One year on: Net-a-Porter's Vanguard mentorship programme

Online luxury fashion retailer Net-a-Porter has marked one year of its Vanguard mentorship programme by scouting its latest contingent of emerging designers from Instagram.

Exactly a year ago, Vanguard was launched with the aim of helping nascent fashion companies get a foothold on the industry ladder. The initiative offers a package of support for the participants, including practical advice and marketing guidance to enable them to develop a long-term successful business.

There is also a dedicated Vanguard section on the Net-a-Porter website, giving these breakthrough brands an opportunity to gain an audience they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Season on season, the retailer’s buyers will seek brands who they predict will make a lasting impression on the future fashion landscape. With one fall/winter season and one spring/summer season under its belt, Vanguard has started its second year influenced by companies that appealed to its buying team on Instagram.

Sifting through the social media site for companies displaying creativity, positive sustainability credentials, and market potential, Net-a-Porter found four designers that fitted the bill.

Who are the designers?

BITE Studios: an organic ready-to-wear (RTW) women’s brand with 26,900 followers on Instagram. BITE – which stands for By Independent Thinkers for Environmental Progress – says it aims to use materials with natural organic fibres and recycled fabrics complete with environmental and social certifications.

Le 17 Septembre: another RTW brand based in Seoul, South Korea, and established in 2013. It has 48,300 Instagram followers.

Naturae Sacra: a contemporary bag brand, born and designed in Milan, Italy, but creates its handmade products in Turkey using calf leather. No two bag handles are the same to boost uniqueness, and the brand has 3,600 Instagram followers.

The Sant: another bag company, this time from Barcelona, with 1,474 Instagram followers.

Net-a-Porter said sustainability was “top of mind” during the selection process, with BITE Studios and Naturae Sacra, in particular, both championing sustainable processes and materials in their production.

This season’s Vanguard will be supported with a visual campaign that combines designs from previous brands that have taken part in the programme, Peter Do, Commission, Ratio et Motus and Anne Manns.

“Over the past two seasons, we have loved witnessing the positive effect the Vanguard mentorship programme has on these emerging brands,” explained Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-Porter.

“It’s so important for us to be able to share our insight in a meaningful way and aim towards a shared goal of long-lasting success. One year after launch, we are thrilled to announce the next wave of exciting new designers who all offer something completely unique to the market.”

Vanguard is one of several incubator-style initiatives run by Net-a-Porter and the wider group it forms part of, Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP). Earlier this year YNAP launched a competition to encourage more young women into technology, which called for females aged 16-25 to submit ideas for an innovative new fashion app which drives sustainable change.

‘The Incredible Girls of the Future’ competition has now ended, with three winning projects now chosen. More details about the successful entrants will be shared soon, with one overall winner set to receive a place on a YNAP mentorship programme, designed to equip the young innovator with the support they require to help achieve their vision.

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