An evening with Natalie Massenet from Net-a-Porter

This evening I sat in a room filled with the next generation of fashion entrepreneurs and the present leaders in both business and media. Tonight I attended The Business of Fashion’s Fashion Pioneers event starring Natalie Massenet, the founder and CEO of Net-a-porter.

As I arrived at the event I had about five seconds to scan the crowd before finding a corner to file copy prior to giving my full attention to the lady of the hour. It was an impressive room! There was an energy present, a feeling that we all had our part to play in the future of fashion and an inkling that we will all meet again – perhaps across a boardroom table one day.

We all filed into the “auditorium” in the hall between reception and the working office space and took our seats. Waiting for us were programmes, Autumn look books and a small pack of monochrome candies to keep us on a sugar high throughout the presentation. I was lucky enough to be placed in a front row seat and close enough to tell you that Natalie was absolute perfection as she floated to her white leather chair. She was wearing a gorgeous Oscar de la Renta red knit dress with to die for black Valentino stilettos. Every hair was perfectly placed, every piece of skin on view was glowing! I’m sure business doesn’t suffer from Natalie being such a beautiful woman. It’s the fact that she is smarter and quicker than most businessmen that makes her a force to be reckoned with.

Before we go any further, let’s break down the outfit she was wearing….straight from the virtual shelves of Net-a-Porter:

Oscar de la Renta Wool-crepe dress£1,200

Valentino Bow-embellished satin sandals£545

Imran Ahmed, founder and editor of The Business of Fashion, looked positively taken with Natalie as he threw questions at her throughout the interview. He was charmed and he wasn’t the only one. We all instantly fell under Natalie’s spell. But how did she get to where she is today? This seemed to be the main focus of the interview…how did Natalie make Net-a-Porter what it is today and what are her plans for the future?

It’s no secret that Natalie is a big fan of  “Creative Visualisation” By Shakti Gawain. However, hearing her speak about it tonight made me think the book might be worthy of a re-read. Natalie spoke about visualizing from an early age where her future lay. She pictured people enjoying working for her and “congratulating her on a job well done.” She even pictured the smallest details of her office, such as fresh flowers being delivered on a weekly basis. Natalie is a success because she made herself one.  A great many people visualize the lives they will have outside of work should they become millionaires…Natalie focused on work as the goal…not the means in which to reach another goal. She has a plaque near here desk that quotes Ad Lincoln: The best way to predict the future is to create it.  Well, that says it all!

Next on the agenda was social media…and a great deal of time was spent speaking about bloggers. Natalie has always been pro social media. She understands its importance in the future and has embraced the fashion bloggers since day one, with absolutely no resistance ( that any one can report at least). Net-a-porter ads are seen on 300 “hand-picked” fashion blogs around the world (Fashion Foie Gras included) and Natalie happily admitted that we were “tremendously important” to both Net-a-Porter and the fashion world as a whole. Hallelujah!

Talk of bloggers moved nicely into the discussion of Natalie’s newest venture “MrPorter.com“. Since the announcement of this “Net-a-Porter” for men, the blogosphere has been alive with gossip and speculation. Will it work? Will men buy luxury clothing online? What will the design be like? Which designers will be featured? You name it, we’ve talked and talked and talked about it. Natalie wasn’t letting any details fly (She learned her lesson the hard way when at a bloggers breakfast last year she mentioned the launch of Outnet and us bloggers let the whole world know about the idea instantly by tweeting under our croissants. However, Natalie admits that it actually turned out to be an incredible opportunity as the whole internet was alive with opinions on what they wanted the Outnet to be  and she listened!) So, you’ll have to wait on any info for Mr Porter but we are betting on greatness.

Natalie covered the best ways to get in touch with her which include emailing persistently and using catchy subjects to grab her attention. She recommends staying away from the family or friend routes as she usually avoids those channels when it comes to work.  

What drew the loudest gasps from the crowd was when Natalie suggested we skip a fashion season to correct the problem of runways taking place six months before any of the clothes are available for purchase. This is a big problem. The runways used to only have editors and buyers sitting alongside them. The attendees would then choose which items to stock and which to feature in magazines.  It made sense as this extra time gave them the opportunity to mull things over and choose correctly.  Now that bloggers are sitting front row we are showing the world the looks that are to come and the consumers of the world want to be able to buy these pieces now! Natalie suggests making September the shows for Autumn Winter and then having the clothing on shelves three weeks later to purchase.  Is that even possible with production time limitations?  We will see…Natalie has spoken…

To wrap this up I would say Natalie’s lesson for all is there is no substitute for smarts and hard work! So don’t give up, guys.  You could be the next Natalie Massenet. 

(nearly forgot to mention that Net-a-Porter also debuted their new iPad application which is out of this world…it’s available to download from tonight on itunes.com)

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