Natalie Kingham, MATCHESFASHION’s Global Fashion Officer reflects on a strange but interesting 2020 as well as sharing insights on the future of the online luxury retailer moving into 2021.
Natalie Kingham, Global Fashion Officer at MATCHESFASHION.COM By Trent McMinn
This has been an interesting year to say the least – what has been your experience in your role throughout 2020, have you seen changes in consumer behavior and what is a lesson you have learnt?
It’s been a learning curve for designers and retailers alike and we’ve all had to adapt to the changes in our lifestyles. My team and I have kept in close contact with all of our designers and have tried to work together as much as possible to navigate through any difficulties they have had. The pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone, and I think we all had to quickly adapt, but the experiences and creative processes that we have seen from each designer has been truly inspiring. Much of our curation was done via digital appointments and it has been heartening to see how designers approached this with creativity and innovation. The process continues to evolve, and we are all learning together a new way to communicate and buy. We have missed not being able to interact with our partners face to face and touch and feel product so are all looking forward to being back in market at the earliest opportunity. We have the same approach for all of our community whether its the designers, customers, brand partners or media – keep having open and honest conversations, keep in touch and understand that innovation and change is required. But at the heart is maintaining a personal relationship. As we close the year, there is a growing sense of optimism and we will continue to celebrate how fashion can lift the spirits and spread joy.
Reflecting on the year what are some surprising insights you can share with us that you have seen at MATCHESFASHION?
Over the past year, both our activewear offering and effortless loungewear from brands such as Raey, Les Tien and Extreme Cashmere have done very well. Interesting tops that are perfect for Zoom meetings have been popular too! Interestingly, our fine jewellery category has gone from strength to strength. We have found that customers who would save fine jewellery to wear only for special occasions are now wearing it to elevate their everyday looks, whether it be a wearable work of art from Bea Bongiasca or a statement gold chain from Lauren Rubinski. We have also seen an increase in sales of heritage handbags and investment pieces such as the Gucci Horsebit and the quilted cassette from Bottega Veneta, pieces which are timeless that customers will cherish for years to come. As our clients are spending more time at home, we have seen them engage more with our homeware category, buying from the wide range of designers we have to offer.
As a purely online business, how do you ensure at MATCHESFASHION that you build a relationship with the customer?
Having a personal approach has always been at the heart of what we do and listening to and learning from our customers is really important to us. During the pandemic we introduced our #CheckingIn social campaign, working with women and men who are part of our community and getting glimpses into how they were coping, their tips and recommendations.
What are some of the trends you are excited about moving into 2020?
Joyful and uplifting fashion through the use of bright colours and bold prints and a relaxed approach to wardrobing, building on the foundations to create your everyday uniform.
If we were to invest in 3 pieces this year what would you suggest?
I think this year has shown me that versatility is key, and it is important to wear the pieces in your wardrobe that bring you joy. The beautiful floral day dresses from Valentino are a great investment piece as they can be worn in so many ways, dressed up or down. Jewellery is also a great investment as it is something that can be cherished forever and then passed down to a loved one. We recently launched fine jewellery designer Marie Lichtenberg, it is handcrafted in India and features special lockets and charms, each piece feels like a modern heirloom.
Are there any new brands coming to the site that we can look forward to seeing in the new year?
We loved to see the celebration of craft come through even more this season, as designers have had to pivot and work in different ways, we have seen really beautiful techniques and artisan ways of working which has been very inspiring and something that resonates well with our customer. We are thrilled to introduce a collection of new brands all celebrating craft in their own way.
Lagos-born and based designer Kenneth Ize reinterprets Western African fabrics and Nigerian craft for his RTW collections. Working from his studio in the Lagos suburb of Sabo Yaba, Ize collaborates with artists and design groups across Nigeria in Kwara, Kogi and Lagos, as well as supporting a small community of weavers local to Lagos.
Kika Vargas a Colombian designer from Bogota launched her namesake brand in 2011. She designer her SS21 collection in lockdown, looking at how women were living in their own homes and how they could elevate their daily routine with luxurious, lightweight oversize dresses. For the beautiful embroidery, she worked with local artisans to help maintain the Colombian craft in her community.
LASTFRAME is another new brand celebrating craft, Takanohiro Okude who launched the label in 2018 focuses on protecting traditional Japanese craftsmanship, with pieces made in his hometown of Ishikawa. The hallmark eclectic and brightly coloured intarsia-knit tote bags fuse modernity with tradition.
What are your thoughts on the future of traditional runway shows in the luxury industry?
Fashion is built around the creativity of the designers and having designers showcase their viewpoint is important, how designers show their collections moving forward will be very exciting and I look forward to seeing what innovative ideas this year may have influenced. We are going to have to learn and get comfortable with the digital world but in the future I think it will evolve into it being both physical and digital activations.
What can you tell us about MATCHESFASHION in the Middle East?
The Middle East is one of our most important markets globally and the Middle Eastern customer is style-savvy and appreciates luxury and quality. She is a fashion pioneer who invests with confidence and doesn’t wait for trends. As well as supporting local talent our Middle Eastern consumer also enjoys shopping from our luxury global brands and runway veterans.
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