BoF: In Conversation with Natalie Massenet

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Natalie Massenet in conversation with Imran Amed

If you are reading this blog, you are undoubtedly a follower of all things fashion and so most likely tuned into Business of Fashion last Thursday night along with myself and thousands others world wide, to watch the widely acclaimed live interview between BoF Editor-in-chief, Imran Amed, and Natalie Massenet, the founder of innovative fashion e-tailer, Net-a-Porter.

The conversation between the two took place up on the top floor of London’s Westfield shopping centre in Net-a-Porter’s vast new office space. Amongst the spectators present, were’s Sarah Mower and fashion designers Gareth Pugh and Jonathan Saunders, along with various other industry figures, journalists and guests all of whom took copious notes through out the evening.

It has been an eventful year for Net-a-Porter; As well as marking its 10th anniversary, 2010 also brought with it a look to the future when the business was bought by prestigious luxury goods group, Richemont, for a staggering £350 million. However, Massenet reassured Amed and viewers that the recent acquisition has not changed the company at all and her agreement with the new owners was that “Net-a-porter has to remain independent… so we are going to be left alone to our own devices and hopefully to Prosper.”

So how did Net-a-Porter get to where it is today? The simple answer is that an intuitive Natalie, back in 2000, set up a shopping business on the web, not only because it was something new and fresh but also because it was what the consumer required… Bringing the store to the customer, instead of the other way around, was key at the beginning of the new millennium and is even more so today: “Women are working, they are making their own money” says Natalie, “by moving the store to the desk, we were able to create the future of shopping.” Always one step ahead, Ms. Massenet realised that in today’s technology-savvy world, even a web based shop isn’t enough, stating that now “the consumer is in the back of a cab, with her iPhone or her Blackberry, on her iPad...” which of course brought the conversation to Net-a-Porter’s most recent news; a collaborative project with Apple Inc to create the Net-a-Porter iPad application, which was debuted during the interview.

The iPad app provides customers with the same ease and convenience of shopping that the website has but is presented in a more visually engaging way, with page layouts that literally look like those belonging to a high-end style publication: “This is really what we always hoped Net-a-Porter would be, because the dream was always to make a shopping magazine,” says Natalie. “With the iPad you can actually merge the magazine experience with shopping.” Massenet has obviously put her knowledge and experience from working as a journalist and editor at magazines including Tatler and WWD into good use. In fact, she states that she still sees her role within the company as an editor: “Editing is the most important thing.” She continues, “A successful retailer thinks like an editor.”

Net-a-Porter has another exciting year ahead of them as January 2011 sees the launch of the site’s equivalent for men’s luxury fashion, Mr Porter. BoF editor, Imran Amed, asked the question that has been on everyone’s mind since the new project was announced in June; ‘‘why did you choose to create a separate men’s site with a separate brand?’ of which Natalie answered “We’ve done a lot of research and we’ve got a great team behind Mr Porter, many of whom are men, who are sharing insights into how they shop and its entirely different [to women]. The service is going to be different, the brand is going to be different, the packaging is different, the voice, the tone is going to be different…” she then revealed “Why? Because we’re thinking about the customer.”

Sarah Barlow
Fashion ScoutComment