By Heba Elkayal
As the power and reach of fashion extends to consumers beyond the pages of monthly magazines by way of the internet and social media websites, fashion today can be all-consuming and admittedly, overwhelming.
Major fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar have understood the power of viral media. Fashion brands and established retail stores have fought to capture an emerging online market; some stores have been established to be available solely online such as net-a-porter.com and asos.com.
Their success lies in the ability to streamline the shopping experience, bringing to consumers trends and collections off runways and from stores quicker than most stores.
The business of fashion has forever changed, and Sarah Curran, founder and CEO of my-wardrobe.com, has tapped into a particular niche of online retail: affordable everyday luxury items that tap into current trends for women who carefully budget their wardrobes each season.
The success of her website in the UK is leading her to venture into the Middle Eastern market. Daily News Egypt had a chance to speak to the savvy businesswoman.
Daily News Egypt: What was the objective of establishing your site?
Sarah Curran: Before I launched my-wardrobe.com in April 2006, I had a boutique in North London called Powder, where I offered what was then termed as accessible luxury designer collections — the second, diffusion and sister lines to the designers’ main line collections and the more affordable international brands. I could see there was a huge gap in the online market for what I was doing with Powder.
There was an assumption that consumers either shopped online for main line designers such Chloe and Stella McCartney or fast high street fashion, but in fact I knew that there was a huge appetite for the more accessible ‘everyday luxury’ designer fashion.
My-wardrobe.com has a niche in the market in terms of the unique, wearable yet aspirational edit of the diffusion, sister and second line collections as well as the more accessible international designers. We have always focused on creating a friend-to-friend tone through the editorial, the knowledgeable, yet personable style advisors and the beautiful photography, which captures the must-have pieces in an everyday environment.
How do you decide or select the brands you represent on your site and stock?
The my-wardrobe proposition is ‘every day luxury’ — those luxury pieces whether it’s a pair of J Brand jeans, a 3.1 Phillip Lim blouse or a Smythson iPad case that fit seamlessly into your everyday life.
Wearability is also key to the my-wardrobe edit of each collection. Every piece has that absolute must-have feel to it, but you know it will fit beautifully into your wardrobe whether it’s for work, evening, weekend or holiday.
The buying team travel to the shows and showrooms of the international designers to view the new seasons’ collections and … we know when we see a new designer that fits perfectly with our customer.
Online retail has changed the way we view fashion and consider future purchases. What do you think the biggest effect of online fashion retail has been globally so far? What can we expect in the future?
Online has changed the way we can access fashion, whether it’s watching a fashion show live streamed, clicking to buy looks straight off the catwalk, watching a video interview with a designer, or reading a fashion house’s tweets as we walk down the road. Shoppers’ expectations have changed and retailers have been able to present new exciting and engaging ways to shop the new collections from wherever you are in the world.
The demand for new collections has increased significantly and now more designers are creating pre-collections and bespoke offerings to meet the new expectations of the consumer.
The future holds so many exciting opportunities for online fashion retail and we are in a privileged position to be able to shape and change the way people buy fashion online. Mobile and social media are the two fastest growing channels, which are influencing the way people are shopping, but it’s about creating a 360 brand experience connecting every channel seamlessly.
What’s the biggest challenge about working in the fashion industry? It moves now faster than ever. Is it easier because you work with a medium that is as fast paced if not faster than fashion?
We are in a privileged position being in such a dynamic industry such as online where we can change and influence the future of shopping for fashion online. The challenge with this is having the patience to fully plan and execute a new initiative, innovation or technology, as the digital fashion world moves so quickly you are always looking ahead at the next thing.
What are you hoping will be most appealing to the Middle East market about my-wardrobe, bearing in mind that a lot of stores, boutiques and brands have been thriving in the Middle East for decades now?
I believe my-wardrobe can offer a new level of luxury to the … Middle Eastern shoppers [who] have loved and embraced luxury for decades. At the core of the my-wardrobe DNA is ‘everyday luxury,’ offering shoppers a unique edit of the international designer collections, focusing on the diffusion, second and sister lines and the contemporary international designers.
The my-wardrobe collections are built around every wardrobe type whether it’s for work, weekend, evening or holiday, so you can shop for a new wardrobe at the touch of a button from your mobile, laptop or iPad.
Consumers oftentimes feel frustrated for not being able to stand out in a world that’s consumed by glossy fashion images and trends that constantly change. In your opinion as someone who’s now influential in fashion retail, what makes someone stand out to you?
It’s those people who have absolute confidence in themselves and that is evident through their effortless sense of style and the confidence in their personality that radiates to those around them.
What trends are you most excited about for Spring and Summer 2012?
I’m really excited about the print and sport luxe styles. As someone who used to wear a lot of black, it’s exciting to be able to wear the new clashing prints from head to toe, whether it’s a printed blouse and trousers or a shift or maxi dress. It transforms any wardrobe with an injection of color.
I have always loved the American sport luxe styling with racer back vests over skinny leather leggings, or layering luxe jersey pieces over a silk joggers. There is a relaxed, yet luxe look that is so easy to wear.
Website my-wardrobe.com offers customers a carefully curated selection of everyday luxe looks for every wardrobe need.