Breaking news! The unstoppable Net-a-Porter is set to launch a standalone mens site in January with Mrporter.com. It’s been years in the planning but the time is clearly considered right to capture the mens online shopping market. Net-a-Porter is on a roll. It recently launched its Denim Boutique and apparently has also bought the domain names Petit-a-Porter and Net-a-Beaute. Ex-site-ing!
OK, we have stitch-n-bitch and other craftsy workshops in the UK but I’m still loving this French ‘couture cafe’ concept. ‘Sweat Shop’ in Paris has Singer sewing machines, vintage furniture and oh, cake! There are all manner of sewing and knitting classes every week…like, who wouldn’t want to make one of these? Apparently there are plans to extend to London. Bonne idée!
Holy Moly, May was certainly the month of the denim online launch. In the space of a week, I experienced interesting initiatives from Net-a-Porter, My-Wardrobe and Oasis. All are after the tidy profits generated by denim fit knowledge. Let’s face it, trying jeans on is no fun, so why not make the consumer’s life easier?
How are these brands doing it?
Firstly, Net-a-porter invited a bunch of bloggers and online press to a very slick denim presentation at Net-a-Porter HQ. Did I mention NAP have moved to snazzy new offices at Westfield? Oh. My. The place is straight out of a Hollywood fash-buster. Giant glossy black doors open onto a vast but vast reception area with shiny computer screens opposite an impossibly chic seating area. Beyond that is an all-glass meeting room, then the presentation area which was spot-lit to the max (think Annie Leibovitz Vogue shoot). This was where we were shown the various jeans and denim-wear that make up the newly launched Net-a-Porter Denim Boutique.
Following an in-depth presentation from buying director, Holli Rogers and denim and casualwear buyer, Ben Matthews, we played with jeans and were sized up by the all-knowing customer service team. I was lucky enough to get global customer care manager, Helen Baynes who had me down as a perfect candidate for the J Brand 7/8ths and duly ordered me a pair. After more jeans chat with fellow bloggers, I sniffed around the offices. Upping the fabulosity factor even further, I spied giant glass chandeliers above the desks, triple-height windows with views overlooking west London and get this, the Net-a-Porter library which has custom fitted floor-to-ceiling shelves and bowler hats hanging like mobiles. Insania. You can expect the same level of exceptional service from the denim boutique as the rest of Net-a-Porter. On the site, denim is separated into as many different categories as you can think of, so whichever way you care to shop (by fit, silhouette, wash, fabric etc), you’ll find that category. There is also a whole page on how to measure up for jeans. And should you have any questions, you can contact the denim experts by phone or email, it’s all designed to be super-easy and painless. Two things I found out that I didn’t know: The Victoria Beckham jeans are actually *gasp* really nice and are made in her ready-to-wear atelier (as they should be at £200+ a pop) and Samsung sells a washing machine with a denim cycle. See, I told you these guys know everything. In fact, I so enjoyed chatting to denim guru Ben, that I sent him even more questions afterwards.
Here’s my mini-questionnaire: Disneyrollergirl: What’s the best way to wash and dry jeans? Ben Matthews: Wash with a mild detergent on a cool cycle, inside out and on their own. This will help preserve their colour and prevent any shrinkage. Never tumble dry denim and keep out of direct sunlight to help prevent fading.
DRG: What’s going to be the next all-encompassing jeans shape (after the skinny)? BM: It’s a cropped kick flare jean called the Gigi by J Brand that hits just above the ankle before flaring out slightly. This style is super-flattering on all body shapes. Also look out for the tight bell bottom, a new take on the original bell bottom style – it’s a sharper cut.
DRG: I know you don’t sell menswear but what are your favourite men’s jeans and why? BM: I find it so hard to choose from the vast range of brands out there but I would say my top three brands are Acne, Ksubi & Levi’s.
DRG: Can you suggest a classic hero jean for the following? Short* BM: A slim cut jean in a darker wash will help elongate the leg. Go for the mid-rise cropped skinny from Current Elliot.
Fat* BM: Swap loose-fitting jeans for a figure-enhancing slim fit with flare. J Brand’s mid-rise boot cut offer an ultra form-flattering finish.
Short and fat* Petite and curvy girls should also go for the figure-flattering J Brand 7/8th as their slightly cropped finish and slim fit work well for this body shape. [EXCLUSIVE ALERT!] For AW10, we are introducing a dedicated petite range of denim which will include styles from brands such as Notify, so stay tuned.
Days later, My-Wardrobe hosted a two-day pop-up ‘denim bar’ for men in Carnaby Street, home to denim stores by Pepe, Diesel, Replay, Lee and Levi’s. This was also to celebrate the launch of their online denim shop, although My-Wardrobe insist theirs was meant to launch six months ago. Their site has added value with its My-TV videos that feature moving models and expert fit tips.
The aim of the pop-up bar was to introduce My-Wardrobe to men in a relaxed setting, letting them try on jeans, experience the site and (hopefully) get them comfortable with ordering their denim brands online – and keep coming back.
Finally, Oasis introduced their Denim Online Fit Guide with a charming little video. Accompanying the video is the fit guide which gives in-depth information on their best-selling styles for summer.
Selling jeans online isn’t that easy as apparently denim doesn’t show up well on screen, so the best styles to sell are the ones with lots of detail. That said, most customers want classic styles, so these helpful fit guides and hand-holding videos are timely. There is definitely money to be made from selling denim online – once the customer knows which jeans to buy. And by the way, the Net-a-Porter experts got it just right, I am now a J Brand convert.
*my words, he used ‘petite’ and ‘curvy’, I prefer to call a spade a spade…