London College of Fashion graduate Lisa Aiken worked at several online luxury retailers before joining Net-a-Porter in 2011. She is currently fashion director of the e-commerce site.
Your job didn’t exist five years ago. What does a fashion director do on a daily basis? “I work closely with our buying team of 12 people. My job is to pull them together to give them one vision for the season – what are the trends, key pieces and what brands we should be going for.”
Another big part is sourcing new designers for the site. How do you spot talent? “Social media has made it a lot easier to go scouting. Yes, the traditional platforms still exist, such as showrooms, but Instagram has done for fashion what YouTube has done for music. It puts designers on a platform where they can have exposure much earlier on in their careers. It’s a leg up in an extremely competitive environment.”
Do you believe in trends? “The idea of trends is definitely in flux and will eventually be replaced. Yes, they exist to a certain extent. But, for example, today, it’s more about a mood, such as the current maximalist mood driven by Gucci. More than ever fashion is defined by personal style and how people put looks together. We are placing more emphasis on items you need to zero in on, or cult buys or categories.”
What cities are inspiring you right now? “The world is getting smaller, so we are able to see everything everywhere. That being said, the next destination I want to go to is Seoul. I also have plans to go to Sydney Fashion Week, because we are seeing great success with our Australian designers. And, thanks to the evolution of denim and contemporary design, Los Angeles is becoming more of a destination. Scandinavia is also on my list.”
What advice would you give to Asian designers looking to break into Western markets? “In order for that to happen, we need to see them! One of their biggest challenges is exposure. The fashion calendar is fairly intense so we can’t be everywhere. I think it’s important for them to get involved with initiatives championed by fashion councils or organisations that bring them to cities such as Paris and Milan. In fact we were introduced to one of our best-selling Korean labels Goen J after spotting them in a showroom in Milan.”
What’s the biggest misconception people have about working in the fashion world? “I literally eat, sleep and breathe what I do. Speaking to ideas of pace, fashion moves too quickly, so if you are not on it and love it, it’s hard to survive. My husband jokes that I can’t do anything else as the reality is that my job is also my hobby. Working in fashion requires a different level of dedication.”