Before Natalie Massenet, the internet was mostly porn and gifs. But the launch of the retail site Net-a-Porter in 2000 from Massenet's own home ushered in a new era of fashionable consumption and commerce, and revolutionised the way we interact with the web.
Now this visionary is being touted as the new chairman of the British Fashion Council. If confirmed, Massenet, 47, will take over from businessman Harold Tillman, formerly of Jaeger and Aquascutum, who has raised the profile of the body – and of its biannual shows in the capital – to an international level.
Massenet's portfolio boasts not only the site that made her rich and famous, but two other websites, The Outnet, where customers can buy past-season designer clothing at a discount, and Mr Porter, an upmarket menswear e-boutique, as well as a print and online magazine. Massenet – who remains Net-a-Porter's executive chairman – sold her founding stake in the company in 2010 to the Swiss luxury goods group Richemont for a reported £50m. Did we mention that she's terribly glamorous, too?
Born in 1965 to a Californian journalist and a British model, she moved between Paris, LA and Madrid as a child, before settling in the US with her father. "I was surrounded by some very wealthy people," she told Vogue in 2010. "I realised at a certain point that if I was going to have the sort of life I fantasised about, I needed to get my act together. No one was going to do it for me." Before establishing Net-a-Porter, she worked as a fashion journalist for W, Women's Wear Daily and Tatler, and as an assistant to the late Isabella Blow at The Sunday Times.
Her rumoured arrival as head of the BFC is telling. Massenet is forward-thinking and professionally astute. She is also an international figure, whose nous and experience mean she is taken seriously for all she has achieved and pioneered in the past 12 years.
Gone are the days when London Fashion Week was a commercial backwater, more full of enfants terribles than entrepreneurs. These days, designers such as Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders and JW Anderson head up young talents who deliver both the goods and the city's signature dash of cool, while international powerhouse Burberry moved its show back to London from Milan as part of Fashion Week's 25th anniversary celebrations in 2009.
So, if Massenet takes the helm at the BFC, the industry can expect London, and British fashion, to be even more loud and proud. Even if we are really rather jealous of her.