Mary Katrantzou a/w ’15 catwalk, Picture credit: Alessandro Garofalo / Indigitalimages.com
The last time I saw Federico Marchetti — whose Yoox online company fused with Net-a-Porter this week — was in Milan during the February collections.
We were both looking at the 12 fledgling designers from across the world grouped by Italian Vogue, the event underwritten by thecorner.com, part of Marchetti’s Italian-based, but worldwide, online empire.
Twelve designers with Federico Marchetti and Franca Sozzani at the Vogue Talents Corner.com presentation during Milan Fashion week in February Picture credit: SGP Italia
Federico was, as ever, enthusiastic about finding fresh talent, cheering the imagination and the workmanship of these inventive designers who might be based in Manila, Milan or Mumbai. Regardless of where they come from, he planned to make a special offering of their current summer collection on The Corner website.
Federico Marchetti, founder and CEO of Yoox Group, who will be CEO of the combined entity. Picture credit: Getty
Fledgling designers across the world have reason to be hopeful. This week’s news has focused on the merger between Yoox and Net-a-Porter, owned by luxury group Compagnie Financière Richemont, as an on-line luxury fashion behemoth with combined net revenues of 1.3 billion euros. But the tech powerhouse that is the Yoox Group does not sell only the remainder and end-of-season clothes of famous designers and manage their on-line businesses.
It also owns hot-designer site thecorner.com, where, on another occasion, Federico showed me how much work the company puts into supporting and, even more important, selling, the work of small, or even start-up, designers.
Ms Natalie Massenet, Founder and Executive Chairman of The Net-A-Porter Group, will serve as Executive Chairman. Picture credit: Getty
The combination of Federico and Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-A-Porter — who will become executive chairman of the new Yoox Net-A-Porter — will arguably do more to help small fashion talents than any bricks-and-mortar store alone could possibly imagine. Yoox currently ships to 100 countries and Net-A-Porter to 172.
I contacted Federico — who was chuffed because I called him “King of Lux Online” — and he told me that the answer was “yes” to my question about reaching out and even building small businesses and supporting fledgling designers as potential luxury brands.
“Yoox philosophy has always been about nurturing and vouching for new, small, emerging businesses and designers,” he said. “With thecorner.com we have been a hub of new talents.”
I must admit to finding the A-Z list of designers on the mighty yoox.com overwhelming. Even on thecorner.com listing, for every newbie, there were many more famous names — and others that I had never heard of.
But I do believe that on-line sales have overall been a blessing for small companies – and after contacting some of those designers, I was even more convinced that the merger between Richemont’s Net-A-Porter and Yoox, will be good for varied and imaginative fashion.
The Greek-born, British-based designer Mary Katrantzou, who made her name with digital printing, has just been awarded the 2015 Designer Fashion Fund from /Vogue/ and the British Fashion Council, where Natalie Massenet is chairman. I asked her about on-line versus in store sales.
Designer Mary Katrantzou, flanked by Alexandra Shulman, left, and Natalie Massenet, right. Picture credit: Darren Gerrish for the British Fashion Council
“Net-A-Porter is our biggest client world wide – they have the reach,” said Mary, who explained that it enabled her clothes to be sold in countries such as Australia and the Middle East and to make and nurture clients in Europe. For example, the sales site arranges dinners where Mary meets and dines with the women who have previously bought the products – the most recent being in Luxembourg.
“This (the merger) will make them into a super power,” the designer continued. “Our product does well on line because it is quite visual. A lot of our other accounts do not have that big reach.”
Simon Porte, the 24-year-old French designer behind the edgy label Jacquemus is equally enthusiastic about cyber-space sales.
“I am 100 per cent for on-line — it is ‘actual’ and it is beautiful to have a direct link with the person,” said the designer, whose flat cutting and off-beat proportions might discourage traditional boutique retailers.
Like Jacquemus, Arthur Arbesser is in the final to win the 2015 LVMH young designer prize, to be revealed next month. But the Austrian designer, who works out of Italy, is not 100 per cent enthusiastic about sales on the web.
“I am more like a Viennese old-school person — not a classic online shopper,” says Arbesser. But Youx, The Corner, is half my business and especially for menswear there is a good selection.
“The visibility and the fact that you can reach out is an advantage,” he continues. “If there is an editorial article written about me in a Brazilian magazine, there is an on-line reference for my tiny business.”
Designer Arthur Arbesser Picture credit: Portait: Matthias Aschauer
The variety of online shopping has already made things tough for multi-brand bricks-and-mortar shops. Many of those who gave an early opportunity to as yet unknown names have now closed down, so it is just as well that online stores might replace them.
I have no doubt that the world wide web has ushered in a new era for these emerging designers — and I hope that this latest merger between two mighty on-line sites will create what Natalie Massenet calls “the greatest interactive window to the world”.
Perhaps the best summary of the potential of twenty-first-century shopping is in Natalie’s rallying cry: “ The best way to predict the future of fashion is to create it.”
The Jacquemus a/w ’15 show and designer Simon Porte of Jacquemus Picture credit: Indigital