I am only the worst Mr Porter fan ever (don't worry they didn't pay me to say this, I wish)! The site/online store/journal/male half of Net-à-Porter – what have you – turned one on February 21 and I've completely forgotten to celebrate it on the blog. The Journal of the site is one of the primary reasons why I love menswear so much, in how they package, advertise and sell the clothing. Others may visit La Garçonne for sartorial inspiration, but Mr Porter's Journal is my go-to site for everything from style inspiration, what's new in menswear, various eye candy to the odd menswear history lessons to satisfy the nerd within. I am so obsessed with the site that I would have loved to intern with them if I wasn't already fully booked for Greece. I pretty much drooled when I saw these pictures of their HQ in London – how fabulous would it be to work there even if I'm not interested in working in the fashion industry at all? The Journal really has top notch material that blows other online menswear stores like Park and Bond out of the water.
This was supposed to be a light post in which I extoll the many wondrous virtues of the Mr Porter Journal but what got me thinking was when I accidentally clicked into its female counterpart, Net-a-porter. The two sites cannot be more different, and the drastic difference between the two is all more jarring when you realise the two are operated by the same Net-a-porter group founder Natalie Massenet. At a first glance on the home page, the Mr Porter is simply organised and decorated with beautiful typography and subtle graphics, while the Net-a-Porter site looks out of date in our minimalist post-Tumblr box sleek layout era. Net-a-porter has a magazine component that functions in the same way Journal does for Mr Porter, but the two are not equals in that Journal has better quality content and exclusive features that the Magazine doesn't have. So what can account for the vast difference between the two sites? I have a couple of theories as to why. Note that I am going to generalise and make a few assumptions (heteronormativity and gender stereotypes included) here for the sake of the argument here so please bear with me.
The focus on history and the story behind say, an iconic piece of clothing such as the Barracuta G9 jacket, accounts for the fact that most men do not care for trends very much. They are much simpler customers than women, and generally wants something that 1) doesn't cost too much 2) fits well and 3) makes them look good. Maybe they've figured out early on that what makes you look good ≠ wearing the latest trends. Before we can give men the benefit of the doubt and further stroke the male ego, we need to recognise that very concept of 'trends' is most fundamentally a marketing ploy and that we of the fairer sex, have long been the primary targets of the PR machine (thanks Don). Magazines that cater to younger female demographic such as Seventeen and Teen Vogue regularly feature laundry lists of the 'latest trends'; it should be to no wonder that when such a demographic grows up to be would-be Net-a-Porter customers and Vogue readers, the concept of chasing trends is already deeply embedded in the female psyche. Whereas I doubt many boys would have nearly the same kind of marketing exposure directed towards them (except for maybe the latest toys).
Furthermore, the variability of menswear is limited compared to womenswear. There is only so much you can do with jackets, shirts, pants, shorts and suits. Yes, there is Thom Browne and yes, there seems to be a growing number of men wearing skirts, however the overwhelming majority of men still wear shorts and trousers. Judging from the higher price tag and representation of high end luxury labels, I don't think much of Mr Porter's consumer base are trendy PYTs that are open to experimenting with more eccentric styles such as the skirt. Moreover it is unlikely that most serious businessmen would eschew the power suit for a skirt to negotiate deals with clients or head to the boardroom in such a state of dress.
Lastly, I believe the variety of the content available on Journal (from interviews to tips on how to throw a great party) helps build a platform and narrative on which the online shop can prod the men and tell them, "see you can wear X to do Y or be like Z". Though we live in an increasingly metrosexual world, this comforts more conservative and traditional male customers by justifying their purchases as a means to an end, rather than something "trivial" like shopping to look good. With their male egos intact, they can then readily click 'check out' without breaking a sweat.
That said, I really wish Net-a-Porter can step up their online presence and learn from their younger cousin. After all I can imagine everybody's offices are located in close proximity so it can't be too hard to make the trek over and see how Mr Porter operates and learn from them. I don't mind being manipulated and seduced to part with