Oct 08, 2012 5:29PM

Interview: ASOS 'In Your World'

Australians get first dibs on the new SS13 collection!

Australia is a great country for a number of reasons — Vegemite, Carlton beer, John Farnham, and getting to tell foreigners we ride kangaroos to work being among them. Our fine land has just gotten even better, with the world exclusive premiere of ASOS' new SS13 collection (see the campaign images throughout this post). The British online retailer loves Australia so much that they're giving us first dibs on their new-season product — shot gun! It's online now.

Yesterday we caught up with ASOS' founder/CEO, Nick Robertson; the Head of Fashion, Caren Downie; and Head of PR, Annette Burke to talk shop.

Ingrid Kesa: First up, why did you decide to share your SS13 collections with Australia before the rest of the world?
Annette Burke: We noticed a lot of fashion coming out of Australia. It took us by surprise how quickly the Australian market's growing for us and we noticed that your tastes and demands weren't necessarily different from other fashion consumers around the globe. What we noticed with some other brands is that they come in with the completely wrong approach — they come in with last season pieces at inflated prices — so we just wanted to give you next season product before anyone else in the world has it, and cater to your seasonality in that way.

Has online shopping led to a more intelligent consumer? I find that on the one hand it's easier to make impulse purchases, but it's also easier to shop around and hunt down the lowest price.
Annette: I think yes, it definitely has given consumers much more insight.
Nick: You can check prices with the click of a mouse and that was our logic with putting a lot of product under one roof. Ironically, it's sort of department store-esque — you've got a whole selection of brands, but when you take those physical walls away you can include even more product. Today there's about 70 000 products available, compared to Selfridges that at a last count had around 14 000. We're going to take it to a whole new level — there's about 2000 new products dropping every week. 

Crazy! How do you keep track of it all?
Nick: You don't. Once it's gone, it's gone [laughs].

So with 70 000 products, what's the best-selling item?
Caren Downie: For women, it's almost always a lace dress by ASOS. Footwear is also a good-seller, especially by our Maroon label. For men, it's chinos and jeans. Tailoring is really big in Australia, and it's getting bigger for womenswear too.

I love Lena Dunham — we actually interviewed her a few issues ago — and I am obsessed with Girls, but she's not your average Hollywood star. Why did you decide to put her on the cover of the ASOS magazine?
Annette: Well, it's a fairly good indicator the way she's resonated with you. We choose people who are brave in their fashion, and she's also been really brave with what she's doing with Girls and it's had quite an impact globally.
Nick: It's always been about a young emerging talent, so often actors and musicians. If you look back, we were the first UK magazine to feature Lady Gaga on a cover. If you look back at the covers, often the cover stars are obscure and then in a couple of months they're massive and ubiquitous. 
Annette: We choose girls who are really on the cusp of something. We had Claire Danes earlier this year just as Homeland was taking off, and the same obviously with Lena this month. Rita Ora was last month, who is now everywhere. We really just choose girls who resonate with us. 

So Caren, I have a question for you. What can we expect from the SS13 collections?
Caren: First of all there's the Salon collection, which is something we developed specifically for a kind of going out, occasion-based summer, particularly with bright colous and sunshine in mind. There's lots of embellishments, lots of sequins, quite a lot of handwork, so pieces you could wear to a summer wedding... Our design team works on their trends way ahead of time, before the catwalks come out. Basically the trend is called Caravan — it's quite a casual trend, there's lots of chambray, that whole kind of Marrakech thing, lots of prints going on. 

How do you come up with the trends?
Caren: We pull from everywhere — Tumblr, the internet, magazines — even if it's something three seasons old we use it as inspiration if we think that it's going to be relevant. It's really down to the design team. There are 24 designers in womenswear, and ten in men's. 

Do you find that boys tend to get into online shopping? You always see bored boyfriends being dragged around shopping centers...
Nick: Girls will browse all day every day and probably purchase once or twice a month, whereas men will browse once a month and probably purchase once every six months. It's hard when you go into a shop, there aren't actually that many great mens fashion stores, so we're starting to see a rise in our male consumer. 

OK, final question. Obviously ASOS is amazing, but what is it exactly that sets it apart from other online retailers?
Annette Burke: We focus on the design and the way our aesthetics are developed, so lots of print, lots of bright colour, things that really jump off the page because we obviously don't have a brick and mortar store environment so we don't have the opportunity for things to jump out at people in the flesh; for the consumer to be able to touch and feel them. 

Nick Robertson: The multi-brand approach is very different to a single brand anyway. A lot of customers look at ASOS as a start rather than a finish point — they're looking at what's cool what's hot across all the brands, not just at one brand. We don't sell Topshop, and that's one of the only brands we don't sell. I'd like to think that our product is just as fashionable if not more so, and, coming from a competitive price point, it's better value actually. 
Annette: The site incorporates the editorial that goes around that, making it much more of a fashion destination — somewhere to go if you're really interested in fashion, rather than somewhere you just go to buy.

Visit ASOS.com/AU to check out the new collection!

Ingrid Kesa

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