Mr Porter's domination of online menswear

On its 5th anniversary we chat with MD Toby Bateman to discover how the high-end fashion site became a mecca for stylish men.

Neil Churchill March 16, 2016

There are some brands in this world that transcend the industry they’re in, becoming a byword for the specific market itself.

Think Ferrari, Rolex, The Ritz; all names that not only conjure images of the companies themselves but also the high-end sectors they reign over.

Mr Porter can be considered in that bracket. Not necessarily the same bracket as Ferrari, Rolex and The Ritz, but of the bracket that has dominated its industry so unequivocally, it is considered the go to source, the first place you check for whatever your desired search is – in this case, men’s retail.

Read more: 
Online shopping: the UAE’s best fashion sites for men
How men have begun shopping like women

It’s hard to believe that the menswear site is only five years old when you consider its various horizontal growth spurts as well as its sheer size increase, although it's entirely believable how it celebrated such a landmark last month – a 20-piece capsule collection, an exclusive cocktail party and a partnership with BMW to produce a bespoke limited edition i3 car. 

To find out how Mr Porter has grown to dominate the men's online fashion industry, we fired some questions at the brand’s managing director Toby Bateman. Here’s what he had to say:

How did it start?

When we launched Mr Porter back in 2011 we wanted to create a site that was very much ‘man friendly’. At the time menswear online was relegated to a tab on a womenswear site, and we decided to create an environment that would inspire, entertain and inform our visitors and transform them into customers.

The mix of content and commerce was vital. We wanted to showcase the best in men’s style, launching with 80 brands all chosen as experts in their field. And the content with our weekly magazine The Journal was important to bring it alive. 

How does Mr Porter adapt to the digital world’s changing dynamic?

Our unique formula for content and commerce remains consistent and is stronger than ever, with bigger and better stories every week. Given that we are as much a technology company as we are a retailer, we have to keep up with the fast paced developments in technology. If you think back even seven or eight years, it seemed a strange concept that you may buy your winter jacket directly from your phone and yet mobile commerce is a growing, and important part of our business. 

Culturally we remain curious and pioneering. At Mr Porter we’d prefer to lead, and that involves continual refinement of the site and the experience on site, and that we continue to adapt to the needs of our customers and how they want to interact with us. We are constantly evolving.

What's the trick to finding new and exciting brands?

We are a global business and the buy team travels year round to check out the landscape and trends. We quickly learned that men would use our content to learn about brands they had not heard of, and also to find out about the heritage and manufacture of these brands and products. Features such as Behind the Brand proved very popular and provided a wealth of information.

We were very much pioneers in this way. We aim to provide our customers with an eclectic mix of mainstream and commercial collections, alongside unique and exclusive brands – some of which are designed specifically for Mr Porter.

How have you made fashion appealing to men?

We were the first to decide that men got inspiration from other men and made a conscious decision not to use models in shoots, and instead looked to real men. We’ve featured everyone from artists and designers, through to bankers, gallery owners and chefs, and we saw that this template was adopted by our competitors and by men’s magazines. 

We also have many years of experience collectively as a team and we work very closely with our editorial team to provide a very cohesive and edited buy with a strong mix of content and commerce at the forefront – this naturally lends well to working as a team in identifying the trends ahead of time but also in making sure that this translates well commercially for our customer. 

What are men buying the most?

Grooming and lifestyle is a growing sector for Mr Porter, especially within the UAE, which has grown nearly twice as fast as the global average in terms of customers and sales. It also seems that men cannot get enough of sneakers - they are one of our biggest categories on Mr Porter. 

If Mr Porter’s success could be attributed to only one thing…

Ultimately we know that men want a hassle-free way to shop, in their own time, and at their convenience, and I really feel that we have built our business around this. The customer is very much at the heart of everything we do. 

Mr Porter Toby Bateman - Managing Director .jpg Toby Bateman.