Fashion Retailer Emails Don’t Have To Be Disaster Zones

If there’s one industry that struggles with producing beautiful, mobile optimised emails it’s the fashion industry. I get it. Email is restricting and confining. You’re “not allowed” to use your on brand fonts. It’s all about the clothes and photography. So just make the entire email image lead. Right?

No. Compromise just a little bit and any major fashion retailer, design house or label could produce some fantastic looking emails.

Currently, one of my favourite fashion retailers who are getting it right with their emails is H&M.

H&M you do well with your emails. (See full email)

As with the majority of fashion retailers, the emails are mostly image based. And big images at that. Which is to be expected. They’ve spent a lot of money on the photo shoots and they need to make the most of all the images they’ve now captured. And what sells lovely pieces of clothing more than a model showing it all off?

But, and you can only do this if you’re on a retina-resolution device, look at how crisp and sharp those images are! All retina-ready images! Yes, they’re huge and scaled down to fit in the email. Maybe they’ve done their research and their research has found that their customers are mostly Apple users? These lovely big images really sell their products. And that’s what a retail email has to do – SELL.

Look, they even throw some animated GIFs in there for you. (See full email

One of my initial complaints in fashion emails is a lack of live text. While H&M’s emails doesn’t have a lot of live text, what they do have, they’ve done some really great things to.

Use of the serif Didot font in the titles combined with the standard sans-serif Arial is a brilliant. Arial has been really cleverly used. An all-caps version for the navigation, then playing around with the letter spacing for subtitles within the email. Subtle. Clever. I like it.

My only real complaint on the emails from H&M are that they’re adaptive rather than responsive. I’m a sucker for a good, fully responsive email. And H&M’s aren’t that. They adapt for a narrower mobile device and that’s it. Which is fine. Perhaps that’s their audience, I don’t know. But today, with so many devices available with so many different dimensions, it might just be a better idea to be responsive rather than adaptive to future-proof your emails a little bit.

Another firm fashion retailer email favourite of mine are Mr. Porter’s emails. They are SLICK. They employ a lot of the same things as H&M’s emails with the creative use of standard fonts everyone has on their computer. Retina-ready images. They also do my one favourite thing. They’re responsive!

Mr Porter
A really well put together fashion email. (See full email)

Content is scaled down perfectly with a great full width navigation popping up at the bottom of the email for the very small resolutions. No content is hidden and the only “new” content is said navigation.

While Mr. Porter’s get it so very right with their responsive emails, it’s a shame that their sister/parent site Net-A-Porter don’t hit the nail on the head with retina-unready images and pretty much zero live text. Trying to click on the navigation on a smaller mobile device must be HELL.

Can barely read that in my Macbook Pro let alone Nexus 4. (See full email)

Fashion retailers don’t have to sacrifice anything to produce some high quality emails that still show off their wares to their best customers. But prepare for some compromise. While we can use web fonts in emails, you still need an appropriate fallback font. Use your high quality images. But remember to optimise for email – reduce image file sizes down with the likes of ImageOptim. It can be done!

What do you think? Do you have some favourite fashion retailer emails? I’d love to see them! I’ve shown you mine, show me yours.

5 thoughts on “Fashion Retailer Emails Don’t Have To Be Disaster Zones”

  1. You sure do pay attention!!!!! Thanks for pointing out what works and doesn’t. For sure using fonts that every device has is a major plus in keeping your brand in-tact. And yes, Net a Porter is too jumbled to be effective on a mobile device. I don’t know what other retailers catch my eye simply because I don’t read their emails unless I’m looking for something specific. But H&M, I do love.

  2. What an amazing write-up!

    I can totally understand why so many emails coming from fashion retailers and magazines are so image-heavy. Like you said, so much is invested in these amazing photoshoots, and also they are used to having such granular control over layouts in glossy print. It must be incredibly frustrating to make the jump from elegant print to ham-fisted email. But I think that Mr Porter email is a fabulous example of how you can blend an email-friendly layout with fashionable design sensibility. It’s such a good example.

    1. Thanks Nicole! 😀

      Since writing this, alongside Mr. Porter’s emails, emails from Finery London are fast becoming a favourite of mine too. Crisp and clean and well designed emails. You should check them out.

  3. I like these two also, Paul Smith includes some live text: I had a hard time finding retailers to include in my type study due to a lack of live text, but I did end up with 5-10 that also use responsive/adaptive layouts. Like you mention it can be done and still look slick.

    An interesting one I came across was by Kurt Geiger: it goes from an image-based hero image on desktop to live text on mobile (webfonts also), possibly a bid to retain brand fonts everywhere. I’ve a similar one from Nike…

    1. Great finds, Anna. Fashion retailers are moving forward – some faster than others. I’d really like to see more of them pushing themselves and evoling their designs. After all their websites evolve, their emails should too.

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