Simon Lock, co-founder of luxury wholesale website Ordre, tells Drapers how he plans to use technology to reinvent and revolutionise how buying works online.
Simon and Kirsten Lock
“There have been a lot of disruptive changes to the industry over the last decade,” says Simon Lock, co-founder of luxury online wholesaler Ordre. “Travel budgets and teams are restricted, and buyers cannot always attend all the showrooms they want. Time is increasingly pressured and there’s not enough time to do everything.”
Lock’s response to this rapidly shifting wholesale environment was the creation of ordre.com, which is pioneering a new technology-driven approach, enabling buyers to see items at every angle and in every size, observe movement and drape, and place a wholesale order online – all without leaving the office.
Ordre.com is a wholesale platform for luxury brands, aiming to revolutionise the way luxury wholesale works online, using advanced technology to overcome issues that might typically be a barrier.
The site was co-founded by Lock – founder of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia and former senior vice-president of IMG Fashion & Models, Asia Pacific – and his wife, Kirsten, a former style editor for Harper’s Bazaar, Tatler and Elle, who is fashion director for ordre.com.
With backers including Net-a-Porter founding investor Carmen Busquets and fashion retail consultant Julie Gilhart, and a rapidly expanding global team that has been strengthened by high-profile hires from Net-a-Porter, Ordre could have the potential to implement the ambitious shifts it seeks within the industry. Most recently, Ordre announced the appointment of Dan Knight, former head of technology at Net-a-Porter, responsible for both The Outnet and Netset, as its chief technology officer.
Lock says: “With the advent of social, the social outputs of fashion week shows are sometimes more valuable than the buyers. It seemed obvious – why not create an additional channel to run alongside fashion weeks, when buyers can’t always see everything in person? We aim to be the definitive online wholesale platform. And, at the moment, we are the only online luxury wholesaler.”
Launched 18 months ago, the site features 100 designers, including Vivienne Westwood, Courreges, Thom Brown and Joseph as well as up-and-coming names. Each has their own virtual showroom, where buyers view products and place orders. The aim is to allow buyers to “discover and engage with new designers”, and Lock describes the portfolio as replicating the Net-a-Porter catalogue in showcasing both emerging and established designers.
Ordre has announced a partnership with the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Business Network, focusing on supporting new designers through the NEWGEN scheme. Beginning in June 2017 with London Fashion Week Men’s, eight new menswear designers will be showcased on ordre.com, aiming to support the brands’ presences at Fashion Week. Previously, Ordre has also partnered with the International Woolmark Prize, showcasing 2016/17 womenswear winner Gabriela Hearst’s collection on the site.
We are enabling business through technology
The invitation-only site has a retail network of 2,500 organisations and buyers from 93 countries currently able to access it. Within this network, Ordre is also pioneering initiatives to help new designers gain a foothold in the industry – a team identifies stockists for brands, and helps brands build relationships with designers.
So far, so simple. But Lock explains that Ordre is taking a tech-driven approach to combatting the challenges of doing business online, and is introducing pioneering technology to the site, seeking to make the process seamless, and just as easy as buying in person: “I had always been immersed in the business side of fashion, and we realised that in order to solve the problem of better management of wholesale ordering, we had to become a technology company. We are enabling business through technology.”
Each online showroom goes live a matter of hours after the collection is showcased, at the same time that buyers would be able to access a physical showroom. In addition to a still image and a moving catwalk video of the product, the online showrooms also feature a high-resolution 360° image of products for buyers to view. To deliver 360° images so quickly after shows, the company developed its own portable image-capturing device called the “Orb”, which captures them instantaneously.
“The showrooms need to be hugely comprehensive and they need to be live the next day,” says Lock. “Traditionally these processes are time-consuming and expensive, but [the Orb] reduces the logistical challenges timings and costs. I could carry it and set it up completely by myself.”
Beyond this, Ordre has grand tech plans to revolutionise the buying process online. Next month the site is launching virtual reality showrooms, which will enable buyers to “sit” in the front row at a show, and explore the items that take their interest, engaging and interacting with the designs. Occulus Rift headsets will be distributed to key buyers to enable use of the VR technology.
Lock has edged away from mobile VR to achieve the super-high-resolution images needed for buyers to understand quality and fit. Eventually, Lock sees VR as working in harmony with designers’ own creativity, producing custom show spaces in VR.
“It creates wholesale in a completely different way,” he says. “A VR showroom could be the ultimate expression of a brand.”
Virtual fit services and artificial intelligence are also in development for the site, as is touch/feel technology. This would allow buyers to virtually “feel” the texture of a fabric remotely, using fibre optics or reverse radio waves on a touchpad, to replicate the feel of the cloth. While this particular development is a couple of years away from implementation, cutting-edge technology is at the heart of Ordre’s development and will be integral to its continuing success and growth.