MBFWA: A Q&A with Net-A-Porter and Dion Lee

The last seminar of Australian Fashion Week was hosted by the Australian Fashion Chamber (AFC) Chair and Vogue Australia Editor-in-Chief Edwina McCann who posed the question, 'Do You Need A Sleeve?' Confused? Intrigued? A bit of both, perhaps? That was my reaction too. Read on to find out what was discussed.

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With only two guests on the panel – NET-A-PORTER.COM’s Buying Manager Sasha Sarokin and designer Dion Lee – the discussion was based around the essential relationship between the creative and the commercial.

I thought this would be something up my alley; I’m always looking for ways to balance this “life” that I’ve created for myself, but seeing that it was Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, I probably should have known that it wasn’t really about what I had in mind.

Instead, it was about the requirements and advantages around designing for the international retailer.

But in saying that, Lee, Sarokin and the AFC did address some questions that were somewhat applicable to others in the creative industry:

What are international buyers looking for?
Who is your customer?
Can you cater to both?
And who can help you with this – do you need a mentor and honestly, who would that person be?

So, what exactly did I learn from that session?

Let’s just break it down into some key quotes – all of which, were from Sasha Sarokin (sorry Dion Lee fans):

  • “A design, a collection (from a buyer’s perspective) is one season. A brand is season-less.”
  • “If you’re designing a runway collection, keep it clean, keep it concise.” 
  • “Spend honest time developing and understanding your brand vision. [Your] Vision is your North Star.” 
  • “Challenge yourself as to what you’re doing how you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.” 

So, what does it take to get the attention of Net-A-Porter’s Buyer to look at your designs?

“Talent. Authenticity. And your production must be in line.”