Tuesday, 24 August 2010

An audience with Sarah Curran, CEO of my-wardrobe.com and Lauren Stevenson Director of PR

I recently attended an audience with Sarah Curran, CEO and Founder of my-wardrobe.com and her Director of Marketing, Lauren Stevenson.

The evening was chaired by Dale Hicks of MFN who introduced the ladieswho then in turn told the audience a little bit about themselves. Curran left school at 18, skipping University and heading straight for London where she worked for various companies including L’Oreal. Sarah eventually found herself working with News International, the parent conglomerate behind The Sun and The Times, which saw her land a job as sub-editor with The Times Online. “I was very lucky” says Curran, “falling into a sub Editor on the Times Online, no one wanted to be it ... we were shoved right in the corner by the toilets ... that was in 2000/02, it’s amazing how things have changed”.

Lauren Stevenson studied Marketing at University and whilst studying gained work experience at top stylist agency Aurelia who boast clients such as Versace, Jaguar and Krug Champagne. Stevenson had always wanted to be a Stylist but after witnessing the industry first hand whilst interning in PR she felt she was better suited to PR and Marketing. Upon graduating Lauren took a job at Versace and worked in PR which soon led to a PR job at Ketchum, “I went from working with Versace to working on Whiskers Cat Food” says Stevenson, “but what the job did me was excellent experience in Marketing communication”. Stevenson then moved then to competitor agency Hill and Knowlton which is where she met Sarah who was to become, firstly her client and eventually, her employer.

You can read all about what was asked and answered regarding the company’s Marketing strategies by visiting the MFN report here. But the remainder of this blog will focus on what was said about the company’s recent introduction of Menswear in February of this year.

Curran and Stevenson sought out Luisa de Paula to head up their buying division; Paula has experience in both womenswear and menswear from the likes of Selfridges and Liberty. But my-wardrobe.com also poached Steven Spears from industry magazine Drapers to come onboard as PR Director for Menswear. Assigning specific roles to tackle the menswear fight back from ASOS is a clever move as the two genders are never as far apart as they are in fashion.

Curran admitted that introducing and marketing menswear had been difficult as they, at first, approached the advertising in the same way as they had approached their womenswear. Sarah went on to say that “guys don’t actively seek out fashion page in magazine or newspaper” their strategy quickly became to latch onto other modes of communication that men were interested in and “accepting we weren’t going to the primary mode of communication in that piece”. After introducing the menswear arm earlier this year Curran admitted that it had “not had that ticking point” and that the split for my-wardrobe.com sales was 20%-80% to womenswear.

The work carried about my the etailer with focus groups and data collection lead Curran to conclude, rather exasperatedly, that “men are far more complicated”. Where the etailer found that women were impulsive and active in their approach to fashion the webstore found that men were more passive and were harder to attract in store. Stevenson said of their findings: “men only shop for a reason, a festival, a gig, a holiday” but Stevenson sees this as an opportunity for the etailer to maximise on its offering. She gave her husband’s approach to shopping as an example “he hates shopping” she said, “his worst nightmare would be walking into Harvey Nichols and being pounced on by a Sales Assistant.” Stevenson went on to prove that online provided a platform for men like her husband, who hate shopping but like designer gear, to shop without any of the negative to dissuade them from spending, “no hot changing rooms or sales assistants”.

I am not quite sure where I stand personally within the gender split, impulsive or passive, but what I can be sure of is that much care and attention is being paid to it by my-wardrobe.com and it is refreshing to see a dedication to a menswear marketing strategy revealed.

Photographs by Jennifer Urwin