Amazon has long been a trusted destination for buying pretty much everything, from discount electronics to cheap paperback books and bulk packages of socks. But recently the e-commerce giant has been making moves to take over the online fashion world as well, going beyond simple basics like t-shirts and underwear to become the provider of actual designer goods and even Amazon-made lines of apparel.
Despite the platform’s fashion ambitions, sourcing looks on Amazon remains, for now, a frequently trying task; there’s simply way too much to browse through. All too often, the site’s trusty algorithms churn out endless extremely similar variations on that one shirt you just looked at. Finding interesting and unique pieces on Amazon can easily become too much of a time suck—after most marathon search sessions I always seem to emerge with the same sad cart containing three slightly different white Gildan t-shirts and that eternal six-pack of socks.
Recently the algorithmic powers that be came to my assistance by dropping Fashion Secrets into my lap via Instagram’s Explore page. The account is a compilation of hyper-trendy style picks all sourced from Amazon, and compiled in shopping lists for you to browse. Pieces range from hilarious (bejewelled bras and pink cowboy hats) to actually quite wearable (workwear pants and basic white tank tops).
Fashion Secrets is the work of stylist Keely Murphy; the account began, as so many good Instagram projects do, as a joke. “I’ve always been in the business of finding things online,” Murphy told me via phone from Los Angeles, where she lives. “I used to use eBay, and I still do. But I got into using Amazon because of the free shipping, the two-day turnaround and all the benefits that Amazon has.” She started sending her best finds to friends, and eventually moved on to posting them on Instagram. The account took off from there.
“I look for things that have just a simple design,” Murphy says of her sourcing process. “I look for things that have that sleek, modern-looking minimalism, and then things that I think are really hilarious and happy, in a way—these really crazy, outlandish items that get a lot of likes. I don’t know if they get a lot of purchases.” Of the almost 700 people who liked Murphy’s post featuring a pair of earrings made out of very unrealistic-looking plastic fruits, did any actually buy? Fashion Secret’s tagged post archive reveals that at least a handful of the account’s near-ten thousand fans have hit Add to Cart on Murphy’s picks. Earrings and sunglasses are both obvious favorites—one size fits all and a reliably low price point, they’re fast, easy ways to buy into a trend.
Murphy thinks that the high-speed purchase possibilities conferred by Amazon impact current trends perhaps just as much as Instagram does. After a runway show, she’ll often head online to look for designer dupes. “I’ll be like, ‘That hat was funny. I’m sure there’s something like that.’” Maybe dupe isn’t quite the right word for it—it’s unclear whether Murphy is finding imitations of trends, or actually unearthing their beginnings. “A lot of these high-end designer things do come from the simple silhouettes that already exist, in my opinion.” (As she pointed out in a recent interview with New York Magazine, “The Yeezy 700 Desert Rat is like actually an orthopedic shoe that I posted.”)
Fashion has always been cyclical, but the rapid movement of style online is changing not just how quickly redux trends like these emerge, but also the pace of the industry itself. “It used to be you’d see a runway show and then six months later we get the clothes,” Murphy said. “Now runway shows are shoppable the second they go out—or even a quicker turnaround, which is pretty crazy. It’s definitely scary for all the fashion houses that have been relying on that model. It’s just going to be gone.”
Trends used to be dictated by an elite group of editors, advertisers, and brands, but now anyone with enough followers on Instagram can become a tastemaker. And thanks as well to the rise of e-commerce, you don’t necessarily have to live in New York or Paris in order to become a trusted influencer. While Murphy thinks that Instagram might be able to make fashion more accessible, she also points out that the flip side to this trend expansion is a potential flattening-out of style—a future where every tiny new trend rapidly reaches the mainstream and becomes oversaturated almost instantly.
Wherever they fall on the line between hilarious and hot, the products of Fashion Secrets typically owe their appeal to being caught at that critical moment in a trend’s lifespan where you’re able to spot it on the Explore page and in the depths of Amazon, but it hasn’t quite yet reached the shelves at Urban Outfitters. “Everything is just so fast,” Murphy says, of the current trend economy, “which I think is why Amazon is great, because you don’t want to spend $200 on this trend that’s going to live and die.”
Murphy told me that she had reached out to Amazon, interested in a possible collaboration, “but nothing exactly panned out. They have different influencer and affiliate programs, but actually what I’m doing is sort of unchartered at the moment for them.” The original handle of her feed was actually Amazon Fashion Secrets; while Amazon works with a wide variety of affiliates, from minor bloggers to major publications, it seems they’re not keen on fans making unofficial use of their logo and name. “There’s a copyright infringement element,” Murphy acknowledged, “which I think is what makes it so funny to people online, having the logo and having it say Amazon in it.”
Not long after Murphy and I spoke, I noticed that @amazonfashionsecrets had become @fashionsecrets93. Her new website URL is internetfashionsecrets.com. Murphy let me know that Amazon had finally reached out to request the change, “so as not to confuse customers about my affiliation.” While she’s sad to lose some of the traffic that came with the handle, perhaps the updated, more general name will allow Murphy’s curatorial project to expand into new spaces. She’s considering a future clothing line. “Expanding the web platform part of it is definitely interesting, because there’s only so much you can do with Instagram.”
We asked Murphy to curate a few special fashion secrets just for Format Magazine readers. Browse them below, shop the list here.