How matchesfashion.com is continuing to pave its own path in the global world of ecommerce, with fashion & buying director Natalie Kingham leading the charge.
It’s impressive to think how matchesfashion.com has grown from a boutique in Wimbledon, founded by husband and wife duo Tom and Ruth Chapman back in 1987, to one of the e-commerce giants stocking 450 established and new generation designers and delivering to over 176 countries. Despite the expansion, one thing that the company has kept in mind throughout is making sure that the customer is always at the forefront of every decision they make.
There are several challenges that online platforms need to tackle if they are to survive and thrive in this fast-paced industry, and one of them is making the clothes, that you can’t touch and feel until the order arrives at your door, come alive on someone’s desktop or mobile screens. A customer has to connect with the story of the brand and the designers in order to make the ‘click to buy’ happen and this can be done through engaging editorial, shoots and interviews.
But matchesfashion.com are going beyond that with the opening of 5 Carlos Place in London. At the venue you can find capsule collections from fashion to homewares, and they also use it to hold talks with designers. It has proven a great living hub for customers to further understand their world of e-commerce. As an extension of that, they have also launched The Collector’s House podcast on which they chat to fashion and style experts in their respected fields.
Someone who works very closely with all these creative developments is Fashion & Buying Director Natalie Kingham. She speaks to us about how the women want to dress today and what we can expect in the future.
What makes matchesfashion.com unique?
I think the buy and the edit has been instrumental to a woman’s lifestyle. The editorial content is extremely unique, and I think we now have another layer with 5 Carlos Place. It will house what we are talking about and buying for the season. Delivery and packaging, the way the things are wrapped, we always come back to the customer and what they want and how they want to shop. Whether they want to shop online, go to the store, go to Carlos Place, listen to the Podcast, it’s always about making their journey exciting and that’s at the heart of everything we do.
What are you doing to appeal to the Middle Eastern customer?
We always try to think about our customer. We do try and think regionally, we look at which parts of the world are shopping with us and then we can drill down a bit deeper and look at what we can do better. But essentially, we do try to think very globally and we think about ourselves as a brand and our point of view and create our own global community. Great stylish women live all around the world.
What are people buying here in the region?
We have seen a lot of modest fashion. As a point of view, our business can be modest too. But there is that other woman that is a lot more glam and fun and feathered – I love that woman, I think it’s the escapism element. This region really embraces those two parts very well.
What do you look for in the pieces you select for the platform?
We are always thinking about the woman and how easy she is going to find it to wear, and where she can wear it. I’ve actually become obsessed at how easy it is to put things on. There’s been a lot of designs recently that look complicated, but there is just one zip to put it on. I want things to be easy, I want the woman to feel great, confident, empowered and beautiful.
Which brands are doing well in the Middle East?
Valentino does well here and Palmer//Harding too. There’s volume and good fabrics. We also do well with vacation brands here.
How important is the story behind a brand?
Stories have become so important and we can communicate that. You know when you’re buying an item, there is a story behind it, whether it’s a sustainable angle or something else. Gabriela Hearst for example is a very chic minimal and expensive brand, but when they start to discover the story behind it, the customer starts to engage and understand the thought process.
Are there any brands in the region that have caught your eye?
I look at brands in every region that I travel to, I think it’s really important to understand what the designers are doing. I’m still browsing here.
Is it difficult to balance the creative mind and the business mind when it comes to buying for matchesfashion.com?
They go hand in hand. We are fortunate that we are able to support new brands from their infancy because we have an online platform. When they first arrive it’s a bit slow, but after a couple of seasons they are the next big thing, and I enjoy that. There are great people out there.
Do you think runway shows are still relevant?
For some people I really do, it’s a good way for them to express their whole world. And we work with a lot of people who emerge online. It’s unique to each brand and what their message is and what their journey is. Just as we have different ways of talking to the customer, maybe brands should do the same.
Do you have a list of brands you always shop?
I am of an age when I know my own style and there are certain brands that work well for me. I love Halpern, you just feel a million dollars wearing it and that’s what I’m passionate about, feeling great when you put something on. I love Hillier Bartley, it suits my shape and it’s sophisticated. I love Prada too. For vacation, I love Lisa Marie Fernandez and Dodo Bar Or.
Tell us a little bit about expanding into homeware.
We’ve spoken a lot about lifestyle and how women are living their lives. With the opening of 5 Carlos Place I became very interested in fashion for the home. When you meet the designers and you go into their environments, maybe it’s their studio or home, you really start peeking into their world. Some of them are so good with colour, or their prints translate really well on cushions. It was a real natural extension of our woman and our community. If you love that brand, then you’ll feel comfortable buying it for your home.
What is your go-to work wardrobe?
I wish I knew what that was! I guess I’m androgynous, and I never realised that. I do like tailoring, I think it’s because you look well put together. It depends what kind of mood I’m in, but everything has a twist to it.
What is your vision for the next year and what challenges do you face?
I want to talk more about sustainability and waste. We did an innovators program around it, working with with designers and it was a huge success. We’ve been working with ecoAid for the last two years, they look at everything in our business and the designers we work with. Their journey from factory to us, and also what we do as a business. It is really important, they’re making it easier for us and we will be working a lot closer with them on the product and design side this year. And also couture and demi-couture elements. I think streetwear and being casual has become so important, and I want to highlight these artisanal crafts and details that we shouldn’t forget about.