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Mon, May 28, 2012
The Business Times
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Online wardrobe for professional women
by Rachel Au Yong

SARAH Curran once declared that online shopping would never take off. Now that statement will always haunt her.

Today, the 39-year-old is a familiar face in the electronic retail (or "e-tail") world - thanks to her money-making website,

Like online stores Asos and Net-a-porter, My-wardrobe targets busy yet fashion-conscious individuals.

But Ms Curran believes she has found a niche in the competitive world of e-tail: focusing on diffusion and secondary lines by noted designers. These include See by Chloe and Marc by Marc Jacobs.

When My-wardrobe was launched in 2006, the only online options were "either super-luxe, like Stella McCartney, or fast fashion, like Asos", Ms Curran told BT. The heel-loving fashionista was in town as a panellist for last week's Asia Fashion Summit.

"Nobody was focusing on what I was interested in," said the divorced mother of one, who operated her own brick-and-mortar boutique before setting up My-wardrobe.

Back then, the e-tail landscape was completely different.

"There were no seminars on how to launch an online business. No one told me about shipping. I didn't even know I had to deal with returns," she says with a laugh.

But Ms Curran has since found her stride - the company has gone through three rounds of internal investment - and boasts 180 brands, a long way from its initial 40. Her staff strength has grown from two to 180, spread over offices in Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

And she is on track to conquer the Asia-Pacific market - My-wardrobe reported 300 per cent growth since it opened its Sydney headquarters 12 months ago.

Her work here, however, has only just begun. Ms Curran is always on the lookout for regional brands that would sit well with her varied customer base in Asia.

My-wardrobe will feature local brand Raoul's Autumn/Winter collection later this year. "Raoul's a brand I have been stalking for three seasons now," Ms Curran said, adding that such "stalking" is one of her favourite things about the job.

It ties in well with her position as chief creative officer, which she will officially assume in July.

She recently appointed former director of Harrods Direct, David Worbys, as My-wardrobe's global chief executive.

The portfolio change gives her more time to develop the creative aspects of the brand - including editorial content, and artistic direction for the site's photographs.

"Any emotional touchpoint in the business is in my ultimate control," she explained.

With 75 per cent of her customers spending £350 (S$700) per order on average, it's no surprise that Ms Curran wants to go the extra mile.

The company has "invested lots" into packaging, ease of return, and, of course, fast delivery.

Customers in the UK and the US are ensured next-day delivery, while Australians need only wait two days. And Ms Curran hopes that window will continue to grow smaller.

Above all, she knows who she's shopping for. The company, which launched a menswear site in 2009, caters to professionals aged between 27 and 47 years old, with a spike at 37.

Referring to her predominantly female clientele, Ms Curran said her customers want shoes, bags and clothes that fit their lifestyle, but let them take their kids to school.

"I understand who she is, because I am her," she said.

In many ways, that helps Ms Curran not to think about rivals.

"I'm more concerned with choosing a great selection of clothes and providing good customer service at the right price point," she said. "As long as the customer feels she's valued, you don't have to worry about what your competitors do."

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This article was first published in The Business Times.

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