If you’ve ever ordered something online and it arrived looking completely different, you are not alone. And, this is especially true if you’ve ordered from a high-end retailer like Net-A-Porter.
“In addition to Photoshopping their models, retailers Photoshop their clothes, too,” according to Galore. “At least Net-A-Porter does.”
On March 8, “Net-A-Porter accidentally uploaded a photo of a puffy coat with retouching notes on their website,” Galore continues.
According to the notes, the puffy coat was too puffy; “Please slim” was written with four arrows pointing towards different problem areas on the garment.
“A few hours later, Net-A-Porter realized [its] mistake and switched out the picture, but by then it was too late.”
Net-A-Porter replaced the marked-up image with a similar one; this time, however, the notes were removed and there was no apparent retouching, according to Cosmo.
“We post images that accurately represent the garments so that customers receive the product they expect,” Net-A-Porter told Cosmo in response to the incident. “This image was uploaded to our product page in error and the notes refer exclusively to the garments.”
It makes you wonder, if a luxury retailer like Net-A-Porter can get away with photoshopping garments that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, what are fast fashion retailers getting away with?
But, according to Marine Michel, a former a professional retoucher for a German luxury retailer similar to Net-A-Porter, high-end retailers use photoshop much more often than their low-end counterparts.
“[Low-end retailers] do it way less…I notice these things now when I go on [the] online shops,” Michel tells Galore.
“In the UK we have Boohoo, which is quite cheap, and it doesn’t look that retouched…Maybe a little bit of skin retouching, but [it is] very finely done. The same [is true] for H&M; it’s not that bad. But when you go to luxury retailers, then you realize how much they do it.”
So, what exactly do these high-end e-commerce sites retouch?
According to Michel, it is everything from stains to stitches to zippers.
“[Retouchers make] the clothes look a little better quality and [they make] the fabric look nicer…Sometimes you have this fabric cloth where you can immediately see through it from shitty online shops,” Michel continues.
“When the girl is wearing a dress and she has her legs slightly apart and you can see through the dress, you know [it] is a bad polyester fabric. Well, we would color it in so it would look like nice heavy material.”
“I mean the dress might cost 500 bucks, but it’s still shit quality, that doesn’t change anything. But we gotta sell it, so we gotta make it look good.”
Certainly, there is some level of unethical behavior at play here, but are these practices legal? I spoke with Sophia Bagienski-Mangual, sales manager of a small clothing company and Fashion Institute of Technology alumna, to uncover the truth.
“Photographers definitely touch the photos up big time,” Bagienski-Mangual says. Special, more flattering lighting also plays a large role in the images e-commerce websites use, she says, however, her company no longer advertises.
“When we did shoot some of our styles, we pinched them from the back to make them fit the models better. As far as better fabrics, it would depend on the item itself. If it were a polyester blend, we would [photograph] silk or another high-end fabric.”
As long as the retailers do not claim to sell garments made of silk or other luxury fabrics, they are in the clear. That is, the items’ descriptions on e-commerce sites must clearly state what exactly the customers receive when they order a garment, even if the images themselves do not match the fabric compositions listed.
“We knock-off styles all the time from high end lines; we just pick less expensive fabrics,” Bagienski-Mangual adds.