Carmen March, Joana De Noronha, Sara Battaglia, Carmen Borgonovo and Amina Muaddi with Net-a-porter's fashion retail director Lisa Aiken during the company's new designers tour in Dubai.

DUBAI — During a tour with new designers that stopped in Dubai last week, Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-a-porter, said the luxury e-commerce player is focused on discovering new talent. About 5 percent of its product mix is emerging designers.

“Emerging designers are key to Net-a-porter, and we are always looking to support and nurture new talent,” she said.

The event brought designers Carmen Borgonovo and Joana de Noronha of Borgo de Nor; Carmen March; Amina Muaddi of Oscar Tiye, and Sara Battaglia to the emirate. In a panel discussion with the Dubai Design & Fashion Council, the designers shared their experiences launching their collections and working with Net-a-porter. Borgo de Nor will launch its first collection of ready-to-wear with the site next week. Battaglia, known for her handbags, also recently launched her rtw collection on the site.

Aiken said accessories tend to be a harder market to break into as they’re often dominated by big brands. “For a bag brand to break through, the product has to be very differentiated, as we’ve seen with designers such as Sara Battaglia,” she said. Rtw represents a bigger opportunity for emerging designers. “Purchasing a bag is influenced by brands in a more prolific way, whereas buying ready-to-wear isn’t considered a one-off investment,” she said.

Digital has transformed how the e-commerce giant discovers new brands. Instagram has become a very instant connection to brands. Muaddi, behind the footwear brand Oscar Tiye, was discovered via her Instagram feed. But for others, understanding the business and having industry relationships helps.

March said persistence is key when trying to get the attention of buyers. “I just found e-mail addresses and kept sending e-mails until I had an appointment.” She also added that respecting the limited time buyers have is very important.

“Social media has been an incredibly powerful tool for discovering new brands. Whilst the traditional route still exists, social media has provided new brands with a platform, which they never had before, although they now have to work much harder in order to cut through noise and really showcase what makes their brand stand out,” March said.

Aiken said she had her eyes open for new brands from the Middle East, but they also make it a point to be at newer fashion weeks such as Sydney, Copenhagen, Seoul and also spend time scouting in L.A. “We buy ‘new’ when ‘new’ is good. When we see new brands we believe in, the number of emerging designers at Net-a-porter will grow,” she said.

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