ITW | Ordre.com CEO on strategy, giving buyers superpowers & partnering with Alibaba

While Simon P. Lock's company sets its sight on the East, its focus on easing buyers' & designers' lives remains unwavering

in brief

During the latest Paris Fashion Week, we took some time to visit ORDRE LIVE by Ordre.com and we had the opportunity to meet with Simon P Lock & Hannah Dodds, who gave us more details about the luxury wholesale platform’s origins, its latest innovations and its plans for the near future, as it moves forward in leveraging advanced tech with a purpose to make buyers’ lives easier around the world and kicks-off a key strategic partnership with Alibaba.

During the latest Paris Fashion Week, in late February, we took some time to visit ORDRE LIVE, the 2nd edition of Ordre.com’s event dedicated at physically showcasing emerging designers, and its pioneering technology-driven approach to B2B luxury wholesale. Once again taking place in the buzzy Marais area, we were welcomed in the spacious and vivid space by Hannah Dodds, the platform’s Marketing & Communications Director, with whom we had an extensive conversation on the current pieces displayed, how things were going this season and how technology helps reshape the industry, from a B2B perspective. After the lengthy discussion, we then had the opportunity to meet with Ordre.com’s founder, Simon P Lock, for a more in depth interview. As we toured the showroom together, he gave us more details about the luxury wholesale platform’s origins, its latest innovations and its plans for the near future, as it moves forward in leveraging advanced tech with a purpose to make buyers’ lives easier around the world:

” Our organization has been around for about 25 years, working in the business of fashion. I was founder of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, and it was here that I noticed an abrupt shift in the global retail eco-system. Designers were struggling to produce sample collections to meet the creased demand for the overlapping pre collection and could no longer rely solely on buyers physically visiting showrooms to place wholesale orders. Realizing it was both commercially prohibitive and physically impossible for buyers to be everywhere and see every designer at one time, it’s when my wife and I (Kirtsten Lock, former style director of Harpers Bazaar) created ORDRE.com, another channel for designers to engage with retailers online. ” Simon P Lock, Founder & CEO, ORDRE

Photo: Kirsten & Simon P. Lock

As the experience aimed at pursuing the mission of revolutionizing how buying works online, all the while having a relevant physical representation IRL during Fashion month, ORDRE’s purpose remains focused on using advanced technology to overcome issues that might typically be a barrier, for both designers and buyers. While it tends to be the case in the digital world nowadays, the proposed online experience had to go beyond beautiful pictures and slideshows. Something that led the Ordre.com team to go out of their way, and provide its network of 7,746 individual buyers (representing 2,742 stores in 92 countries), with its very own technology, its proprietary content and a dedicated user experience to answer their specific needs:

SPL: ” The thing we had to work on was, for buyers, to understand that viewing a collection online, like Thom Browne’s, that it couldn’t be just beautiful pictures: there had to be a lot more details, options and content so the buyers could really have an holistic understanding of collections. So we developed our very own technology to allow buyers to really understand all those collections online. When you first come on the ORDRE.com platform, you can understand that we also have a dedicated fashion buying intelligence channel called ORDRE News. It’s very focused around wholesale and about what’s going on in the industry. If I was then a retailer, I would then explore the Designer Showrooms. As of today, we’re working with 156 designers globally, from great established brands like Stella McCartney, Thom Browne and Vivienne Westwood to new great new emerging brands from all around the world such as Angel Chen and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy….so it’s a real mix. The idea is that, if you’re, let’s say, Net-à-Porter; you can engage with all the brands that you can’t buy, especially the big ones, but also you can use ORDRE to discover new exciting brands. ” 

Photo: ORDRE.com technologies and website

Simon then proceeded to show us, straight from the touch-sensitive screens surrounding us in the showroom, the dedicated designer brands 360 view imagery. He also walked us through the ORDRE.com platform, to offer us a better grasp of how all of this works, and also how it actually provides buyers with a useful and ubiquitous sense of discovery, without ever leaving their offices.

“[Our technologies] allows buyers to really look at every aspects of a particular outfit. It really helps to give an overall understanding of all the details, even the tiniest, but also to have an idea of how it fits, hence why we show all the collection shows from designer’s we’re working with at the moment in Virtual Reality videos.”

Recently, Thom Brown harnessed ORDRE’s technologies during the spring/summer 18 womenswear season to present it’s catwalk and commercial collection. The label’s existing retail network accessed their personalized showroom on ORDRE, finalizing their wholesale selections after their often-brief visits to the physical showroom. Considering the intricate nature of many of Thom Brown’s semi-couture looks, it was impractical for models to try them on in the showroom. Thus, ORDRE’s assets were used to showcase the looks. In the physical showroom, the buyers were able to interact with life-size touchscreens presenting 360 view images of the subtle garments to great effect.

Credit: Thom Browne Spring/Summer ’18 collection

Thom Browne then made the 360 view images available through the ORDRE Pre Order App to selected VIP customers globally to enable them to place pre orders direct from the catwalk, adding to overall wholesale orders. The brand’s online showroom also received one of the highest responses from ORDRE retail network. 25 new retailers requested access as well as to be considered as new stockists from various markets around the world and a number of these requests were converted.

The end result was stronger sales on the catwalk collection than had been experienced in previous seasons by existing stockists:

SPL: “It will start off by telling you who the designers are, where they come from, brand development milestones. So it’s a really business focused platform. Then it takes you into the details of the collection, past collections but also the other content developed. Along the top, you have all the looks and then you start to get into the product detail, so if you look at a particular look, all that combines the look can come up, this is where the technology becomes very useful, showing all the collections and pieces in 360°. This allows buyers to really look at every aspects of a particular outfit (so they can, for instance take advantage of the zoom capability to take a closer look at the pieces and its details). So it really helps to give an overall understanding of all the details, even the tiniest, but also to have an idea of how it fits, hence why we show all the collection shows from designer’s we’re working with at the moment in Virtual Reality videos. Usually, buyers are used to really see only a single aspect of what they watch at fashion shows and now what we do when we film it through the use of VR technologies, we allow buyers to be sitting at the front row and to really experience it as the model comes down.” 

We were also excited to discover the bespoke & patented 360 camera, the ORB, and the ORDRE headsets, about which Simon also gave us insights on the recording capability and their level of quality, while displaying the latest Proenza Schouler runway show.

We learned that the online showroom proved to be an enormous success in the label’s strategy, receiving 60,000 digital impressions from buyers globally. The collection, presented using ORDRE’s 360 view technology, allowed buyers to review the intricate collection in detail and place wholesale orders remotely not having to travel to Paris out of their traditional buying schedule. Such use of technology currently enables buyers to “sit” in the front row at fashion week shows, and explore the items that take their interest, while engaging and interacting with the designs at the same time.

“We are then able to gather an incredible amount of data about the engagement and offer insights to designers about who the buyers are, what part of the collections they loved the most and offer them advice about the most important things these buyers care about. It also helps in case buyers don’t have a lot of time to take a look at everything.”

Over 100 key buyers remotely viewed the Proenza Schouler VR experience, a significant proportion of ORDRE’s Retail Network. ORDRE’s technology and online showroom assisted Proenza Schouler in maintaining support from their retail network as they transitioned to their new wholesale strategy and non-traditional buying schedule:

SPL: “We also provide all buyers with virtual reality headsets so they can experience it firsthand. We try to put these technologies in the hands of buyers, who’ve never used VR before. The beauty of what our next technology development is as they’re watching, they’ll be able to click and it will send them back to the platform, so that they can look at everything they’ve selected, merchandise and then quantify their order. We’ve also done a lot of in-depth videos following fashion shows or presentations with the designers so that buyers can have a real understanding of the product, beyond all the options we put in place through 360 videos and virtual reality. Now they can hear from the collections directly from the designers, talking about their collections offering them better insights into its story and obtain additional key explanations.” 

Thanks to the omnichannel mindset currently in place at ordre.com, a buyer can effectively use all these innovative tools to have an holistic vision of a brand and its collections. With a lot of carefulness from the platform’s teams to remain consistent, this state of mind could be felt in the physical location as well, across the screens and headsets that were placed in a relevant manner, serving as additional touchpoints and instant, digital access portals, within the location:

Credit: ORDRE.com’s Digital Showroom

SPL: “We can look at collections here in the physical showroom, use the technology we have here in our Paris showroom, take a look at all the details and place their orders directly from the ORDRE.com. It’s really about creating the digital content allowing buyers to engage with it online and then, when they come to a physical environment like this, the technology is all here to facilitate the buying as well. What happens is that we are then able to gather an incredible amount of data about the engagement and offer insights to designers about who the buyers are, what part of the collections they loved the most and offer them advice about the most important things these buyers care about. It also helps in case buyers don’t have a lot of time to take a look at everything : they can visit ORDRE.com, save everything that they find interesting in minutes and run away back to their busy fashion week schedule. They also can prepare before coming in.” 

But ordre.com‘s usefulness doesn’t stop here, as the digital platform also embodies a dedicated answer to the issues faced by emerging and established designers, for whom showrooms play a key part in developing their brands internationally:

SPL: “We have seen increasingly more established designers realize how much digital showrooms are part of the future. They were frustrated because they just can’t get all the buyers to their global physical showrooms.” 

Ultimately, ordre.com also looks forward at how leveraging all the activity happening on the website. A valuable resource of prime interest to the many actors of the industry looking for ways of engaging more effectively with buyers, giving them the means to better grasp the evolution of the professionals’ behavior that can possibly have an impact on how they approach fashion shows henceforward. With a lot of focus put on Influencers these days, such an offering might reestablish the balance between fashion’s opinion leaders and key workers, for the greater good:

Credit: Ordre.com

SPL: “We get a lot of buying insights because we put a lot of volume to the platform and with all the buyers flocking in it, so we’re generating a lot of very valuable information from the industry. We’re going to look at how to commercialize that but also how to use it to enhance the ORDRE experience in the near future.”  

Looking forward to the platform’s next step, ordre.com is actually considering Virtual fit services (a future service named Fit Avatar, that will give ability for buyers to try 360 view images of collections on virtual models to determine the correct size) and artificial intelligence’s development for the site (allowing for voice interaction and instantaneous customer service), as are touch/feel technology, virtual samples and connected collections (leveraging near field communications (HFC) devices, embedded in samples, to allow tracking and simplified order placement for buyers). These technologies would offer buyers the opportunity to virtually “feel” the texture of a fabric remotely, using fibre optics or reverse radio waves on a touchpad, to replicate the feel of the cloth. In spite of some of these particular development being a couple of years away from implementation, there’s little doubt that cutting-edge technology will remain at the heart of ORDRE’s development and will be integral to its continuing success and growth.

The company has also pledged to operate with a zero carbon footprint. Indeed, the company is currently undertaking the first research project to access the global carbon footprint of the current traditional industry practices in the promotion and management of luxury brand wholesale collections. It includes identifying the continuous travel of fashion buyers and the logistics involved in designers participating in fashion weeks and physical showrooms. This project is designed to shine a spotlight on current practices, with a view to promote the discussion of sustainable practices in the business of fashion.

Credit: Ordre.com’s Digital Showroom

Given these amazing perspectives, it comes with no surprise that ORDRE recently received the support of an international key player. Indeed, the Luxury online wholesale fashion technology company announced last Friday that Alibaba Group has become a strategic investor of the company:

SPL: “We are proud and delighted to welcome Alibaba’s investment in ORDRE. The cooperation between our respective businesses will enable the company to accelerate the development of our leading-edge technologies that are already having a positive effect on the fashion industry globally. We are also excited to add value for the designers we work with and create pathways to the lucrative luxury fashion market in China.” 

As Chinese consumers will move to consuming 44% of all luxury brands within the next decade, the majority of these sales will happen online. Alibaba’s luxury online retail T Mall Luxury Pavilion is poised to establish market leadership in this key area. As a result, ORDRE’s goal will be to provide its designers with access to this important shortcut to Chinese consumers. Furthermore, Alibaba and ORDRE will specifically work together to introduce luxury brands that use ORDRE’s B2B services to open e-commerce stores on the T Mall Luxury Pavilion. This will see ORDRE’s technologies and digital assets used to establish direct to consumer B2C strategies focused on the fastest growing luxury market in the world.

“Our investment in ORDRE represents a further step in expanding our presence in the fashion industry globally, reinforcing our positioning as partner of choice for brands engaging with high-net worth Chinese consumers with an appetite for international luxury. Matching ORDRE’s technology with Alibaba’s unique data insights and capabilities – of which our recently launched Luxury Pavilion is a great illustration (an invite-only, exclusive luxury platform for Chinese consumers) – we can provide our consumers with a personalised and differentiated experience, helping brands develop a deeper engagement with them.” Jessica Liu, President of Tmall Fashion and Luxury – Official statement

Our many thanks to Simon and Hannah for their time and dedication during the 2nd ORDRE LIVE experience.

Take time to visit the ordre.com platform, as it might help you make some incredible discoveries, wether you are a professional or a fashion conscious person craving for newness.

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