The Asian market has been a target that most retailers have been focusing on, what can you tell us about our buying habits?
Elizabeth von der Golz (EVDG) Asia, in general, is a really strong focus for us. Asians really love fashion! Power brands are still important here but what we’ve seen evolve over the years is more experimentation. We’re finding that they love discovering new, contemporary brands with us.
Singapore, specifically, loves shoes. Shoes—from a volume standpoint—is the number one category, which is super exciting for us. It’s everything from sneakers to Louboutins. Right under shoes, there are your power designers which are your big brands, then it’s the contemporary brands, and then bags.
What are some favourites?
EVDG Gucci is super strong, like the logo t-shirts. Off-White has come up a bit, but more on the utility belt bags, and the Marc Jacobs camera bag. Things that stood out to me were Common Projects, feminine dresses from Valentino and Self-Portrait.
There’s also a new customer and then there’s the top customer in which there is a slight variant. The Extremely Important Privileges (EIP) customers are buying a lot into the bigger brands, but it’s the new customer that’s kind of entering through some of these new discoveries.
Let’s talk about shopping for the autumn/winter 2018/2019—what are some of your key buys?
EVDG Loewe—we feel super strongly about everything. It’s not just about handbags; I think their ready-to-wear has gotten stronger and stronger as [creative director] Jonathan Anderson evolves over the years.
Les Rêveries is going to be huge after launching. It has a great price point—it’s feminine and I think that’s going to relate very well with the Asian customer. There are new shoe brands like By Far and Martinez. Coats are a bit difficult because it’s too hot in Singapore, but I think a good, thin, lightweight raincoat would do well.
Have there been items which ended up doing far better than what you predicted when doing your buy?
EVDG Pastels, especially when they first started. Traditionally, pastels never used to sell, even when there were seasons where they were in. It’s just a harder colour palette to work. Then, it was re-introduced in a bolder way that was more modern, and items like the Tibi dresses and jackets blew up, so I think that’s interesting and something that we had to re-order really quickly.
Sneakers have always been great, and it’s not going away, so I think that’s something we have to buy very, very heavily because a strong sneaker just continues to sell out.
How much do you think street style and social media has influenced online consumerism?
EVDG It’s especially strong in certain categories, especially when it comes to contemporary handbags—a lot of the times you’re actually finding them first on social media and then you’re tracking them down. It’s interesting because the brands aren’t even on the market. They’re just going to their friends and asking them “Will you please wear this”, and you see this because a lot of stylists now are coming up with their own collections and that’s definitely because they have that street style, and customers of a younger generation who follow social media are on digital platforms. We definitely work with a lot of influencers as well, we have The Net Set, that’s what we call them on Net-a-Porter and that’s been really successful for us as well.
As a street style star yourself, do you think what you wear to the shows has any impact on how well an item sells?
EVDG Sometimes. It depends on what the item is. I think what’s nice is that the team is really diverse in age and I think that a lot of street style stars are fabulous, but they’re much younger. I’m turning 45 and I’m a different generation but I’m able to wear things and show people of a certain age that you can actually embrace this fashion trend in this way so I think that helps there.
What do you look out for when you want to take on a new designer on the site and have there been any recent discoveries that were your personal favourites?
EVDG First of all, when you see a collection for the first time it has to have a very different point of view. There are almost 500 different brands on the site so whatever it is that you’re adding has to offer our customer something different. So, I think that’s key. Not only does it have to have that unique style, it has to have something that has the designer’s DNA because you want to see them even as trends continue and as seasons evolve in the future, you want to always see them inside the clothes. You don’t want a one season hit; you want to have a business, and even with the amazing creativity, you also want someone who can produce and ship on time.
I’m absolutely obsessed with Attico. Michael Halpern—I’ve known him since his very first collection; Monse—they showed me their sketches before they even started their own company, and then for this season Martinez—I’m really obsessed with their shoes, I think they’re really amazing.
How do you split the ratio between introducing new designers and continuing to buy from the stalwarts that you already have on the site?
EVDG Every season, businesses have their ebb and flow. Sometimes a business is super-hot for a few seasons, but there’s also a time where maybe they aren’t so you need to balance the buying level with what your total dollar spend is.
You want to add newness but there are also brands that over time, we don’t continue to carry, but we give them feedback and chances to create special product just to help them continue. Sometimes things just naturally fall off because you can’t have everything if not there will be too much for the customer to scroll through.
In recent years, Net-a-porter started bringing in 'cooler' labels like Vetements, Off-White, etc. Has your focus as a retailer shifted?
EVDG When Net-a-porter started, it was very high fashion. It was all about the best of fashion and as the fashion world evolves, we have to evolve with it too. So, whatever the brand is, it has to be the most coveted brand.
We had an exclusive online partnership with Kith, and even with a price point that is very inexpensive, it sells out in a day because it’s highly covetable for a fashionable woman, so its whatever we think from a fashion standpoint that will really resonate and is really important. It can be a high or low price point, but it can’t be ordinary. In that I want to make sure we’re always being the first to bring new brands to the customer, always continuing that level of excitement in different ways.
We’re trying to be even more exclusive so we’re working with designers on being the only retail partners for that entire season or working in different ways like with our events. For Fendi, we launched this logo collection with a crazy rave held in a tunnel in London. Just things that are different and continually exciting our customer and giving her really amazing experiences through our buy and different events that we do.
How have luxury e-tailers changed the way we shop?
EVDG Our customers trust us. We're a brand they know, and it's convenient to shop online. We think about the global customer who travels all the time, and say, they get to New York and it’s supposed to be really hot but all of a sudden it starts snowing, and you start thinking what do I do? You can go on your app and order a coat from Net-a-porter and it’s going to be there in a couple of hours.
It’s this level of convenience and you can actually follow your customer and bring them anything they want. Traditionally people have personal shoppers in a store in their city, so when they were gone for the summer they weren’t communicating or getting things from them. I think that level of convenience is something that more people are using, and it goes from anything from getting their household goods to luxury.
What's your take on the “buy now wear now” concept?
EVDG I think it’s interesting. I think what’s more important than “buy now wear now” is seasonality. It has created a lot of excitement and Burberry, for example, has been very successful. It really depends on who the designer is and how they execute it. Nothing will shift 100 per cent, as so many shows happen in a day, and you can’t buy that much that quickly so there always needs to be a balance.
Does it make your life easier or harder?
EVDG We laughed at first. We actually need a calendar on the wall because you could be buying for delivery one first, and then buy delivery two later but then it’s going to ship earlier than delivery one because its “buy now wear now”.
It’s definitely very complicated. You have to sign NDAs, you can’t take pictures, and when you’re online there’s an embargo on imagery but you still need to take pictures. You’re buying for both the next season and for the one that’s shipping right now. You literally need a calendar to chart everything.
Streetwear has just been a trend that just exploded globally... why do you think it has done so well?
EVDG There’s a casualization in general. When you think of the traditional workplace, people are telling you that you don’t have to wear a suit to work anymore, you don’t need to wear pantyhose, you don’t need your heels. As dress codes evolve, we’re allowed to be dressed more casually and streetwear obviously fits into this as well. People are literally running around in their athletic wear half the time, so that give it the excuse as well because you don’t have to be as formal.
I think there are things that streetwear brands have designed that even if you’re a bit more traditional or conservative you can still bring it into your wardrobe. I do think that some of the brands that are doing really well now like Unravel Project and Amiri are definitely a little more feminine. It’s still definitely streetwear but it's slightly sexier.
If there’s one thing that you feel our readers should buy from this season, what would it be?
EVDG Only one item?! It would definitely be a stamped croc bag or a boot.
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