Harriet Walker: The innovator and the nostalgic

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The Independent Online

There could hardly be two more divergent success stories in British retail: Natalie Massenet, the innovator, and Cath Kidston, the nostalgic, have both sold stakes in their companies to eager investors aware of the unique strengths behind each brand.

When Net-a-Porter launched, it was part of an optimistic wave of dotcoms seeking to establish a new realm for retail. A decade later, with many of those start-ups having failed before they even began, Net-a-Porter remains at the forefront of internet fashion, respected by the industry and raved about by consumers.

In the early days of the web, online shopping was seen as a bit naff – a poor relation of the postal catalogue – which meant many designers were not interested in exploring its possibilities. But Ms Massenet's venture brought together the sorts of labels normally only found in London, making them accessible without losing any of the high-end cachet.

Ms Kidston's name, on the other hand, is synonymous with retro romance. She has pioneered a determinedly nostalgic line of fabrics, homeware and accessories that speak to the modern love affair with all things vintage. Her designs can now be found across the globe, and her very English aesthetic is beloved by traditionalists and trendies alike.

Her pieces are instantly recognisable; they're a little piece of luxury and long-lost prettiness that anyone can display, whether they live in a townhouse or a tower block.