Peacock Parade

The Peacock Parade gives Canadian online shopping a welcome upgrade

They say you can never have enough online shopping destinations. Credit card companies say that. Until you max out. Joining the list of places to overspend your cash fast is the Peacock Parade, a new Canadian fashion sale site officially launching across the country today. With shipping prices at an all-time deluded high, pain-in-the-ass duties and exchange rates, I rarely buy from websites based outside of Canada. I'd rather run out, pay a little more (or, in the end, a little less) and have it right away. But a deal is a deal, and the future of fashion retail is digital. Statistics Canada reports that we spent $15.1 billion buying goods and services online in 2009, up from $12.8 billion in 2007.

Based in Toronto, the Peacock Parade is the product of two Canadians-turned New Yorkers-turned-ex-New Yorkers who realized that we're seriously missing out by not having access to high-end stuff cheap. We can religiously cruise eBay and gamble away our hours on steals from New Jersey or Hong Kong, or surf and look and love at the shops we want to order from like Neiman Marcus, Topshop and J.Crew, but seldom can we get orders shipped north of the border without paying a premium. (Plus, Topshop and J.Crew are coming to Canada in all their glory this fall anyway.)

But the Peacock isn't a store or an auction block or anything other than a really great outlet that's surprisingly in season. The website operates on "flash sale" model, which means daily deals go up at 11:00 a.m. EST and can last up to three days. Quantities are limited, so if you don't act fast, you'll be S-O-L ASAP. There's also another little catch: you need a membership. It's free, but sign-up is required, which will prompt email alerts on what fabulous find should be yours today, and gives you access to other "exclusive" things like trend reports, style tips and designer bios. At the moment, you'll need to request a membership. Leave your email on the landing page and — once you've made it through the waiting list — designer frocks are yours for the coveting.

And that's just it: the major buzz behind the Peacock stems from the labels it plans to parade out online. Founders Jan Gandhi and Nancy Sahota intend to bring international brands to the Canadian masses, labels that you can't really get at such deep discounts (without all the extra paperwork) anywhere other than Holts Last Call — if you're lucky. Think YSL, Prada, Celine, Dior, etc. They're not forgetting about a Canadian competent either, offering city favourites Greta Constantine and jewellery by indie darlings Jenny Bird, Biko and more.

What Grandhi and Sahota are doing is nothing new, though. We've already got a few websites that offer us Canadian goods for cheap and often direct from the designer, like no-membership-required Ukamaku. There are also diamond-in-the-rough websites like Editor's Closet in New York that ship to Canada, offering men's and women's apparel and accessories from names like Valentino, Jil Sander and Jimmy Choo at competitive "private sale" prices.

I'm a member at Editor's Closet and snagged an alligator strap Marc Jacobs watch for $90 CAD all-in just last year. And let's not forget Net-a-Porter, the luxury fashion site that feels like a glossy and is largely responsible for the movement towards universal access to the world's top talent, and soon launched a discount site of its own and, recently, a men's-only portal. And just last month, Canadian-based website Rent Frock Repeat was unveiled to offer small-budget dress rentals from big-budget international designers to Canadian gals for any occasion, with the chance to buy a large number of items on offer once you're done with it or it's run its course on the site. They even have a Toronto showroom.

But once you get past its unfortunate name, the Peacock Parade is actually an inspired idea closer to home that web-savvy, fashion-forward women will eat up. Look for designers like Gucci, Fendi, Bottega Veneta, YSL, Prada, Nicole Miller, Dior and Vivienne Tam (amongst others) to debut on the Peacock Parade over the next few weeks.

Correction (July 21st):

An earlier version of this article stated that Statistics Canada reported that Canadians spent $15.1 billion buying goods and services online in 2010, when in fact those numbers refer to a 2009 survey.

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