Sarah Rutson’s Top Pick of the Season for Net-A-Porter: Alexander McQueen

by Paige Reddinger

The clothes at Sarah Burton’s show at Alexander McQueen last night had everyone’s hearts aflutter. Some critics have said it’s her best collection to date and the buyers are already all over it. Net-A-Porter‘s vice president of global buying, Sarah Rutson, told us post-show it was her pick of the entire season. She fills us in on why this collection will be the one everyone will be trying to get their hands on come Spring.

What did you think of the collection?
That is my number one collection of the season. It’s been so interesting. We’ve all been talking about Gucci so much. It really has to not be about just a season of everyone talking about Gucci, but really McQueen. I think Sarah did a remarkable job. The jewelry and body jewelry was fantastic and all of the artifacts of the house, but there was no artifice behind it. There was no hiding behind masks or the makeup and the hair. It was breathtaking, exit after exit after exit. My god that collection was extraordinary! This is why we’re in fashion. This is why we do it—that sort of emotion and knowing it’s not just beautiful for beautiful’s sake and then you say, ‘Yeah, but who’s going to buy it?’ You know exactly who is going to be buying it. There’s big business behind all of this dreammaking and we never forget that. But my god, here it was a win-win. You’ve got the dream and the commerce.

So will this be a big buy for you?
For sure, and interestingly we had a couple of our E-VIP customers sitting front row with us and they were nudging me saying, “Yes, yes, yes!” to the looks.

You take your E-VIP clients to shows?
Oh yes, we have a lot of big spending customers as you can imagine. They travel the world and they have homes all over the world. A lot of them happen to be in Paris during this time and we bring them along. Their patronage of not just us, but also brands, is very significant.

Do they tell you which ones they would like to attend?
We will bring them to some of the key designers that they already buy into, so obviously the clients we brought with us tonight are big McQueen customers anyway. It’s about showing them what our world is like, since they buy into it.

Are there any new brands you’re eyeing?
I hate to talk about it because it’s so early. You know, we like to keep some secrets up our sleeves. I don’t want to call it out while everyone else is out buying too.

Is your workload more significant now that you are at Net-A-Porter?
Of course, because we are global. I’ve done this job for a very long time, but when you’re on a global landscape with global customers who are all very different, everything is very much nuanced. It’s very interesting and dynamic, but god, the extra work that goes into it. Nuancing a buy for different parts of the world is a whole other ball game.

How do you manage your schedule?
I just work all the time. Monday through to Sunday, I’m working. I’m going to a business meeting now and it’s 9 p.m., and then I’ll be working with my buying team from 10 p.m. tonight to probably 2 in the morning.

Wow! Just for tonight?
Every night. It’s fashion month. This is the schedule. It’s a reality. People see you going to shows, but we’re also trying to fit in buys and meetings.

How do you have time to put your look together in the morning?
I’m in pajamas pants tonight! But look, if we can’t dress ourselves we’re not going to be very good at dressing the world, are we? But I’ve got it down. I’ve mostly been wearing sneakers and pants. We’ve got a schedule that would make your eyes water. But it’s fun, this is why we do it. I mean Mcqueen, my god! Here we are on a Sunday night invigorated without coffee.

What makes a good buyer?
Their ability to understand the customer, the ability to keep a brand DNA going, and also not drowning in history. Fashion is about change and sometimes brands change. Reading statistics is important for building a business, but it’s important to not hold onto that. It’s about trusting your gut. That instinct is really important, because that’s what can make things interesting. You’ve got to take risks, because you can get big gains. You never know until you try. Sometimes a little bit of something is going to really get a reaction. Go with something you really believe in and you’ll get a really good read, good or bad. You win some, you lose some.

What brand did you recently take a risk on that proved a success?
Well, when Gucci started with that first collection from Alessandro Michele, everyone wasn’t too sure about it. I went for it big and now everyone can’t stop talking about it. Right from the beginning we went for it. We called it. It’s not a time to be dipping your toe in a little bit. You either go for it because you feel it, or you don’t.

Particularly in this time?
Yeah, for sure, and it has worked. The customer has jumped on it and ravaged it to death. It’s moments like that, just like at McQueen where you know the customer is going to be moved by it and want to buy it…especially in a season like this season.

What do you mean by this season?
[Smiles and hops into her car] Good evening.

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