Your role is so much more holistic than other buyers. What does that look like in practice?
I attend all the shows and buying appointments with our buying team, so I’m involved in that process and I can give insight into what I’m seeing in the market. Then it’s about bringing that information back to the business, across all departments, so they can feed it in. Editorial will cover the new handbag of the season, how many suits we’ve bought into, the new pant update and so on. It’s all about supporting the buy and driving amazing commercial results.
We have more than 900 brands on the site. I work with the buyers on scouting new talent, making sure there is no showroom or corner of globe unturned. We don’t want to miss out on any new designers. That’s one way I measure success: scouting a new brand, seeing it launch on the site and nurturing it, ultimately seeing really good results in the sell-through. It’s about emotionally feeling success and pride in the work we’re doing.
What is your process for scouting new talent?
The way we scout new brands has changed so much since I started this job. It always starts with going to showrooms, visiting fringe fashion weeks – Tbilisi, Seoul, Copenhagen, Shanghai – and making sure we’re tapping into global markets. Instagram plays a huge part now; we’ve scouted a lot of our direct-to-consumer brands through Instagram. It’s fascinating how a social media platform has become a marketing tool for new brands. If you have a strong visual identity on Instagram, you can capture a buyer’s attention halfway across the world. I get a buzz when I stumble across an account that only has 100-200 followers, maybe they’ve only posted three or four photos, but what they have posted is aesthetically engaging and makes you want to know more.
“Being launched on a global platform completely changes the way your life works and the way the industry perceives you. You have to be ready for that.”
Once you discover a brand, what happens next?
If we want to stock a new brand, we have to make sure that we cannot get that product range anywhere else on our site. As an online retailer, we have the luxury of space, but it’s important that each brand has a different point of view. A signature DNA and a strong brand identity are the keys to success. When we launch a new brand, we don’t want it to be for one season, we want it to be for the foreseeable future.
We have amazing marketing and editorial teams. A new brand needs great talking points and a great story. I scouted Peter Do through Instagram and he was in our Vanguard programme. Now he’s one of the most talked-about brands in the industry. So we definitely have the capacity to project a new brand or a new designer’s career.
If you see a promising designer on Instagram or at a graduate show, what are the additional boxes they need to tick to be successful on Net-a-Porter?
It starts with the products; they need a distinct point of view. But they also need an understanding of what being launched on a global platform will do for them as a brand. It completely changes the way your life works and the way the industry perceives you. You have to be ready for that. We are looking at different ways of working with brands, so that we can provide them with a platform, even if they only have one or two pieces from their graduate collection. Having some form of infrastructure is really important as a new brand. You need to understand deliveries and be able to deliver your product on time. The ability to be reactive if something is performing really well helps secure the longevity of their success.
“Going to a certain school and winning certain awards may look good on paper, but we stock designers who have not been to university at all and we’ve had great success with them.”
For a lot of emerging brands and young designers, they can’t afford that infrastructure from the beginning. Is there support available for those designers?
We’re looking into it, but that’s really why we launched The Vanguard, to try and work with new designers in a more nimble way. We can always give them guidance on small things they can do that would really help to change their business, but we want to do more. It’s important for us to try and provide a platform for brands who aren’t quite there yet.
How do you assess a brand’s commercial viability? What factors affect that?
Going to a certain school and winning certain awards may look good on paper, but we stock designers who have not been to university at all and we’ve had great success with them. Something that’s really important to consider is buy-now, wear-now. The seasons are so blurred now. Spring/Summer, pre-Fall, Autumn/Winter – those names don’t mean as much as they used to. It’s actually just about when the product is delivering and it’s dropping onsite for the customer. You might think the key moments for a knitwear-based were Autumn/Winter, but for us, it’s Cruise. It’s October-January, because they’re the coldest months. So seasons are less important than when the product is reaching the customer.