Interview: Ian Tansley, managing director, Mr Porter

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 December, 2014, 4:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2014, 10:58am

The well-dressed director of Mr. Porter, the men’s counterpart to Net-a-Porter, looks back on three years of growth.

"Initially, I worked in banking, where I built and supported trading networks, before moving across to the nascent world of e-commerce.

I have always had a strong interest in technology but what really drew me to Net-a-Porter was that powerful combination of technology and fashion and of content and commerce - the mix is incredibly inspiring.

We launched Mr Porter in 2011, and talked about the concept of a male business and what men want. It was about informing people, but also helping them become confident about style and their fashion choices.

In the beginning it was hard to sell a £3,000 (HK$36,500) suit online as men couldn't try it on, but now the customer has changed, which is exciting. We now have 300,000 customers globally.

The online world has changed the way the fashion industry operates, from the way in which people consume style, content and inspiration to their methods of fulfilment in buying a product.

At Mr Porter, we are contributing to the change by educating by means of our content and providing access.

We see a huge reaction to content, with guys looking for that level of advice and direction without having to ask. Men in Asia are in tune with looking good - they have more of a fashion focus - while those in London and New York are still more classic.

So while big brands such as Givenchy sell well, we have seen more people experimenting with brands such as Thom Browne. As a result, we are trying to add more South Korean and Japanese designers to our mix.

The average age of our customers in the Asia-Pacific region is 37, although once a 15-year-old ordered something online and had it delivered directly to the classroom.

In Asia the look is slightly more casual, so we sell lots of sneakers, T-shirts and shorts, although we are increasingly selling more blazers. Right now, it's all about sneakers - we've got Nike and Converse at the low end, then McQueen at the high end, and everything is selling. Men are now wearing sneakers with suits and cashmere.

As managing director, every day is different. Typically, I am in constant dialogue with each of our department heads from marketing, buying, editorial, customer care or site management.

Operating online, our business is incredibly transparent, and our customers are very quick to give feedback. We have to ensure that the constant updates are backed up by the technical infrastructure.

Online shopping has become even more mobile, with businesses offering easy experiences via mobile websites and dedicated apps.

We are seeing customers who are comfortable spending large amounts using their phones, and this will be a huge area of growth for us and everyone else.

Style comes with confidence in how you look and from the quality of the products.

There are so many stylish cities in the world. London, New York and Hong Kong each have their own very clear identity.

Between Mr Porter (clothing, shoes and grooming), Ocado (food) and Amazon (everything else), I can get nearly everything I need online. Offline, my fantasy would be to spend my summers surfing and then go and spend my winters snowboarding."

As told to Divia Harilela