Mr Porter Buying Director Fiona Firth Talks Shopping and Style in The Middle East

Lindsay Judge   |   13 - 05 - 2019

For the past eight years, Mr Porter has been embracing the way men like to shop with a stress-free easy alternative to the retail experience. In 2017, much like its sister company Net-A-Porter with the launch of Iris and Ink, Mr Porter decided to expand its offering with its own in-house brand, Mr P, offering wardrobe staples and classics to complement a man’s designer buys.

 

Fiona Firth, the Buyer Director of Mr Porter, talks how the e-commerce site's own brand Mr P. is changing the game

Fiona Firth, the Buyer Director of Mr Porter, talks about how the e-commerce site’s own brand Mr P. is changing the game

 

Now in its eighth season, Mr P. has gone from strength to strength and is one of the most purchased brands on the e-commerce site. As Mr P. prepares to launch its spring/summer 19 capsule collection we talk to Mr Porter Buying Director Fiona Firth on what we can expect and the shape of the men’s fashion industry in The Middle East.

 

What can you tell us about the SS19 Mr P. collection?

 

We debuted our eighth and latest Mr P. collection in March encompassing 56 high-spring and early-summer pieces across ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories. I believe this collection provides the building blocks to a great summer wardrobe including a range of iconic menswear styles reinterpreted through modern silhouettes, quality fabrics and a soft colour palette of pink, green and blue. We have some standout pieces including a suede blouson jacket in pink and green which are perfectly lightweight and refined to wear this summer.

 

Workwear lines such as chore jackets are key and are gradually becoming a Mr P. trademark alongside our range of best-selling shorts, available with four different fits in a range of premium fabrications including Italian linen and Japanese selvedge chambray. This summer we have also introduced Mr P.’s first sandals for the beach in a brown leather and suede style. Our hot weather offering doesn’t end there as we have a high summer edit launching in July across seven ready-to-wear styles including two exclusive graphic print camp collar shirts.

 

How does the Mr P. collection compliment the other brands you have on the site?

 

Back in 2017 when we shared the news that we were launching our own label, there were, of course, many questions alongside some concerns. Since Mr P. arrived on Mr Porter, the brand has aided in complimenting the department and our existing brands. The contemporary category as a whole has grown across the business with the other brands benefiting in increased sales and traffic. Mr P. is designed and centred around providing apparel we deem to be essential in every man’s wardrobe; pieces that are classic and wearable, so are very complimentary as they can be styled with a vast array of brands.

 

 

Why do you think it’s important for Mr Porter to have its own brand?

 

Mr Porter has been in business for over eight years now and during that time we have grown to become the global retail destination for men’s style. The initial launch of Mr P. was an organic process as we felt there were lots of reasons for us to have our own brand, ranging from pure product to timing and relevance. We also felt there was a gap on Mr Porter for a contemporary brand with this style and the ability to offer seasonal product when men actually need it.

 

Mr P. is the solution to our customers’ see-now-buy-now needs, so that if you want to buy a good coat in February or March and not in the summer beforehand, you can as we have control of the cycle of production. Mr P.’s brand model of offering continuous wardrobe staples alongside seasonal products ensures that we can always cater to our customers’ requirements. We have the luxury of being able to offer a constant stream of products from t-shirts, coats, cashmere jumpers and shoes exactly when consumers want to buy them, rather than needing to rely on other brands for this. Ultimately, Mr P. has become an important reflection of Mr Porter’s strong aesthetic and brand DNA, whilst embracing the core brand values of quality, convenience and relevance.

 

 

 

Who is the Mr P. customer and how does he shop?

 

The Mr P. customer is similar in many respects to the Mr Porter customer; he is someone who appreciates quality and wearing clothes that make him feel good. We know that a lot of men sometimes find shopping, in general, a confusing and stressful experience, which is why we make sure Mr Porter offers our customers brands that have a unique DNA so that they are not left feeling too overwhelmed.

 

The Mr P. customer is someone who purchases certain items at the timely period of year when he needs it and is willing to spend more on key pieces with longevity, repeat buy certain wardrobe staples and is buying more casual looks than ever before. Our white Mr P. t-shirt is a great example of this, it is now one of the top three best-selling t-shirts across all brands on the site and is the item that is most frequently re-ordered from Mr P.’s offering.

 

How would you like to expand the range going forward?

 

The beauty of having our own brand is that the world really is our oyster. We can grow and expand the Mr P. range however we want. Our current plans are to develop and build on the collections, shaping the offering to what the Mr P. customer wants. For example, we have interpreted best-selling items such as our suede desert boots, cotton-pique polo shirts and pleat front trousers into lighter fabric compositions and different colourways to meet the demand of our customers. We have also increased the number of options available to our customers by over fifty per cent of styles vs last year.

 

We are very much still learning who our customer is and understanding how best to communicate with him. Developing and introducing Mr P.’s footwear range last September was a significant moment for us and we worked endlessly to source the best manufacturer to work with to master the shoe’s design and quality. We have also expanded into small accessories such as socks, hats, scarves and ties which are all performing well for us. Our immediate plans do not include expansion into further areas, however never say never.

What is it you see in a product or brand that entices you to bring it to the site?

 

Our thorough understanding of the MR PORTER customer helps to tailor our brand approach. As a global player, we identify brands that we believe will resonate within local markets while honouring heritage brands that our customers know and love.

 

 

What is the direction you would like to see Mr Porter heading in?

 

Men come to Mr Porter for everything from suiting to casualwear, lifestyle goods and accessories; we are an inclusive retailer and cater to all men and styles. I am looking forward to seeing Mr Porter further expand its brand portfolio, ramping up our lifestyle, grooming, contemporary and sports categories to offer all elements that are important in a man’s wardrobe. I’m excited for Mr Porter to further cement itself as the global authoritative style destination for men.

 

What is your opinion on seasons as far as the men’s industry is concerned – do you still believe in the concept of autumn/winter and spring/summer?

 

With brands and retailers operating on a global scale and customers travelling more, I think the lines between the distinguished seasons are becoming blurred. I believe seasonal collections will always remain as it gives context and direction to a designer’s range, however, we are seeing more and more on Mr Porter that men are buying items when they actually need them, rather than in the designated seasonal drop.

 

How do you think the online shopping experience differs from the in-store one and how do you entice customers?

 

The benefits of shopping with an online retailer vs a brick and mortar store is that the experience is quick, easy and stress-free – just how men like to shop. I think one of the reasons Mr Porter is successful is because it was designed to fit into a man’s everyday lifestyle compared to being a chore or an excursion.

 

The teams here have done all the hard work for our customers, curating an edit from the greatest brands so they don’t have to scroll through pages of product; the confidence is there that we have chosen the best available. To complement our product offering there is the content element you don’t get in a physical store, which is one of our unique selling points.

 

The clothes are styled in different ways and in different scenarios across our editorial platforms to enable our customers to understand how they can put different looks together. Our seamless shopping experience and exceptional customer service is also one of our greatest attributes, with a team of dedicated personal shoppers available 24/7 alongside our express delivery to over 170 countries, including same-day delivery to New York and London.

 

Even down to the moment the items are delivered to your door, the shopping experience on-site is a luxury. For example, the Mr Porter packaging, which has been a strong and distinguishing component, is core to our brand and customer experience. Every time our customers receive a package from us, it’s very much like receiving a gift to themselves and is a continuation of the luxury on-site experience.

 

 

What can you tell us about the habits of Mr Porter’s Middle Eastern customers?

 

The Middle East is one of our key regions with our client base continuing to grow over the years. It’s always interesting to see how each market varies in the types of top performing brands we have on the site, whilst some stay the same. With a high proportion of top spending customers and an average order spend that’s higher than the global average, we know that our customers across the Middle East are always on the lookout for the latest apparel and accessories from renowned brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Balenciaga, Gucci, Hugo Boss and Prada.

 

That said, brands such as Nike and Adidas Originals also do particularly well in the market, as well as globally, with sneakers and t-shirts being the top two best-selling categories. I would say that the main difference we see in this region compared with others is the differentiation between climates. Customers shop with us for a balance in transitional product alongside summer essentials when other parts of the world aren’t necessarily. Additionally, a significant development we have seen recently is the rising number of women shopping on Mr Porter and particularly for luxury watches. The Middle East now has a larger proportion of female customers compared to the rest of the world.

 

What is a lesson you have learnt from your experience in the industry?

 

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt from working in this industry is to always be fair, open-minded and approachable. Some of the most exciting and rewarding experiences I have had to date are in recognising the potential of a brand in its infancy and watching it flourish. That said, I have also learnt the importance of knowing when best to place a large order with a small designer; it is vital to understand a brand’s capability and infrastructure to help it grow healthily once ready.

 

What is the biggest challenge you face today?

 

Being a progressive menswear retailer means keeping up to date with industry shifts and adjusting our strategy accordingly. One of the biggest challenges we face today is catering to a global market and interpreting the vast level of information we have access to. Developments from new and existing competitors is a challenge we continuously face but also welcomed as a positive. It ensures that Mr Porter remains current, relevant and drives enhancements to the business, whether that’s through a new and exclusive product offering, our service propositions, the Mr Porter app or via our brand campaigns and editorial content.

 

 

What would you still like to achieve with Mr Porter and more specifically the Mr P. range?

 

Mr Porter was created to make the world a more stylish place and life easier for men. I feel we constantly achieve this with our product offering, informative and educational editorial content and exceptional customer service. Growing our luxury watch category has been a big focus for the business and we now have 20 leading luxury watch maisons on-site including Vacheron Constantin, IWC and Cartier. My aim is to continue expanding this category with more of the world’s best brands – increasingly focussing on limited editions and exclusive timepieces you can only get at Mr Porter. This, hand in hand with providing our loyal customers and those new to us with engaging original content and a first-class global service, will allow us to educate, advise and embrace a digitally savvy audience of male shoppers within the world of luxury watches. Specifically, with Mr P., I would like to grow the brand organically focussing on the quality and delivering pieces that our customers desire. Mr P. currently ranks within the top 15 brands on Mr Porter, I would like to grow the brand to position in the top 10!

 

What is your advice to others wanting to get into the fashion industry?

 

It’s very important to have a genuine interest and passion for the industry and an understanding of the global retail landscape. It might sound simple, but try to consistently learn from the people you work with, don’t be afraid to ask questions, listen and this will give you a broader outlook. It can also be a relentless ride at times so have the enthusiasm and the drive to embrace a busy schedule!

 

How would you describe Mr Porter in one sentence?

 

The global retail and content destination for men’s style providing an edit of unparalleled product from the world’s best menswear and lifestyle brands, unmatched editorial content and a seamless shopping experience.

 

See our top picks from the eight capsule collection from Mr. P for spring

See our top picks from the eight capsule collection from Mr. P for spring

READ: Mr P. Drops Capsule Collection For Spring 2019: See Our Top Picks

READ: The Modern Office Wear By Off-White

READ: Brunello Cucinelli Design A Capsule For Mr Porter