When we design a new theme, one of the first questions we ask is: who is it for?
With Vogue, our immersive Shopify theme for high-end products and curated collections, we knew we were designing for merchants who want to show their products in detail, emphasize the visual components of their brand, and provide a memorable experience for their customers. Maybe they have a brick-and-mortar store built around a curated aesthetic—and maybe, just maybe, they're looking to transition that experience online.
One of the merchants we were designing for turned out to be Marla Ebell, owner of Victoria’s HOLD General and purveyor of beautiful, understated, ethically sourced home goods. Since opening HOLD in January 2016, Marla has created a beautiful store and coveted brand around one guiding principle: details matter.
But creating an online experience that mirrored the thoughtful, timeless and meticulously designed atmosphere of her physical store wasn’t easy. “It was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” Marla told us. “All the designs were too plain or too gaudy or too trendy or too generic. Nothing felt right.”
That’s where we came in. Since we started working on Shopify in 2011, we’ve helped thousands of entrepreneurs build online stores and launch successful ecommerce careers. Designing, developing, and supporting themes has been hugely rewarding, and we couldn’t resist the opportunity to take things a step further—working alongside a local, like-minded merchant to create the perfect customer experience for their brand.
“In our online store, I wanted to keep a consistent feel that matches the store’s physical space. Having the Vogue theme has helped showcase our emphasis on visual storytelling. It gives proper value to our imagery, allowing the shopper to have a story behind what they’re buying.”
Marla Ebell, Owner, Hold General
From talking to Marla and looking at her existing site (she was using a free Shopify theme), it was easy to see how she struggled to convey her products' value while matching the organic, "morally beautiful" aesthetic that characterizes the store's physical space. That tends to happen when your products are displayed in a generic grid and the editorial imagery you’ve invested in is constrained by a limiting layout.
We also quickly understood Marla's desire to do more with her store's blog . "I want the online shop to strengthen HOLD's identity," she told us. "For it to be a platform to express what we’re passionate about and what we feel is important."
We knew Vogue would do a lot to help Marla achieve both these goals.
With full-bleed photography on the homepage and a continuous product scroll on product pages—a defining feature of Vogue's UX, inspired by the act of browsing a clothing rack—we were able to transform HOLD's online store from a cookie-cutter space into a dynamic but comfortable online environment for customers to enjoy.
"When you walk into HOLD, you instantly feel right at home," says Monika, our Art Director who worked with Marla on the project. "With Vogue, we got to translate that feeling to the online shop—a little corner of the internet where you can scroll for hours, read about local makers, and browse through Marla’s cozy imagery."
Those cozy images found a new home on HOLD's collection pages, which got a face-lift thanks to Vogue's unique lookbook feature. Whereas Marla's previous theme limited her product images to a dull and unchangeable grid, Vogue's lookbook template lets her highlight new or seasonal collections in a uniquely styled offset grid.
The new layout gives customers a more detailed view of HOLD’s products, while also providing a more cohesive representation of the collection as a whole. (Plus, it looks fantastic.)
“Vogue relies heavily on high-quality imagery. Thankfully, HOLD has no shortage of beautiful images, so the transition of Marla’s old site onto the Vogue theme was basically seamless. Her neutral, simple aesthetic blends into this dreamy online space that you get completely lost in.”
Monika Tischer, Art Director, Pixel Union
When it came to the blog section, it was clear that storytelling was important to Marla. She had a section of her store labelled "Stories," which she wanted to share in an accessible and visually compelling way—rather than as an endless stream of words and images like most ecommerce blog templates.
With Vogue, Marla's posts are presented in a striking visual index, fortified by signpost-like tags that offer improved content discoverability. Now she can use her blog to share her product's stories, foster connections with new makers and customers, and slowly and intentionally develop an organized archive of HOLD's history.
It's always a pleasure to see merchants use our designs to increase their sales and elevate their brands. That we got to experience the day-to-day motions of running an online store alongside a local, like-minded business owner made it all the more memorable.
As Marla put it, "Working with Pixel Union has felt like such a natural fit."
Our sentiments exactly.