How to shop ahead of the curve

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Pre-ordering designer clothes before they hit the shops used to be the preserve of fashion insiders. Now Net-a-Porter and Topshop are offering us all the chance

The fashion industry loves new things, and those who work in it love having them before anyone else.

So when faithful clients and label loyalists attend the international collections, it's a chance for them to plump for pieces straight from the catwalk and pre-order their favourites, which often won't arrive in stores for another six months. A handy way to stay on top of the trends and ensure you're snapping up the season's must-haves before they sell out – and undoubtedly an insider perk of the job.

But it's also the shopping model behind a new capsule collection of clothing launching on the e-boutique Net-a-Porter. From Wednesday, McQ, the second line from Alexander McQueen, will offer its autumn 2012 collection on the site for exclusive pre-ordering for a week only. Pieces will then arrive in as soon as two months after the order has been placed, right at the very beginning of the new-season drops.

"Pre-order is a service that we have offered our customers in the past for truly exceptional collections," explains Net-a-Porter's buying director, Holli Rogers. "The first time was in 2007, when we collaborated with Roland Mouret on the relaunch of his brand. This was the first time customers could pre-order directly from the catwalk, anywhere."

The McQ collection in question was a highlight of London Fashion Week last February, as models in strictly tailored but rustic wool coats and delicate but structured A-line dresses trod a catwalk strewn with crisp autumnal leaves. And the reinvigoration of the brand, as well as its return to the capital's schedule, has been met with enthusiasm and excitement among the industry's cognoscenti.

"As soon as we saw the McQ runway show, we knew our customers would love the collection as much as we did," Holli Rogers continues. "McQ wasn't originally planning to sell the collection, so it's wonderful to be able to offer our customers the chance to pre-order a piece of fashion history."

Make no mistake, pre-ordering is for people who love their clothes, who eat, breathe and sleep fashion, and for whom only the most exclusive of pieces will do. But it's also a sales technique that is being adopted by more and more labels and shops, as customers become more confident about buying online and as the internet continues to speed up the traditional cycles of trends and tastes. High-street giant Topshop has started offering its autumn 2012 Unique collection to editors for pre-orders – and where that commercial force leads, others are sure to follow.

Burberry, too, has become known for its engagement with online audiences, having last year launched a "Tweetwalk" (in which every catwalk look is tweeted during the show in real time) and, before that, a "Runway to Reality" service which means customers can buy pieces straight from the show via the company's website. "Customers can buy immediately from the show and receive in six to eight weeks," explains chief creative officer Christopher Bailey. "It has changed the whole system of buying, as well as the cycle of production. Basically you can buy every bag that goes down the runway, every coat, and the make-up as well." Needless to say, it's months before the same items are scheduled to arrive in the shops.

"During the international fashion weeks, we see immediate responses from clients about the collections," says Selfridges' client-services manager, James Servini. "We can receive enquiries as soon as a day after a show. It's mostly a very fashion-savvy customer who will be interested – somebody who has an intuitive sense of which looks define the coming season. They're extremely sure of how they want to dress, and particularly passionate about 'newness'."

With the refurbishment of the store's Designer Galleries this year, Selfridges has also launched a lookbook of imagery that has further increased the potential for pre-orders. Working with the buying team to gauge shipments and arrivals, these customers, their tastes and inputs are also helping to shape the selection that will finally arrive on the shop floor – James Servini points particularly to high-end and directional labels such as Haider Ackermann, Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens, which are consistently popular orders. The practice may be for a minority, but it's an excellent way for both designers and buyers to canvass opinion, of getting an instant reaction and a sense of which might be the strongest looks in the range.

"Pre-ordering gives more choice to the customer," agrees designer Jonathan Saunders. "Often people look for more special pieces – which are sometimes not picked up by the stores. It's really interesting to see what people select."

In this way, shops are slowly returning to the old system of trunk shows and private views. Some designers still do these in person – Michael Kors runs a circuit of chi-chi boutiques across the US for his diehard fans, while Nina Ricci's Peter Copping and Alber Elbaz at Lanvin have also resurrected the practice – but Net-a-Porter's idea is that the trunk show can be run digitally, and orders taken there. It's a modern approach with roots in a much more personalised couture tradition. Moda Operandi (which stocks Jonathan Saunders, Alexander Wang and Marc Jacobs, among many others) also offers online trunk shows, as well as from-the-catwalk ordering.

"Everyone is planning the next season in advance," says Kay Barron, fashion-features editor at Harper's Bazaar, "and we're not as spontaneous as we once were. You have to put quite a lot of thought into it and really understand your personal style. But it's always worth it, so long as you actually like what you've ordered when it arrives three months later."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

    SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

    Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

    £85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering