Why the future of luxury fashion is digital

Dubai - CEO, Yoox Net-A-Porter, Middle East, on how the global luxury e-tailer is embracing the local market

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Thu 21 Oct 2021, 2:06 PM

Ask any aspiring fashion designer about their dream global retail partner and nearly every young creator will reply “Net-a-Porter”. The online fashion retailer that was born in 2000, is part of the Yoox Net-A-Porter group, and is considered to be the style standard when it comes to luxury fashion e-commerce. With e-commerce being the saving grace of the fashion industry during the pandemic, the role of this digital destination has never been more important.

Dubai’s Faiza Bouguessa’s eponymous label says, “For any designer to be on this platform is a big deal and it was one of my goals when I first started my brand.” Bouguessa began retailing on Net-a-Porter early last year and feels their local office really has managed to understand the landscape of the Middle East.

Helming Yoox Net-a-Porter for the Middle East is Nisreen Shocair. Based in Dubai, a well-known name in regional retail, Shocair was previously the president of Virgin Megastore. The petite 48-year-old says, “The market for global fashion has gone through a lot of changes, and we find the Middle Eastern consumers wanting to be catered to more than ever, not just in terms of how they shop, as that is a qualifier.” Net-a-Porter’s special focus on this region be it onboarding talents from this region or launching a localised Arabic platform has not gone unnoticed by the fashion fraternity.

The platform has managed to balance being international with understanding what the local consumer wants. Having an Arab woman at such a senior position has only helped give the website an insider’s view. Says Shocair, “Arabising the site was a natural next step as there are customers who prefer to interact with us in their mother tongue; but the way we’ve launched our Arabic site is also again unique to Net-a-Porter, in the way we’ve structured our content, search to mimic our bi-lingual customer core customer.”

As a group CEO, The Outnet (a high fashion outlet site) and Mr. Porter (an online retail destination for men), are also part of Shocair’s portfolio. During the pandemic, The Outnet worked very closely with homegrown brands as the sudden lockdown put small independent brands in a very precarious position.

Explains Shocair, “We proactively reached out to the designer community during the pandemic, offering them the possibility to put their products on a global platform such as The Outnet, as a commitment to help them fund their next collections. This one-time effort has made designers in the region know we are open and having a local office with a local team speeds up the process considerably as there is a pre-qualification process in terms of quality and design.”

One of the brands that now retails on The Outlet site is local label Bambah, known for its pretty party dresses. Its founder Maha Abdul Rasheed, says, “The Outnet really widens your reach especially for a local label, and the best part is you don’t have to create new stock, they work with the stock you already have.”

As Net-a-Porter expands its portfolio to include homeware, Beirut-based brand Nimerology is part of its website offerings. All their sites have special edits for occasions such as Eid and Diwali. Having local personal shoppers and also hosting a calendar of private events helps the digital platform stay connected to its client. Says Shocair of the Middle Eastern Luxury consumer, “Needs differ by occasion, country of presence, and regardless of place and time, expect service to be seamless.” She also notes customers from this region enjoy limited edition pieces and brands that have a purpose.

Shocair walks the talk. Her own last purchase from Net-a-Porter was a pair of baby blue plexi Amina Muaddi heels. She says, “They were sold out then luckily someone returned my size.” A clear believer in Arab talent, she also wants to bring Yoox Net-a-Porter’s global directives to the region.

Recently, she hosted an event for The Outnet’s consciously manufactured private label Iris and Ink. Last year, YOOX Net-a-Porter Group announced its Infinity Strategy, a ten-year plan all about circularity and sustainability in luxury fashion last year. Net-a-Porter has had its own curated edit of sustainable fashion brands for three years, Net Sustain. “Connecting people with the joy of fashion does not have to happen at the cost of the planet,” says Shocair.

With Gabriella Hearst being a designer known for her commitment to responsible fashion, her first collection as creative director of legacy brand, Chloe, was exclusively launched on the luxury e-tail platform. Shocair, says, “Our customers understand it, see it, and appreciate it. And this is not something you can create overnight.” Which is why the CEO says to really understand Net-a-Porter’s vision for the region you need to stay tuned!


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