Tell me the truth: are you addicted to Net-A-Porter? When you can't sleep at one in the morning, do you log on like I do? On the other hand, if you're asking, "what's Net-A-Porter?" read on, because this online luxury clothing and accessory "store" will change your life forever.
Net-A-Porter, founded by Natalie Massenet, showcases 300 designer brands, operates 24/7 year-round, and is all about making wardrobe shopping easy through excellent, efficient service. The whole set-up is genius. Choose a designer, say Alexander Wang, and click; up-pops a pre-shopped, perfect selection of his clothes, shoes and bags. Want to look more closely at one specific item? Click again, and enlarged front, side and rear views appear with suggestions on how to wear it, when, and with what. Wonder what size you are, or if the item runs big or small? Click for advice, e-mail your questions, or speak directly with a fashion editor who is always standing by. There are "boutiques" featuring vacation, wedding or intimate apparel collections, and every Monday and Wednesday 200 new products are uploaded. "NOTES" is a book mailed to premier customers three times a year. It previews new collections and comes with scrapbook-like stickers of shoes, dresses and bags so you can organize your look, log on and place your order. Basta! "PARTY," a glossy online publication, features evening dresses and shows how to wear them ten different ways. Orders arrive at your door in a lovely black box with matching ribbon the very next day or, depending where you are in the world, within three business days for sure. And best of all -- get ready for this--it's just as easy to return merchandise as it is to buy! I know, hard to believe; but trust me, it's true. For women who want to look high-end stylish, spend their money wisely and not troll the racks in local stores, Net-A-Porter is a godsend. Check it out -- you really have to see for yourself.
So what's the back story on Natalie Massenet? I met her in London ten years ago, introduced by a mutual friend. At that time she was working at Tatler magazine; newly married to her handsome and utterly French investment banker husband, Arnaud; beautiful, confident and looking to make her mark. Born to a foreign correspondent American dad and a former fashion model English mom, she lived in Madrid and Paris until her parents divorced when she was 11. At that point, Natalie came to live with her dad, grandmother and aunt in a triplex in Ladera Heights, California. During the summers while she and her mom traveled to Paris and the south of France, Natalie developed an eye for fashion, stockpiling stylish clothes that made her friends laugh when she returned home. But six months later, as fashion trends trickled down from Paris to LA, her friends were laughing no more and, though Natalie didn't know it at the time, her destiny as a fashion seer was made. She worked as a publicist in the film business and a producer with a commercial production company and went to UCLA to study English while living just off Fairfax. A pattern began to emerge: she liked being in a creative environment and loved fashion but didn't quite know how to turn that into a career. And did she want a career anyway, since just being a "jet-setter" had a certain appealing ring? She took a job as a stylist for an Italian fashion magazine (where she put together the young Tyra Banks and Angelina Jolie), and it was there that she began to sprout a viable career goal: perhaps one day she would be editor in chief of a fashion magazine. One summer, while visiting cousins in London, Natalie was introduced to Arnaud Masssenet, and in three days her life totally changed. She returned to LA, quit her job, packed up 30 boxes, and headed back to London to get to know Arnaud better. Could you have done that? The character traits that led her to make that decision marked her for success: the ability to rely heavily on her intuition; her willingness to dive into the unknown, feeling confident that she would ultimately find her way; thinking big and realizing that the only limits in life are the ones she placed on herself. She and Arnaud were engaged within a month, remain blissfully married, and have two adorable little girls, Isabella and Eva, who both happen to love to dress up (no surprise!)
So how did Natalie come up with the idea for an on-line designer clothing store? While working at Tatler, where she styled Victoria Beckham's first post Spice Girls cover, Natalie lived in a world of ultra-chic clothes. But when she finally made her way to the stores to buy them, the clothes were sold out. She was frustrated and realized that other fashion magazine readers must be, too. As it happened, the dot-com boom was upon us, and suddenly "a gigantic light-bulb with a thousand exclamation marks" went off in her head. Why not give women immediate on-line access to the best designer clothes from all over the world, making shopping painless, efficient and much more fun? Pregnant with her first child and with absolutely no idea how to run a business, Natalie tirelessly began to sculpt a firm that in ten years would reach millions of people, becoming the premier global luxury on-line shopping network and BFF to chic, busy women everywhere.
Natalie is nothing if not humble, and so she quickly deflects any praise or insinuation that she sits at the hub of the giant Net-A-Porter wheel. She speaks of her remarkable team of colleagues, of being at the right place at the right time, and of having the good fortune not to crash and burn like most other Internet start ups of the late '90s which, by the way, is all true. But hear this: Natalie Massenet is "the little engine that could" of Net-A-Porter. She is focused, tenacious, not afraid of hard work and will never, ever quit. And that is why, on November 13, 2009, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth awarded Natalie the extreme honor of an MBE (Member of the British Empire) for services to the fashion industry and, basically, for doing England proud. In the midst of a typical London downpour, Natalie appeared at Buckingham Palace looking picture-perfect (natch!) in a white Roland Mouret dress and custom-designed Philip Treacy headpiece made of black netting with black roses. She gathered with about 80 others who had caught the Queen's eye: a mountain search-and-rescue guide, a nurse with 60 years of dedicated service to her community, and an accomplished musician, to name a few. Feeling "humbled, emotional, nervous and cold," Natalie steadied herself, took the requisite eight steps forward, curtsied, said "Ma'am as in ham" and was warmed by the glow of silver white hair, diamonds and royal respect. Afterwards, wearing the faded red ribbon with the silvery-gold medallion, she went on to an intimate cocktail party with family and a few friends that her husband proudly organized. And then it was business as usual: she went home, put her girls to bed, and readied herself for another day at the helm of her wonderful on-line adventure.
What does this fashion seer predict now? She visualizes "huge opportunities where content and commerce merge: stores will become magazines and magazines will become stores," with the ultimate goal always being convenience and access for the consumer. Retaining every bit of the excitement she had back on day one, Natalie Massenet continues to work hard, think big and visualize an interesting and challenging future.
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