The fashion website Net-a-Porter helped to change the way women buy designer clothes and now it is hoping to do the same for men. Yesterday the company announced it would launch a dedicated menswear site in January next year called Mr Porter.
The first collections will be from the spring/summer 2011 shows and the site will offer a mix of global designer labels including Burberry, Ralph Lauren Yves Saint Lauren and Dunhill, along with niche specialist brands and style advice.
Industry insiders will be intrigued to see whether Mr Porter enjoys the phenomenal success of the original site for women. The founder Natalie Massenet – a former fashion editor at Tatler – started the business from a Chelsea basement in 2000 and recently sold her share of the company for an estimated £50m to the Swiss luxury goods group Richemont. Massenet remains the chairwoman of Net-a-Porter but Richemont has the controlling stake in the company, which it has valued at £350m.
Massenet both predicted and encouraged the demystification and democratisation of designer fashion, whereby women would be willing to buy branded clothes without going to a suitably luxurious boutique to try them on. The site also ships around the world, meaning that women who live away from big cities and smart shops can still consume high fashion. In April last year, the company introduced The Outnet, a sister site selling designer brands at heavy discounts which allowed more people to buy into high fashion and helped to make saving money seem savvy rather than stingy.
While there are several boutiques catering to men and women which offer online shopping, such as Browns and Matches, there is no men's site selling designer pieces on a similar scale. However the fashion editor of Esquire, Gareth Scourfield, believes men have an appetite for online shopping.
He said: "The surge in online retail is quite a phenomenon. With the likes of ASOS and my-wardrobe.com seeing a significant increase in traffic from the male consumer for designer pieces, it seems a good time to tap into this growing trend."
The convenience of Mr Porter is likely to appeal to men, who often regard shopping as more of a chore than leisure. Despite a difficult retail climate, Massenet is confident the site will catch on, and has a ready-made marketing strategy in the form of women. Natalie Massenet said: "We have a ready-made customer base for our men's business. 100 per cent of Net-a-Porter customers have a man in their lives in some capacity and 59 per cent of them are married and living with their partners."