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Designed by data: Mr Porter launches Mr P

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Drapers gets a first look at online retailer Mr Porter’s own brand.

If anyone who knows how men shop – and ultimately dress – it is Mr Porter. The menswear-focused retailer is the little brother of the industry-shifting luxury website that redefined how women shop for clothes, Net-a-Porter. Both etailers are now part of the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group family, which hit a combined group-wide €1bn (£896m) in sales for the first time this year.

Launched in February 2011 with an editorial content-driven strategy, Mr Porter has established itself as a stylish shopping destination and one of the key online players for premium and luxury menswear. It stocks nearly 400 labels, from Gucci, Prada and Saint Laurent, to Common Projects, AMI and APC.

With more than six years’ – and 600,000 individual shoppers’ – online shopping insight and data, Mr Porter really does know what clothes men buy: what colours, fabrics and fits they prefer; at what time of year they want to buy them and how much they are willing to spend. It knows the buying patterns, fashion preferences and spending habits of its particular customer inside out, laying the perfect foundation for creating an own brand offer.

Launching 7 November, Mr P is the well-informed result of all these learnings that is hoping to cash in on the benefits of an own brand. It started life in September 2016, created by a growing team of in-house designers, and led by Mr Porter’s style director Olie Arnold and buying director Fiona Firth, who joined the online retailer from River Island in April 2016, where she was retail buying director working on own label for almost six years. Before that she was at Harvey Nichols for 17 years.

“Mr P is a casual contemporary brand. It’s not high fashion, it’s not really directional, but it’s modern. We want it to be inclusive and stylish – everything that Mr Porter is about,” says Firth at a preview ahead of the brand’s launch.

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And she is right. The collection is exactly what you would expect of a Mr Porter own brand: clean, simple and classic menswear; stylish and considered, but not overly showy or obviously trend-driven; and eminently wearable. The quality is obvious and interesting fabrications add a layer of desirability to even the most conventional of pieces, particularly the covetable unlined coats and cosy-looking cashmere-blend, made-in-Italy knits.

There is also a transitional, trans-seasonal focus – from light coats to lighter knits – that will continue all year round with Mr Porter’s global customer in mind. Prices range from £55 for T-shirts to £875 for a soft leather jacket.

The launch collection will include 53 items, split into two groups; 24 “essential” pieces that carry over and 29 “seasonal” styles that come in limited runs.

The core essential range features “things you would find in most men’s wardrobes”, says Firth, informed by her sales data. These include a white Oxford shirt, Japanese selvedge denim jeans in an “easy” fit, a short-sleeved T-shirt (in white, grey or navy), a Breton-stripe long-sleeved T-shirt, a Portuguese jersey tri-blend marl jumper and a zipped hoodie.

The seasonal collection will arrive in five drops throughout the year – February, April, June, September and November – and will focus on more trend-informed pieces in limited numbers, such as the launch collection’s use of corduroy on a double-breasted blazer and matching trousers, and herringbones that stand out on a lovely double-breasted coat.

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“Being the first time that we’ve got our own label it means that we can bring product in when we want to,” says Firth of eschewing the typical seasonal releases in favour of a five-drop mini-collection system alongside continuous core product.

“So when it’s freezing cold in January and February in the northern hemisphere we can have [a focus on] outerwear, and it won’t be reduced in the Christmas Sale,” she adds. “The lead times are so fast compared with what we’re used to [the average lead time for the Mr P brand is 12 weeks], so it also means that we can fill in gaps when we want to.”

Firth admits the team’s shopping data and product insight has shaped every element of the designs: “It’s helped us to know exactly what the big categories will be,” she says. “For example, we pulled up about 20 of our best-selling Oxford shirts and we were literally in a room with a model trying every single shirt on. We looked at proportions, fabric, fit and all the details: the [collar] points, the length, can you wear a tie underneath it.

“I’m not going to sit here and say we have the best white shirt, well, I think we have one of them actually,” she laughs. “But for the price point this just really good value for money.” Firth predicts trousers – one of the etailer’s biggest categories – knitwear and outerwear will be Mr P’s bestsellers.

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The name is also a smart choice. Mr P is a widely used nickname for the etailer and creates an immediate sense of familiarity. The obvious link to Mr Porter means the brand already feels established, allowing it to piggyback on Mr Porter’s six-year reputation, giving it a cachet that most new brands struggle to build over seasons.

Firth stresses how open and honest she has been with the brands she stocks about Mr P’s launch, and has found no resistance: “My job is not to take the business away from the brands [stocked on the site]. Mr Porter is a branded website – my job is about increasing business with the likes of Officine Générale, or APC, or Oliver Spencer, and Mr P comes along and just sits beside them.”

Given its price points, Mr P will appeal to a range of Mr Porter shoppers, believes Firth, including the “broad customer – the guys who buy a £55 pair of Converse through to the £1,500 Brunello Cucinelli shoes”. For some, it will be a slightly more affordable entry point – a way of buying into the Mr Porter lifestyle portrayed in its elaborate editorial content, while for others it will act as a complement to their Mr Porter purchases from other brands, although Firth admits her top-level luxury man might not be Mr P’s key customer.

Accessories and footwear are already in the pipeline and Firth sees more potential for expansion: “One of the great things about Mr P is we can make it is big as we want to. We’re not limited, we can do whatever we like,” she says, adding with characteristic business focus: “But it has to earn its keep.”

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