Natalie Massenet: "I’m reading what you guys are writing…as it happens"

Yesterday evening I went to Netaporter HQ for a trend presentation. What I expected: fifty or so fashion editors, a roomful of rails, some delicate nibbles, champagne. What I got: I was bang on with the champagne and nibbles but got much, much more than a dry old press day. 

Firstly, I was given a mini- tour of the office. Netaporter’s nerve centre is on the top floor of Whiteley’s, a shopping centre at the unglossy end of Westbourne Grove. If you go to the cinema, the food court or M&S at Whiteley’s, you have absolutely no idea that operating a few feet above is a multi-million pound hive of luxury. The best bit is the spectacular glass dome that overlooks the atrium, lending a fitting air of grandeur to the proceedings and I loved that the server is so important, it sits in its own glass-walled office!

Following some gentle gossiping and canape-sampling, the twenty or so guests were ushered around a video screen for the trend presentation, but first some words from Natalie Massenet (MBE!) who welcomed us online editors and bloggers as “influential editors of the future”. As she talked to us about her passion for online and thanked us for our ongoing support, it was clear that this is one business-savvy lady. How many other retailers treat bloggers and online editors as of equal importance as offline editors? Er, none! Her understanding that today’s teen blogger is the customer of the future was underscored by the appearance of the chicest thirteen year old I’ve ever seen – Noa from Brains + Beauty.

And onto the trends. For AW 09-10, Netaporter is pushing Fierce Fashion for which the keywords are ‘confident’ and ‘sexy’ so Phi (new for fall) rubs shoulders with Balmain, Paul & Joe (insider tip – Balmain and Paul & Joe share the same stylist) and Pucci. “Pucci are doing a Balmain on us,”  declared Natalie, “Take everything you knew about them and throw it away!” Thigh high boots are going to kick off in a big way and the Netaporter team are crazy about them, “think of them as like opaque tights with a heel.” OK, I’ll try.

Glossy Dynasty is a continuation of Fierce Fashion which for me translates as 80s goes power. I guess it had to happen, after plundering 80s youth references to the nth degree, designers are now all about the Dynasty decade. The power posse include Roksanda Ilincic, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and my highlight – Moschino Cheap & Chic’s cocktail dress wrapped in a collosal pouffy bow.

Global Nomad is chunky layering gone mad with as many fat knits and shaggy furs as you can carry, while Menswear is going nowhere – still the Church’s brogues keep on coming.

The New Bourgeoisie is a trend after my own heart – think chic Parisian woman (AKA Coco Chanel) tricked out in Jason Wu, Moschino, Miu Miu, Rochas, Bottega Veneta and Oscar de la Renta.  Noteworthy acessories include pearls, a chain strap bag and a pair of Tabitha Simmons shoes (Netaporter is backing her big time).

90s Minimalist also gets my vote, epitomised by Bottega Veneta, Calvin Klein, Jil Sander, Rick Owens and RM by Roland Mouret. Shoewise, it’s all about pointy pancake flats and stilettos. 

After the presentation, we were invited to stay and guzzle more drinks which of course we did. Natalie came and chatted while we (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just me) tried not to look like star-struck fan girls but ask some intelligent questions. 

What else I learnt:
An internet addict, Natalie Massenet has Google alerts for her name (include every variation of spelling) so she knows exactly what’s being written about her and when. “I’m reading what you guys are writing…as it happens.”

She is toying with an idea involving asking designers to hunt through their nineties archives for possible gems to be sold on Netaporter.

When Natalie worked as a freelance stylist for Sunday Times Style in the late nineties, she told Isabella Blow she wanted to do a shoot inspired by Olivier Theyskens. Isabella replied in cliched fashion hyperbole, “Porcelain!” Too intimidated to reply “What?”, Massenet went home and told her husband who in turn handed her his laptop. Through searching (she finally found out that the cryptic “Porcelain!” was to do with Britain’s arts and crafts movement) she discovered a world of online shopping. In those days it was mostly odds and sods of vintage with a bit of Gap thrown in. Translation: not sexy. Natalie’s eyes were opened to the possibilities of online shopping and the rest is obviously history.

What keeps her awake at night? “My dog, my kids and figuring out how to keep things moving forward.”

At the end of the two-hour soiree we were waved off with overflowing goody bags (Decleor products, Falke tights, nail polish, a Timex watch), good wishes and a fairly accurate understanding of how Natalie Massenet got her MBE. Conclusion: She’s a legend!