LONDON — Net-a-porter has been changing gears, and working to capture fashion’s new mood.
That means less newness and more classics; a renewed interest in independent labels, and a shift from a buy-now-wear-now to a buy-now-wear-forever attitude.
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“Customers’ priorities have completely changed. There’s a huge shift from contemporary to luxury. Anything that felt frivolous or a one-time-wear, our customers are running away from,” said Libby Page, the retailer’s senior market editor, pointing to a shift away from popular ready-to-wear categories such as dresses, tailoring and eveningwear.
Consumption hasn’t died down, but it has shifted to other parts of the web site, according to Page, and particularly lounge and sports clothing, underwear and beauty — which have gone from “last-minute, add-to-bag” categories to some of the business’ biggest growth drivers.
“The average order values for beauty really grew, which is down to the high engagement of our EIPs, or extremely important customers. We’ve been focusing specifically on luxury brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm, beauty tools and at-home facial kits,” Page added.
Other, less-expected strong performers of the year included classic designer bags — the retailer sold triple the number of Loewe Puzzle bags compared to last year — as well as emerging rtw labels. The latter are more in favor as consumers are increasingly conscious of the need to support independent businesses, or charitable causes, through their shopping.
To that end, Net has continued to nurture existing emerging talent and has also picked up new labels, such as Kenneth Ize, Sindiso Khumalo and Lebanese brand Renaissance Renaissance.
The retailer has also just debuted a new lifestyle category that features a mix of home objects, such as Anissa Kermiche and Completedworks vases, Loro Piana blankets and candles galore, and aimed at diversifying Net’s offer beyond seasonal fashion even further.
“Our approach is form over function, and it feels fitting that we’re launching at a time when we’re all nested at home,” Page added.
Continuing the dialogue with customers as they navigate the changes that 2020 has brought was another key pillar of Net’s strategy this year.
The retailer has long been known for its mission to meld commerce with content, which was founder Natalie Massenet’s original inspiration. This year, when conspicuous consumption stalled and shoppers looked for a new definition of luxury, content took on a new meaning for Net.
Alice Casely-Hayford, who joined the company as content director last December, spoke about the importance of shifting away from product-focused content and toward self care, wellness and travel, as well as new podcast and Instagram Live series featuring women’s stories.
“We shifted away from traditional influences and adopted a refreshed focus on tastemakers, business founders and creatives,” said Casely-Hayford, pointing to the likes of Sinéad Burke, Sienna Miller, activist Zainab Salbi and writer Otegha Uwagba.
The retailer has also been using its own customers as influencers and relying more on user-generated content than paid influencer partnerships: Its #FeelGoodFashionFridays initiative on Instagram started during lockdown and encourages customers to dress up in their favorite Net outfits every Friday and share their looks on their feeds.
Similarly, during fashion month, the retailer focused less on the clothes that were on show and more on young designers’ stories, hosting conversations with Michael Halpern, Christopher John Rogers and more.
“Talking about our challenges is what brings the community together,” Page noted.
Looking to the upcoming spring 2021 season, the retailer was less concerned about dividing the collections into seasonal trends, like it used to, and was more focused on identifying the moods and feelings that next season’s clothes should inspire.
Joy was high on the list, hence the sea of feel-good colors in the retailer’s spring 2021 edit that highlights many up-and-coming names, ranging from Tove to Christopher John Rogers and Tomo Koizumi’s collection for Pucci, for which Net secured a two-week global exclusive.
Another mood that Net will be channeling come 2021 is escapism, with more bright colors and printed summer options from brands ranging from Versace and Gabriela Hearst to Kenneth Ize. There will also be gladiator sandal options galore — more than 1,500 units, to be precise, from the likes of Khaite, Aquazzura and Gianvito Rossi — and a new Chloé logo canvas bag for the beach, which the Net team predicts has the potential to become as big a hit as Loewe’s basket bags.
“What’s interesting here is the shift in delivery schedules, as major brands are now adopting more seasonally relevant business models. Brands like Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, which used to deliver [summer collections] in February will now be delivering in March and April,” Page said.
The appetite for cozy, at-home wear and wardrobe classics will remain relevant throughout next year.
Net’s approach was to curate the myriad options that have emerged in the market by buying into brands that have had loungewear in their DNA to begin with, and which the retailer believes can offer the “best of the best.”
Stockholm-based Totême, Balenciaga, The Row and Joseph remain the category’s key players. In terms of individual products, the cardigan, the sweatsuit and the slipper are the new wardrobe heroes.
Net has 160 new tracksuit options coming on the site next year and is also planning to launch the original Birkenstock sandal, having sold more than 1,000 pairs from the label’s Valentino and Proenza Schouler collaborations.
And when shoppers aren’t buying tracksuits, they’re on the lookout for classic, investment-worthy pieces according to Page, be it a little black dress by Khaite, a pair of The Row trousers or the perfect denim.
“It’s a complete contrast to the contemporary-focused way of dressing. With events being canceled, there is a move away from dressing for Instagram and quick adds-to-bag,” added the retailer’s fashion director, Kay Barron.