Online retailers are competing to win over hot new designers

Glossy – Emerging designers, particularly those who have built up social media followings, are now seen as keys that can unlock a new customer for the retailers that carry them. Online retailers like Net-a-Porter, MatchesFashion, Moda Operandi and the e-commerce sites of luxury department stores are competing on newness, exclusivity and an ability to discover the next big names in fashion to give customers a reason to shop there and to keep coming back.

On Thursday, Net-a-Porter launched a new program called “The Vanguard,” offering a rotating pool of designers access to a guided mentorship program led by Net-a-Porter executives and team members. It entails business strategy and marketing support, social media production, PR and technology resources. In exchange, the designers will sell their collections exclusively through Net-a-Porter. The first four designers to participate in The Vanguard are Les Reveries, Ruh, Gu_de and Martinez. All the brands are international, which speaks to Net-a-Porter’s ongoing mission to attract a global customer, and some speak to emerging customer trends: Ruh, for instance, is a sustainable clothing brand for modest apparel targeting Muslim consumers, while Gu_de is a locally made, Korean-based handbag brand.

“The Net-a-Porter buying team selects brands based on design and directional brand perspective. We pursue brands that we believe have the potential to grow into meaningful businesses,” said Lisa Aiken, Net-a-Porter’s retail fashion director. “With social media, we’re seeing new brands make a larger impact in fashion within a shorter period of time.”

“You have to take care of luxury customers, especially online,” said Ken Morris, principal analyst at Boston Retail Partners. “They want to feel like they’re being catered to, like they’re unique, like they’re in on something other people aren’t. Exclusive collections from up-and-coming designers is a differentiator.”

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