LONDON — Net-a-porter Group has created a new mobile app to create a social network of users sharing their favorite products from the luxury e-tailer.

“Late last year, Natalie [Massenet] set us a challenge to create an app that would bring together the Net-a-porter Live, the feed that shows what shoppers are buying in real time, the products and create a community of customers,” explained Sarah Watson, the retailer’s group mobile manager. “We had done some research that showed that our customer likes to be inspired by other people, whether it’s their friends or celebrities.”

This story first appeared in the September 16, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Watson said that the app, called The Netbook, is based on the idea of a diary. “It’s a metaphor for the physical diaries that we carry with us, to meetings and in our lives,” she told WWD. “It’s a little bit old school, in the same way that Instagram has a retro camera [as its icon], and that has inspired the design of the app.”

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The Netbook will be available to download from the iTunes App Store from today and will be initially available only for iPhone and iPad devices. There are plans to extend the service to other platforms in the future. To begin with, access to the app will be by invitation only. Net-a-porter’s editors, buyers and public relations teams will be armed with individually numbered invitation cards, which they will pass out to members of the fashion pack during London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks. The app will be made freely available in due course.

Watson said that the decision to personally invite people to the network was to build a community that fashion-minded people would want to join. “We’re building a social network from scratch; we have to get it right. It has to be a good experience and feel like luxury,” she explained. “The team will invite editors, stylists, bloggers, models, street-style stars, brands and VIPs that they meet at shows or at parties, which will make sure that the most influential people in fashion are involved from the start.”

There was a practical element to the decision to keep access exclusive initially too. “We need to make sure that it can be supported and not crash if too many people use it. As the scale grows, we will eventually be able to send Evites and users will be able to invite their friends on other social networks.” Users who download the app without an access code will automatically be added to the wait list and be invited on a first-come, first-served basis.

In the same way that Facebook has “friends” and Twitter has “followers,” users of the image-based shoppable app will be able to “admire” their friends and other users. They will be able to build a profile, search for thousands of items on Net-a-porter and build a “Love List” that other users can “admire” by tapping on an image in the live feed of luxury fashion items trending across the world.

Stella McCartney has sponsored the app, and the brand created a bespoke version of its current campaign to meet the app’s specifications.

“Net-a-porter already has a shopping app, which is great for goal-driven purchases,” said Watson. “This is more geared towards browsing, engaging and discovering product. By seeing what your friends are ‘loving,’ you may turn up something that you might never have found otherwise.

“With other digital launches we can usually breath a sigh of relief and move on, but we have just so many plans and updates for The Netbook,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”

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