LONDON — Net-a-porter has updated its buying strategy for the upcoming spring 2022 season and is adapting to the post-lockdown landscape with sexy party wear, platform shoes and plenty of “clickbait” products and collaborations that have gone viral on Instagram.
Lea Cranfield, Net’s chief buying and merchandising officer, identified social media-driven trends and products as a key pillar in her new strategy. The retailer is starting to take a particularly close look at viral runway moments during the last fashion month — which can translate to instant sales.
“Those viral moments create deep-rooted connections with our customers, which we can then accelerate with our buys,” said Cranfield, referring to Balenciaga’s “Simpsons” episode as the ultimate season highlight.
“Clickbait” accessories or collaborations that are making the rounds on social media are equally important: The retailer’s audience of 9 million followers has an appetite for unlikely designer pairings, be it Frame and The Ritz Hotel or Gucci and The North Face, as well as Instagram-famous accessories like Bottega Veneta quilted bags. So Cranfield’s team is doubling down on next season’s cult accessories, which they predict will be Loewe’s cracked egg heels, Balenciaga’s futuristic boots, or JW Anderson’s knitted shopper bags.
Up to 24 exclusive capsules — featuring brands like Totême, Loewe and Khaite — will also be launching between now and February to feed customers’ appetites for limited product and collaboration collections.
“We are using our data intelligence and our own intuition to ensure we’re doing more with less,” said Cranfield.
Social media is also informing many of the trends the retailer is standing behind for the upcoming season, particularly the modern-day Y2K look seen on the runways of everyone from Versace, to Loewe and LaQuan Smith.
“These are very much social-first looks, [designers] gave us a lesson in the art of social media dressing,” said Libby Page, senior market editor. “The runway was the tipping point for the trend, but it’s been bubbling up for some time through social, the reboot of ‘Gossip Girl’ and the ‘Friends’ reunion. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the cultural moment.”
Becoming the “ultimate destination” for off-the-runway looks is another big goal, with up to 380 catwalk looks launching on Net in the next few months.
The retailer also gave its stamp of approval to designers like Molly Goddard, Richard Quinn, and Proenza Schouler for their use of bold, saturated color that speaks to the optimistic mood of the season. Ditto to brands like Chloé, which are pushing hand craft with limited-run products that are made using recycled or deadstock materials.
Responsibility is another key pillar in the strategy that Cranfield laid out and as part of its efforts to be more inclusive, the retailer said it plans to add 40 new brands to its “Net Sustain” edit. In addition, 30 percent of the brands launching for spring 2022 will be owned by people of color. A handful of designers like Erdem, Christopher John Rogers and Reem Accra will start to offer their collections up to sizes 22.
“It’s a work in progress and something we will continue to develop as we plan the new fall 2022 season,” said Cranfield.
Even if optimistic colors and party dresses are quickly taking over the spring edit, the retailer said it will continue to pay attention to the kind of “foundational pieces” or “elevated essentials” that became popular in the last few years, be it the perfect tank top by Loewe, loose suits by Jil Sander, or layered shirts by The Row.
“It’s a reflection of how we are dressing now. We’ve moved away from formalities and it’s all about interesting separates that also consider the practicalities,” explained Page.
Outside the runway, the high jewelry and watches category is having a moment of its own. Up to 75 percent of fine jewelry and watch sales were made by new clients over the course of 2021, so the retailer is expanding its offer with new brands like David Morris and Charles Jourdan.
It’s also growing its home wear offer by 3,000 percent, with new brands like Cabana Casa, Luisa Beccaria and exclusive capsules by “brands getting into the home ware space for the first time.”
“Our mission is to build Net-a-porter as a lifestyle destination, it’s grown into so much more than just a fashion destination,” added Cranfield.