Brief Encounters: Lupe Puerta
Lupe Puerta, global head of personal shopping for Net-a-Porter, spent her formative fashion years in London, which allowed her to develop a keen eye for spotting the latest trends. As a member of the team that took Net-a-Porter from start-up to worldwide success, she talks about the lure of the digital world, crazy client requests and the transformative effect of fashion.
"I have always loved fashion but never thought I would work in the industry. Growing up in a small town in Spain, I wasn't aware that you could make a career out of shopping and styling, but looking back I can see that there was an innate interest there. I was forever borrowing my sister's clothes and creating and customising my outfits.
Throughout my childhood and teens, I would style my friends and family, and when I moved to England at 21, I ended up working in a second-hand designer clothing store. It was the perfect training ground, and I loved speaking to the clients, discovering what made them tick and encouraging them to try something new.
I joined Net-a-Porter in 2004; the digital world was so different then. The concept of buying anything on the internet was still relatively new, let alone the idea of purchasing designer fashion online. For me, stepping into this unknown world was an enormous part of the appeal. Now, of course, online shopping is a familiar activity for most of us. The positive thing is that the customer has more choice than ever.
My job entails meeting our most loyal clients, who are based all over the world. I conduct one-on-one appointments with them or I travel to New York, London, Milan and Paris with them for the shows. I manage teams based in London, New York and Hong Kong.
The best part for me is meeting our customers. They are super stylish and love fashion. They lead phenomenally busy lives as they juggle family, work or extensive travel commitments. Often we get crazy requests, but we do whatever it takes to get them done. Once we had a client in Hong Kong who urgently needed a dress for an important event. The dress was in London so one of the team hopped on a plane and took it to Hong Kong for her.
I really enjoy the travel that comes with my job, but it's also a huge challenge. Traversing different time zones while replying to e-mails and hosting events is no mean feat. A lot of people assume that women's style differs drastically depending on the city, but we find that our customers are drawn to the same special pieces no matter where they are from. They want that Saint Laurent runway look whether they are from Dublin or Dubai.
It's so hard to choose a favourite city. When I first came to Hong Kong for work I fell in love and spent four months here. I also love New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin, Shanghai and San Sebastián in Spain, where I'm from. It serves some of the best food ever. I'm a real foodie and love visiting great restaurants wherever I am in the world.
Style is instinctive and comes from knowing yourself and what suits you and staying true to that. In terms of my style mentors, my parents were extremely elegant dressers with a strong French influence. Like them, I'm drawn to classic pieces but living in London and seeing such amazing style on the streets has definitely had an impact. I love introducing something dramatic into my look, whether it's through high heels, strong make-up or bold jewellery.
If I wasn't in fashion I would definitely be doing something involving people. Maybe even the study of them. I've always thought it would be amazing to do a sociology course and learn about human behaviour."
As told to Divia Harilela