The recently promoted managing director of Mr Porter, Toby Bateman, talks about working with Natalie Massenet, of Net-a- Porter fame, and how his children help him unwind.
You began your career in 1996 at Britain’s House of Fraser. What did you learn there? “House of Fraser was where I really learnt my trade. I started my time there as a no-label buyer, developing products for the company. Coincidentally, that’s how I familiarised myself with Hong Kong, because we had a lot of sourcing agents here.
“Unlike other buyers, I wasn’t going into designer showrooms and picking ready-made options from a rack. I was working with a team of designers, benchmarking inspiration garments that would appeal to the company’s customer profile and developing products from them. That background has put me in good stead to critically assess the quality of clothes today.”
How did your buying approach change when you moved to Selfridges? “Selfridges was considered to be a higher-end business than House of Fraser. So the top-of-the-range brands I’d been working with were considered entry-level brands at Selfridges.
“Working at Selfridges was also interesting, because the whole store had just been revamped by a businessman named Vittorio Radice. Selfridges was still seen as a fairly old department store then, and most other department stores were, too. So the company was being transformed from a very average shop into a really exciting experience. Our job was, therefore, to maintain creativity, but also keep an eye on the commercial aspects as well.”
What has it been like to work with the founder of Mr Porter, Natalie Massenet? “Natalie’s an inspiring person. She had already enjoyed huge success with Net-a- Porter [when he met her], but was still down-to-earth, approachable and modest. She’s also very diligent and disciplined.”
How do you unwind after a long day? “I have two children aged seven and six. You can have a glamorous work day in designer showrooms and high-power meetings, but when you get home, there are two children screaming at you, asking you to bathe them and read them a story. They help me to unwind and forget everything else.”