Our Style And Buying Directors On Why MR PORTER FUTURES Could Change Your Life
Mr Sam Kershaw (left) and Mr Olie Arnold. Collage by Mr Maxwell N Burnstein
This autumn, three aspiring menswear designers will embark on a life-changing journey. As successful candidates for MR PORTER FUTURES, our new designer mentorship programme, they will be guided through the year-long process of designing and manufacturing their very own menswear collections, which will then be retailed exclusively on MR PORTER.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve introduced five of the seven mentors who will be offering their expert guidance: respected fashion industry figures Mr Tatsuo Hino, Ms Judith Tolley and Ms Julie Ragolia, and young designers Mr Reese Cooper and Mr Nicholas Daley.
Now, in the final instalment of our My Start In Fashion series, we’re getting to know the remaining two: our very own Mr Olie Arnold and Mr Sam Kershaw. As MR PORTER’s Style Director and Buying Director respectively, they have unrivalled insight into the world of men’s luxury retail. Here, they share what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate.
Do you have what it takes to make it as a menswear designer? Does someone you know fit the bill? Head over to the MR PORTER FUTURES hub and apply before the 6 June deadline.
On why MR PORTER decided to launch its own mentorship programme:
Mr Olie Arnold: We recognise that, because of the way the industry is set up, there’s a lot of talent that goes unnoticed, or doesn’t reach its full potential. And we feel that we can help people in that situation. If someone’s got a great idea and there’s a space for it and it’s unique, we should be celebrating that. We should be helping them to put that idea into a format that is both commercially successful, but also creatively enriching for them.
Mr Sam Kershaw: I think it’s fair to say at this point that MR PORTER is one of the most prominent and well-established menswear retailers in the market. Given the platform we have – given the audience we have – it would be irresponsible of us not to recognise the opportunities that are currently denied to people, and to look at ways of addressing that.
On the insight MR PORTER offers to FUTURES candidates:
SK: If you think of our position as a retailer, we work with so many of the best brands. Big, small, artisanal – you name it, we work with them. And that gives us access to a lot of information. We know where the gaps in the market are. If I were starting a brand tomorrow, I’d be able to tell you exactly what it would look like, exactly how I’d price it in relation to its competitors, exactly how I’d position the brand in such a way that it’s unique and has its own market. That’s what MR PORTER offers.
OA: Because of our content-meets-commerce model, which we’ve been doing for 10 years, we can also advise on how to position or communicate a brand from a creative or an editorial angle. There’s huge scope to what we do and there’s going to be so much for our designers to take in, but if we can impart even some of this knowledge, it’s going to really help to accelerate their careers.
On the qualities they’re looking for in applicants:
SK: I would advise people not to be a slave to what they think is commercial or what they think we want to see. If you’re designing with those things in mind, it’s very unlikely that your idea is going to have originality. If you’re sitting there thinking, “My ideas don’t look like anything on MR PORTER”, don’t worry.
OA: It’s more than just the idea. We need to buy into the person. We need someone to come in with bags of enthusiasm and energy, because as much as we can guide them and support them, they’re going to be doing a lot of the legwork.
On the long-term value of the FUTURES programme to MR PORTER:
SK: As buyers, the internet has completely changed what we do. I can’t remember the last time I went to a trade show and saw something I hadn’t already seen on Instagram. That’s why FUTURES is so important for us: it gives us back that sense of discovery. Already, in some of the early applications, I’ve seen things that are brilliant – things I would never have discovered had we not done this. To me, that’s incredibly validating.
OA: There’s never been a better time to break the mould and do something different. The traditional paths into the industry are no longer the only paths, and there’s huge opportunities for the right people with the hunger and drive. We just want to give them the platform and take them to that next level. It’s all to play for.