Life in Luxury | An Interview with… Sam Kershaw, Buying Director, MR PORTER

With a global pandemic and summer staycations impacting on the nation’s sartorial sense of style, we meet Sam Kershaw, MR PORTER’s Buying Director who talks us through his typical day at the menswear e-tailer, the trends emerging in the category, and why clothing with a purpose will always be in fashion. 

Sam Kershaw is Buying Director at MR PORTER, leading the buying and merchandising teams and overseeing all elements of the e-tailers product offering, including the casual, contemporary, luxury, designer, grooming, accessories and lifestyle ranges, as well as MR PORTER’s own label, Mr P.

Sam joined MR PORTER in 2012 as Buyer for accessories and grooming before being promoted to Senior Buyer for the luxury and casual department. In 2017 he became Buying Manager leading a team across six buying divisions. He was promoted to Buying Director in April 2020. Prior to joining MR PORTER, Sam spent over five years at Harvey Nichols where he held the role of International Designer and Contemporary Buyer.

As MR PORTER’s Buying Director, what does a typical day look like for you?

The old adage of ‘there isn’t a typical day’ rings fairly true for a Buying Director, especially at a growing business such as MR PORTER. With international travel halted, my typical day has been like a lot of peoples – working from home. My day kicks off first thing in the morning with a review of the daily sales, and straight into back-to-back video calls with my core team to discuss seasonal strategy, our brands on their latest collections and performance, and the wider Senior Leadership Team to make sure we are developing the business to exceed our targets. As a global business, it’s my job to make sure all teams and brands are happy and engaged, whether they are based in Los Angeles or Tokyo. But one brilliant thing that working from home has brought me, is much more time with my wife and kids, where we can end the day on a bike ride or walk to the park vs. me on a hot and humid tube!

How has Covid-19 impacted on the business and how you do your job? 

We saw some clear shopping pattern shifts and customer’s wardrobe needs drastically changed, notably an increase in loungewear, grooming, lifestyle and outdoor categories – with the UK driving the biggest increase in MR PORTER’s homeware category. Popular brands included Aesop, Patagonia, Fear of God Essentials, Brunello Cuccinelli, TOM FORD and Nike, showing a broad mix across our customer base.

People shopped for items which were going to be practical, functional, and have comfort and longevity at the core.

As we move into the warmer months, what do you predict will be the go-to summer trends and brands?

As we have unpredictable weather in the UK during summer and most of nation will likely be opting for a staycation this year, I see there being a simple trend of ‘get outside and be together’. This is much more of a cultural trend, but this translates into buying some fantastic outdoor gear, and throwing on a shirt vs. a t-shirt or loungewear to smarten up to see friends and family. Brands who are producing some great collections in the space are Fear Of God Essentials, Acne Studios, and Dries Van Noten – who we just had the pleasure of working on a fantastic exclusive capsule with as part of our new ‘Hosted By’ concept.

MR PORTER recently launched the FUTURES programme. Can you tell us more about this initiative?

MR PORTER FUTURES launched in late April, and we have had a fantastic global response thus far. We felt we had the opportunity and responsibility to create MR PORTER FUTURES with several key aims: to make the luxury industry more accessible; to discover and champion fresh voices in menswear from outside of the traditional industry wheelhouse; and to nurture these new voices through the development of their own sustainable collections while undergoing a 12 month business mentorship programme.

At MR PORTER, we have always been about showcasing new and undiscovered talent via our global platform. With MR PORTER FUTURES, we’re seeking from our global audience and beyond fresh and burgeoning voices in menswear who have yet to be discovered.

We hope the programme is one of the first steps in their journey, and we look forward to selecting three designers this summer, through a mostly-anonymous application process, so as to develop and nurture our first class of MR PORTER FUTURES from September onward.

What does the future hold for menswear?

Menswear will continue to grow and transcend, but with a more conscious attitude towards longevity, purpose, sustainability and innovation.

Menswear isn’t as trend driven as womenswear, but men typically enjoy the storytelling side of a brand or product, whether it’s through the fabric, construction, exclusivity etc. – and this is especially seen across craft-based brands and luxury watches. Customers want to know how or why something is made.

The established fashion brands such CELINE HOMME and TOM FORD will continue to be desired, but I see smaller under-the-radar brands growing much more, especially if they have authentic purposeful product with great founders to develop brand awareness.

What’s your favourite luxury?

Beyond our consistent offering at MR PORTER, it’s time with my wife and two girls.

Applications for MR PORTER FUTURES programme closes on Sunday 6th June. Please click here to find out more and apply.
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