Carey Mulligan and Kelly Osbourne are among the style-savvy celebrities recruited to an internet giant's new fashion website, which lets women create their own virtual boutiques stocked with clothes from favourite designers.
It is the virtual shopping centre to end all shopping centres - and it's open 24 hours a day. This month, just in time for the Christmas rush, internet commerce is sashaying forward with two new ventures in fashion that could change the way women - and the occasional man - buy their clothes online.
Last week in New York, Google launched boutiques.com, its latest e-tail venture that ties in two Western cultural passions - celebrity and fashion.
Essentially a huge web mall full of individual stores, but with the benefits of search engine technology attached, it allows people to look for clothes by genre, silhouette, pattern, shape and size. Consumers will, say the creators, be able to run their own personalised boutiques by drawing up lists of their preferences, following celebrities and designers, and by teaming up with "taste-makers".
Throwing their slight weight behind the new site are style-savvy celebrities including Kelly Osbourne, Iman, Ashlee Simpson and Alexa Chung who attended the launch party last week.
So far the star whose style is being most closely scrutinised by Americans is the British actress Carey Mulligan who "curates" a boutique on the site alongside others including Anna Paquin, Ashley Olsen, Nicole Richie and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
All are women with faithful followers among the readers of the glossy gossip and fashion magazines which have long abandoned expensive model fashion shoots for pages of pictures of what the well-dressed celebrity is wearing, whether at a party or on a coffee run.
Google is keeping the site, aimed at 13- to 34-year-olds, predominantly about high-end designers as it propels itself on to a booming online fashion catwalk alongside eBay and Amazon.
The team behind the venture says boutiques.com is a commercial attempt to create a kind of order for women who feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of choice they are given both on the high street and by the average fashion e-tailer. These consumers, goes the logic, want to buy clothes they know to be fashionable, and celebrities have long proved themselves more influential in leading the trends than designers and models.
For those who are unsure about creating their own style, boutiques.com will throw out recommendations and match up outfits. It will also remember if you hate polka dots or balk at pleats and test you out with various images and outfits to get a measure of your taste.
"In fashion, there are lots of choices. If there are, say, 500,000 items in a store, that means there are literally billions of different combinations of outfits you can make with those items," explains Munjal Shah, a Google product management director.
"How do you sort through all of this? This site had to be a collaboration.
"First we partnered with taste-makers of all types. We asked them not just to curate 10-50 great items they loved, but also to teach our site their style and taste. They did this by telling us what colours, patterns, brands and silhouettes they loved and they hated.
They took a visual quiz that taught the site to understand their style genre: Classic, Boho, Edgy, etc. Our algorithms use this information to enable you to shop all of the inventory in the style of that taste-maker, on top of the 50 items they have hand-curated," she says.
"These days bloggers, stylists and everyday fashionistas are expressing their sense of style online. We invited them to create boutiques so people could shop their diverse styles.
"But you have a unique and independent style too, so boutiques.com also lets you build your own personalised boutique and get recommendations of products that match your taste."
Features on the site include filters as well as visual searches, which analyse the photograph of a clothing item and then return similar items.
Consumers can also pull up outfit ideas to the right of the search results, and you can complete looks using style rules, which suggest items that match.
For all its innovation, however, Google does not have the monopoly on internet fashion retail. Later this month the hugely successful, London-based fashion site Asos is expected to launch another new and different site aiming to shake up the way shoppers buy and sell clothes.
Asos began its multi-million-pound business by featuring photographs of celebrities then offering for sale similar but cheaper - or sometimes even the same - outfits with which young women could copy the "look".
Now Asos Marketplace, described by some as a blend of popular fashion blogs and the online auctioneer site eBay, will allow people to sell both their own designs or their second-hand clothes alongside the big retail names. It could provide a boost for Britain's young designers by showcasing talent, although with 34,000 items already for sale on Asos' main site it remains to be seen how the keen-eyed Asos Marketplace shopper will be guided through the huge selection bound to be found on the e-rails.
With up to 80 per cent of internet users in Britain expected to do at least part of their Christmas shopping online this year - and, like all of us, many expecting to be keeping a particularly tight hold of their budget - the competition among the fashion e-tailers will never have been so fierce.
- OBSERVERBy Tracy McVeigh