The online luxury website Moda Operandi, which allows you to pre-order next season's collections as soon as they hit the runway, was co-founded by the fashion industry insiders (and firm friends) Áslaug Magnúsdóttir and Lauren Santo Domingo. The portal that they dub a high-end "pretailer" went live last year. Magnúsdóttir, nicknamed "fashion's fairy godmother" by Vogue, gave a progress report during a visit to the UAE.
What makes Moda Operandi stand out from the e-commerce crowd?
It is the first site to allow customers to pre-order runway styles, compared to many online retailers that focus on selling last season's inventory at a discount. Moda Operandi is the first online luxury "pretailer" that basically allows customers to pre-order next season's collections right after they are presented on the runway. We send our team to photograph the collection in the hours or days after the runway show and then run a trunk show of the entire collection on our site in as little as 48 hours after the pieces were shown.
What prompted you to set up the site?
I first came up with the idea while working with designers in New York and abroad. The designers kept lamenting that many of their favourite pieces in their collections weren't being ordered by traditional retailers and therefore weren't getting produced. At the same time, friends would tell me how they loved a certain runway piece but they couldn't source it. So in essence, I wanted to find a way to connect designers directly with the women who appreciate them. I called Lauren and shared my concept with her and she immediately got it.
What's the biggest benefit for designers?
Getting designers was probably the easiest part of setting up this business because the timing was good and people had grown accustomed to shopping for fashion online due to the emergence of discount websites.
That said, when we approached designers in the summer of 2010, many of them were anxious that the "full-price business" would diminish given the focus on discounting. When we presented them with a sustainable model of full-price retail, they thought it was a dream. It did take longer to secure the more established French and Italian houses because they sought guarantees that the concept was here to stay. In general, though, designers embraced the concept and we now work with more than 300 brands globally. I think designers like working with us because our pre-order model provides them with the earliest feedback possible on what pieces and trends are actually resonating with consumers. Also, our pre-order enables us to provide designers with a positive cash flow going into production - that's a huge advantage, not least for emerging designers.
Online retail is a relatively new concept in the region. What convinces you that the Middle Eastern shopper will jump on board?
The Middle East is actually one of our fastest-growing markets. Women in the region love and closely follow fashion but sometimes struggle to secure pieces they are most excited about. We have a solid, active customer base here.
How does payment work?
Customers pay a 50 per cent deposit upon ordering and the remaining amount is charged upon shipping. Customers then receive the pieces at the same time, if not a bit earlier, than when the collections arrive in stores.
What's next for Moda Operandi?
We are launching our in-season shopping in the next couple of months that will feature a highly curated selection of products across all categories to complement our pre-order trunk shows. Additionally, we are hosting our very first pop-up shop in Brazil in March featuring pieces from some of the British designers who are having a huge moment right now.
Any plans to introduce menswear?
There will be a small selection of menswear in the holiday gift guide that we will launch imminently.
Visit Moda Operandi at www.modaoperandi.com. Contact a personal stylist at firstname.lastname@example.org