Natalie Massenet – the Queen of Dopamine Shopping. She prefers salt and lemons, which translates to margaritas. For her excellent instincts would be a shame if Natalie was that person sitting with a margarita late in the night saying “I could have been this”. In other words, Massenet is focused, calculated and wearing high heels. “Every time I go into a boardroom with high heels I feel like I am in control”.
Natalie Massenet was born in Los Angeles in the family of American journalist-turned-film publicist Bob L. Rooney and Barbara Jones, a British model for Chanel, and film stand-in for Sophia Loren. An interesting mix that probably explains her passion for fashion and journalism, which she applied to her work prior to building the Kingdom of Fashion.
SHE KNOWS THE IP ADDRESS OF FASHION SUCCESS
Let’s be honest… She knows the IP address of fashion success. It is called Net-a-Porter – her gift to the modern-day woman. Concept model of the relationship between designers, customers and fashion itself.
The idea was very simple but strong – to create an online store that would help women to pick the latest fashion pieces straight from the pages. With one click you could choose a bikini of a girl on a white horse, buy it and receive it just a few days after. Easy, fast and reliable.
“I WAS ALWAYS THINKING BIG.”
About 1990 at the Italian magazine Moda I met a young Mario Testino and a young Daniela Agnelli, my first proper fashion-world friends, and I was always thinking big”.
OK, Natalie. But Tatler was not a bad idea? Maybe better because she moved to London. But not at all. Why?
“I was around 30 when I started working in the features department of Tatler, which was absolutely the wrong magazine for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand how deeply rooted in the British aristocracy it is. I was deeply unhappy, so I left”.
In her business and personal case nothing matters if you are unhappy. It was time for a new story with a turning point, an unexpected twist. A new challenge in all shapes and sizes.
“I felt I had gone off-piste. It took me a long time to understand that a change of career is a good thing, and it also took me a long time to feel good at dinner parties just saying, “Hi, I’m Natalie,” and not, “Hi, I’m my job.” After six months, I got comfortable with it. It was 1999 in USA. I got married and was pregnant with my first daughter, and became the most creative I had ever been. During that time I was working from home – it was the time when you had to unplug the phone to connect to the Internet. There were so many different ideas in my head: I was thinking about doing documentaries, I was thinking about launching my own magazine, and I was watching the success of Amazon.”
“DO YOU WANT TO BE AN ENTREPRENEUR?”
Her husband was involved in the banking investment and suggested her to look for people who would invest in her ideas. Once she passed Barclays and there was an ad: “Do you want to be an entrepreneur?”. Perfect circumstance or maybe Universe touched a new chapter in her life? The first step was a business plan for online shopping. It was a completely untested business model because there were no online platforms for fashion and design. She said to herself that if her body is putting together a human being cell by cell, DNA strand by DNA strand, then she can start a company in the same way. “Natalie Massanet had so many sceptics, but she won. She won big time,” says Diane von Furstenberg. Literally, she started the retail revolution from her kitchen table.
NET-A-PORTER. THE NAME MEANT A LOT.
“I found myself going to dinner parties where I said, “Hi, I’m Natalie and I’m starting this shopping store online.” People were enthusiastic about it and offered me money. That’s when I started taking it seriously. My lawyer said I couldn’t call it “What’s New, Pussycat?” for legal reasons, so I had to find a new name. I took my fashion dictionary and went from A to P: prêt-à-porter. Net-a-Porter. The name meant a lot. I couldn’t sell my friends’ Pashmina scarves anymore. It had to be the real stuff. It had to be prêt-à-porter.”
50 MILLION TO MASSENET’S BANK ACCOUNT
All parcels initially run out of her flat in Chelsea. The number of labels on board increased year after year, as did sales. In 2004 Net-a-Porter became profitable.
In 2010, Richemont (Swiss-based luxury goods company) acquired a majority in Net-a-Porter. What did it mean? £50 million to Natalie Massenet’s bank account, who remained involved in the company as executive chairperson and investor.
In 2014, they launched a print magazine called Porter. In the meantime, Natalie Massenet chaired the British Fashion Council for four years and today ran Imaginary Ventures, focused on consumer start-up companies.
“As for my own future my entrepreneurial drive is as strong today as it always has been, and my passion for innovation will continue to be my greatest guide in business.”