“Instagram has become such an important platform for us in terms of discovery, but it also allows us to see what our customers are loving,” Elizabeth von der Goltz, Net-a-porter.com global buying director, tells Vogue. Barcelona-based handbag brand The Sant, for example, was scouted by one Net-a-porter.com staffer while queuing for the Eurostar. Le 17 Septembre was a standout star from the Korean scene, whose self-taught founder, Eunhye Shin, began her fashion career as a blogger. BITE and Naturae Sacrae’s green-conscious designs were immediately saved to the team’s Insta boards owing to the platform’s sustainability push via its Net Sustain initiative.
“It is so important to strike the balance between commerciality and a strong aesthetic,” von der Goltz shared of how the nurturing process has grown over time. “We want the brands to establish roots and build up a style that’s recognisable and distinctive, and that can be worked on and developed. Designers generally spend a lot of their time focusing on creativity, but as soon as they have to take care of business, it’s the creativity which suffers.”
Peter Do is the standout success story from the Vanguard so far. Net-a-porter.com has increased its buy by 97 per cent for the coming season, including an exclusive party capsule, after high-profile fans, including Sienna Miller, raised Do’s profile. This year’s recipients can expect exactly the same accelerated treatment – thanks to additional presence in Net-a-porter.com’s showrooms, press events, lookbooks, influencer campaigns and on social media – but time will tell which brand will fly off the virtual shelves.
Here, the brains behind Le 17 Septembre, BITE, The Sant and Naturae Sacre tell Vogue what challenges they currently face as SMEs, and how they intend to use Net-a-porter.com to break into mainstream fashion.
Le 17 Septembre
“I majored in violin at college and was in the musical field for almost 10 years after graduating,” says South Korea-based Shin. “Fashion was a way of alleviating stress, so, with the little spare time I had, I used to transform my mother’s old clothes to make them look trendy for me. I started a blog in 2011 with no intention of commercialising it, but my style built up a following. I launched my first collection in 2013, and have produced 10 since, by studying and teaching myself to make each piece. One of the hardest challenges is communicating and negotiating with partners, so the Net-a-porter.com union will be a great opportunity to introduce my brand to a variety of consumer groups globally.”
“BITE is an acronym for ‘By Independent Thinkers for Environmental progress’,” the four partners – William, Veronika, Elliot and Suzanne – behind the 2016-born brand explain. “We came together as a collective to offer an alternative model for people who, like us, believe in the urgency to fight climate change and don’t want to compromise when it comes to the clothes we wear. We create a perennial wardrobe using organic, natural materials and ecological innovations within a transparent supply chain in Portugal, but making a brand as sustainable as possible while being aesthetically beautiful is a challenge. We’re now in our fourth collection of menswear-inspired tailoring, and, through the Vanguard, we’re hoping to take more people on the journey.”
“I founded my contemporary bag brand two years ago while working in an architect’s studio,” says Laura Riera. “I felt the need to express my aesthetic and wear pieces I could identify myself with. I’ve produced two collections so far in our atelier in Ubrique, using leathers that come from Italy and accents from metal smiths in Catalonia. The pieces are all quite simple in form (geometric, clean lines) and colour (mainly black and white), but they have unique corrugated handles. Our aim is to last, and Net-a-porter.com is a trusted voice to help build our name in the market.”
“Naturae Sacra’s journey started in Milan as an academic thesis considering what contemporary luxury should be,” says Gizem Pirincciler. “My partner Kerem saw its potential and decided to create a business to support my point of view. I believe a luxury consumer is looking for a piece that is completely unique, made by an artisan – a true artist – with a story behind it. We have built up our own production line that respects nature and people in Turkey, because, unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to find high-quality, environmentally friendly materials. One of the most special features of our bags is the sculptural resin handles, produced by local and talented women, which take time. Our artisans may make five leather bodies in a day, but it takes a whole day to make a handle. It will be easier to solve these problems as we become more visible in the global market.”