LONDON — Lisa Aiken, a fixture on the front row and in street-style images, has become a fashion force in her own right.
With nearly 65,000 Instagram followers, she has built a dedicated audience that follows her fashion week travels, sleek style choices, and insider tips on the newest brands to know.
Formerly fashion director of the London-based retailer Net-a-porter, Aiken became the industry’s go-to figure for insights into developing trends and the most promising up-and-coming names, be it the newest contemporary handbag label Gu_de, which hails from Korea, or the growing importance of resortwear capsules.
Having crossed the pond and taken on a new role as Moda Operandi’s fashion director in New York, she sees further opportunity to champion new and established labels, while taking advantage of Moda’s trunk show model and its dedicated, high-spending audience.
“Social media has changed the game for all of us. How I work and discover brands is completely different now, and it’s contributing to why we buy all this newness. The customer is there, discovering these new labels alongside retailers, so we have to be fast,” said Aiken.
Storytelling, both through social media and broader editorial initiatives on Moda’s web site, is one of the key ingredients in Aiken’s strategy, as she looks to enhance Moda’s position in the competitive luxury retail environment.
“The fashion director role can be really varied. In department stores it’s very much focused on in-store projects, merchandising and windows, while in e-commerce it’s trends and scouting-focused. At Moda, there was an opportunity to look at editorial, marketing and communications and be a mentor for the new brands we stock,” said Aiken, adding that this year the retailer will put more focus on its branding, and the way it presents itself.
Storytelling is particularly relevant to Moda Operandi, which has some of the highest average order values in the market at $1,200, almost triple the industry standard. Its customers shop at trunk shows less out of need and more because they are drawn to a designer’s work.
“A recent customer survey showed us that customers were shopping because they fell in love with the product, that’s why they are purchasing multiple items at trunk show and willing to wait for them. That’s the purest form of shopping and that’s why it’s important to tell those stories and let customers be seduced by fashion again, as the current retail format can be quite flat and transactional,” added Aiken.
One of her first projects is a new trunk show dubbed Moda Selects. It will be introduced to customers via a curated newsletter, where she highlights brands that are “new and noteworthy.”
The first edition put the spotlight on Australian label Georgia Alice; Italian footwear brand Paris Texas, which is loved for its accessibly-priced boots and has been an Instagram hit; outerwear brand Common Leisure, and Rylan Studios, an emerging name that has been making waves in the contemporary handbag world.
Social media marketing will also be a big focus, as the retailer sees a significant portion of its web site traffic coming from digitally savvy Millennial users and therefore “needs to have presence in the space where customers want to communicate.”
Despite the company’s premium luxury positioning, Aiken still thinks there is space to grow the site’s contemporary category.
“We are very strong in the designer world, but the modern customer is no longer purely shopping designer anymore. We want to be all things fashion to our customer, so there is an opportunity in pushing design-led contemporary product that speaks for itself. We’ve seen a big move from designer to design,” she added. “The most dynamic part of the industry is currently operating in the contemporary space, especially when it comes to that element of discovery.”
Last week’s Copenhagen Fashion Week offered Aiken her first opportunity to play in the contemporary space with the likes of Ganni, outerwear label Stand and Instagram hit Rotate.
She worked with Ganni, which she ranks as the top show from the three-day showcase, on creating five exclusive pieces that made their debut on the runway and will only be available exclusively on Moda Operandi’s trunk show.
“The collaboration offered an opportunity for the brand to work on new directional pieces, with beautiful fabrics and more handwork,” said Aiken, adding that Moda can offer brands the opportunity to experiment on creating more elevated pieces, without straying from their original positioning.
According to Aiken, the trunk show model gives Moda a unique market position that can offer an array of new — and more sustainable — opportunities to partner with designers without the pressure of having to create more product.
“There’s constant pressure for exclusives amongst retailers but it has made the production cycle way too fast, especially for the young designers. Trunk shows are exclusive in their nature, but you are working with what the designers already have. We can all agree that the world doesn’t need more stuff, we just need to get the product right,” said Aiken, adding that the trunk show model also offers designers an opportunity to learn what items are selling best and make an unfiltered statement to the customers.
“This model is at the core of our business and we want to develop it further in a way that works for our customers. It lends itself to sustainability, and we want to look after our industry and ensure we are the best partners for the brands.”