LONDON — Net-a-porter has been rethinking the way it approaches its seasonal buys and shifting its attention away from the traditional fashion calendar and ephemeral trends, toward ideas that have been unfolding over several seasons, items that have social media mileage and buzzy new names in the contemporary market.
“The idea that each season we present the woman with a new vision of who she is going to be, is simply outdated for us,” said Lisa Aiken, the company’s retail fashion director, explaining that while the Net customer is always on the hunt for newness, she also has an intimate knowledge of her personal style and isn’t looking for radical shifts.
For spring, the retailer is standing behind a number of trends that have been developing over the last few seasons, including tailoring, bright colors and high glamour.
Tailoring has already taken off for fall; suits made up 30 percent of the company’s ready-to-wear buy for fall 2017 and to date, 6,000 blazers have been sold on the site. For spring, Net is planning to build on the trend’s burgeoning success, with tailored pieces in lighter fabrications such as linen and brighter colors.
The retailer has also been cautiously introducing Eighties or Nineties-inspired pieces, but is ready to stand behind the trend in a big way: it quadrupled its buy of Versace’s latest collection and plans to introduce check blazers, big shoulders, sequins, chain jewelry and plenty of polka dots — dubbed “the print of season” — in its offer.
“We really went for it on the Eighties,” said Aiken. “We believe that we are ready to shake off our hesitations about these references. It’s back to the era of the supers and Lady Diana, all reimagined for the modern ‘It’ girl.”
Megabrands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent are also identified as among the biggest drivers of the high-glamour trend. Aiken stressed that despite much talk about the lack of newness in Michele’s collections, his approach is aligned with the company’s “evolution over revolution” approach and continues to appeal to its customer.
“We are seeing strong growth year-over-year for Gucci, we’re at a wonderful place right now,” said Aiken. “This conversation is not limited to Gucci, we are seeing Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent, Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga and smaller labels such as Magda Butrym and Attico adopt a similar approach. It’s the idea of refining an aesthetic, developing signatures versus starting from scratch every season. [In this manner] they are offering customers something that other brands don’t, the idea of longevity. They know their purchase will last longer.”
Vaccarello’s continuous focus on party dresses that make a statement is also driving the growth of the eveningwear category: “Our most expensive item is a 12,800-pound sequin and feather dress, there is no price resistance in this world, it’s one of our fastest-growing categories,” said Aiken, adding that she attended the Saint Laurent show in Paris with some of the company’s biggest-spending clients dressed in those high-glamour, high-priced dresses.
Feminine dresses, done in floral prints and pretty pastel colors, is another existing trend that will maintain its relevance for spring.
Chloé’s latest collection by Natacha Ramsay-Levi, who added more urban, realistic touches to the brand’s feminine aesthetic, is the driver of the trend, according to the company, which doubled the number of runway exits it bought from the Parisian label.
Aiken also pointed to the continued success of designers such as Alessandra Rich when it comes to pretty, feminine dresses, who produced one of the biggest hits for fall with her floral mididresses and is building on that success with a range of tea dresses for spring.
Social media has also been a major influence on the Net team’s buying decisions. For example, the social media set’s flair for retro shades, particularly the cat-eye styles by Adam Selman and Le Specs, are driving the retailer to buy into the trend in greater depth for next season, while the emergence of linen pieces on platforms such as Instagram encouraged the team to buy into the fabrication, despite data that suggests that it traditionally performs poorly.
“Social media has a huge impact on our sales, either to excite desire or to educate the customer. When those trends pop up, we have to respond immediately,” added Aiken.
The company is also placing its focus on transitional dressing, as a reaction against the fashion calendar, whose scheduled drops do not correspond to customer needs.
“The traditional fashion calendar just doesn’t work,” said Aiken, highlighting that even though winter pieces traditionally drop on the site in October, combined sales of coats, jackets and knits are higher in February and March.
To respond to consumer demand, Net is placing greater focus on pre-collections, which have earlier drops, and buying into transitional items such as trenchcoats and anoraks in great depth.
“The customer doesn’t care if the item was seen on the runway, they just want to see new, fashion-forward items on a regular basis,” said Aiken, also pointing to the increasing competition among retailers to secure the buzziest new names. “The idea of scouting has become more important, new brands tend to outperform existing ones, in terms of sell-through.”
Among Net’s launches for spring are the likes of Palm Angels, Rokh, Amiri and Brock.
Designers in the contemporary space also offer customers “a sense of discovery,” with their ethos of “putting design over designer” and creating cult pieces at attractive price points. To capitalize on the success of emerging contemporary labels, the company is planning a series of exclusive capsules, headlining the likes of Rejina Pyo, one of the fastest-growing brands on the site, Simone Miller, best known for its signature bucket bags and Ganni, which will be launching its first denim capsule exclusively on Net.