Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once famously said that in order to be a $200 billion company, Amazon had to learn how to sell clothes and food. And while the company has been steadily growing the latter business with initiatives like Amazon Fresh, today it took a step down the catwalk to build up the former.
Amazon has opened up a new photography studio in Shoreditch, London — a 46,000 square-foot venue with 22 photography bays that Amazon says is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and will help it create and add more than 500,000 images of clothes to its sites every year.
The studio is a brick structure that dates to 1850 and was built under the arches of the Hoxton railway line and is leased from Transport for London, the city’s transportation authority.
The site was derelict before Amazon got a hold of it. It has been home to a glass factory and a steam train workshop, both of which seem kind of apt when you consider the fragile and fickle nature of the fashion industry, as well as the machine-like force of Amazon’s growth and ambitions.
The move comes as Amazon is hoping to ramp up significantly in fashion sales both on Amazon.com and other properties that it owns in the UK, France, Italy and Spain. The company says it has added 100 new fashion brands to its platform in 2014, with brands including Hugo Boss, Gucci watches, Emporio Armani, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, 7ForAllMankind, American Retro, Petite Bateau, Levi’s and Lacoste.
Online fashion is very big business in Europe already, with companies like Rocket Internet making large investments alongside the likes of luxury conglomerates like LVMH. Startups like Net a Porter and ASOS have been big breakthroughs, and others like Farfetch now also coming up steadily as rivals. In other words, Amazon is moving into a very busy market.
Opening a studio to shoot items would help Amazon boost its inventory in two ways: by selling more items itself and also helping third parties sell more on its marketplace. The company says between April and June it sold over 30 million fashion products in Europe — although, as is often the case with Amazon, it does not say how that translates into dollars.
“Our aim is to make Amazon the best place to buy fashion online,” said Sergio Bucher, VP of Amazon Fashion EU, in a statement. “The opening of our new fashion studio, in the heart of one of the leading fashion capitals of the world, illustrates our ambitions.”
In addition to photography, the studios will have an editorial suite that will also include video editing and a library, as well as offices for Amazon’s fashion staff charged with bringing more merchants and advertisers to the platform.
Amazon has been a significant force in driving the growth of the tech scene in London, with one big development being a move of its UK offices from the outskirts of London — in Slough, the dreary suburb that was the setting of the original Office series — to a 15-story building on the outskirts of London’s financial centre currently being built to house 5,000 employees.
This new photo studio will add 35 jobs plus another 75 at seasonal peaks. It’s also been trying to position itself as a brand in the fashion world. In February, the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced that Amazon would be a major sponsor of the first-ever menswear Fashion Week in New York this year.