has become a go-to source for those same young stylists with experimental ideas and tight budgets.
It began, in part, with Keely Murphy, a 24-year-old prop stylist from Los Angeles who started the Instagram @amazonfashionsecrets around December 2017 — though it’s since been renamed @fashionsecrets93 thanks to a cease and desist from the company itself — where she combs through Amazon’s fashion-related offerings and posts her favorites, mixing hyper-trendy pieces with everyday basics. Using a practiced mix of search terms she's found fire-printed du-rags, generic chunky sneakers, a Tesla beanie, and tube socks. Viewed in a single feed, they all come together to prove that whatever’s showing at Balenciaga or Prada is also on Amazon, for way cheaper, if you just know the right keywords.
“Tights and socks were definitely my styling gateway on Amazon,” says Murphy. Back when she had the idea to start the account, she was mostly styling shoots for Jeffrey Campbell, but the brand wouldn’t always provide the necessary accessories. So, scouring Amazon, she put together a kit of items she would bring on every shoot. “I’d get a pack with six types of tube socks in different heights, sheer socks, neon socks, whatever what was available. I built out a range so whatever shoes I was working on I could get creative, layering a lot of lengths and thicknesses.” Those were mostly the basics, but through all of that searching she found the more surprising, unexpected stuff — a tote bag that looks like a Croc, Harley Davidson combat boots — and wanted a place to share those too.
Other stylists started following Murphy, and she’s since noticed items she first posted on her site in other fashion editorials, most recently a British biannual fashion magazine Odda. That shoot, styled by Ashley Furnival, who often works with Rodarte, included a silver-y cowboy hat. It won’t get credited in the magazine, and most people won’t know where it came from, but Murphy recognized it almost immediately. She’d posted it on her Instagram first.
“They would never credit it,” said Ashley Munns, a young stylists based in San Francisco who also uses the site for editorials. “Anytime I or any stylist use Amazon you say ‘stylists own’ or you just don’t credit it.”
It’s primarily younger stylists and magazines working within tighter budget constraints that’ll use the site, Munns says, dryly self-aware: “I don’t think Carine Roitfeld needs to use Amazon. But it’s where I’m at in my career as a struggling young stylist. The bottom line is we all kind of do it, but I think a lot of people are embarrassed and don’t want to admit it. As a stylist, I don’t want to be known as buying on Amazon if I’m supposed to be supporting designers, but it’s OK to mix it in.”
To support herself, Munns takes on a lot of commercial gigs. Because she’s based out of San Francisco, she mostly works for tech companies. Munns says that for just about all of them, and even for the Netflix original show she’s costuming, her bosses insist that she return everything once they’re done using it. Because of its no-questions-asked return policy, that makes Amazon an obvious marketplace.
Ashley Guerzon, who styled FADER’s fall feature with Noname, uses it similarly for her magazine editorials. “If I have a low budget and the freedom to get a little bit weirder on styling, I’ll go to Amazon for sunglasses and accessories that add style elements rather than a fashion name,” she says. Hunting for unusual finds has moved beyond trudging to Goodwill’s and Buffalo Exchanges to figuring out the best keywords that will achieve the weirdest trends and mix of goods. It’s especially useful to stylists working on tight deadlines because while a full day’s shopping trip might result in nothing worth buying — or everything you want, just in the wrong colors and sizes — almost everything on Amazon will ship in two days. Guerzon recently bought all of the Dickies she needed for a shoot on the site. “The same logic you use Amazon to buy toiletries and electronics applies to fashion, especially those who do it professionally to get things you use last minute,” adds Murphy.
As Amazon redesigns its website’s clothing section to look more and more like a department store and pushes its new Prime Wardrobe with NFL primetime commercials, the real beauty of @fashionsecrets93 and the reason so many stylists follow it and shop on Amazon is because it’s a playground for trends. If you’re embarrassed to walk into the Sketchers store to buy a pair of chunky sneakers, have them delivered to your door via an incognito Amazon box. If you don’t want to spend $300 or even $50 on a pair of tiny sunglasses that’ll go out of style by next summer, you’re sure to find a $3 pair (or less) on Amazon. We've noticed it more and more with FADER’s street style column, too, where regular people will credit some of their funkiest, most exciting accessories to the site everyone else uses to buy books.
No one loves that it’s coming from a bazillion dollar company that also mistreats its workers, but at this point it’s almost too big, too convenient to deny. My only guess is Alibaba is next.