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Fashionism
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Dec / Jan 2014
Remote Access

WRITER: Kasia Maciejowska

Moda Operandi is the online luxury retailer that gave women around the world access to looks straight from the catwalk. Now the game-changing founder, Lauren Santo Domingo, has decided to expand offline, with physical boutiques in New York and London.

 

It isn’t an overstatement to claim that Moda Operandi (MO) has revolutionised the fashion industry. The website brought exclusive trunk show access, previously the privilege of a very limited few, to anyone with an internet connection. It did for fashion retail what a generation of bloggers had done for fashion journalism: opened it up.

Its impact has been quite remarkable, giving the woman who places a phone order from Kuwait as much purchasing privilege as the private invitee in Paris. MO’s combination of hyper-connectivity and couture-like service completely changed the relationship between designer and global clientele as well, by pioneering a digital model, where women can pre-order their favourite looks directly from the designers. As co-founder Lauren Santo Domingo puts it, “Our app is like Tinder for fashion lovers. It takes a millisecond to have that emotional response. You swipe right when a look resonates with you.”

Even over Skype, Santo Domingo seems to be the epitome of style and it is no wonder, given that her competence and world-class wardrobe is backed up by deep industry knowledge and sassy commercial vision. As you might have guessed, with brands such as Marc Jacobs and Oscar de la Renta on board, she’s an insider to the fashion industry and a contributing editor with Vogue (US). Through MO though, she has not only provided exclusive access, she has also democratised the catwalks. “Our pre-orders from customers are useful information for designers who use it to decide what to show next. We’re empowering our customer to determine styles and trends each season,” she explains. In effect, this means design is becoming globalised as buying decisions from everywhere – and Arab countries in particular – shape the collections.

It turns out Santo Domingo feels a certain rapport with the way Arab women think about fashion, “I really admire the Middle Eastern customer – I think she is gutsy and very fabulous,” she enthuses, “She takes risks and completely understands garment construction.” In an additional note of cultural exchange, she mentions, “Our clients ask us to help source gifts and it’s heart-warming to see the extent of people’s care and extravagance. Some women order dresses in two sizes, the second for their sister. It’s a beautiful thing that I don’t see elsewhere”.

Despite being on top of her game, Santo Domingo is continuously learning from the business she started, often inspired by her innovative, young staff. And she says she has also learned from customers, especially by how enthusiastic they are towards the emerging international designers she picks for the site. “I love seeing how these privileged women enjoy a sense of discovery. And for the small labels, we can show an entire collection without risk and launch them to the market. Department stores can’t do that.”

                                                  

The luxury retailer has just introduced a new layer to its pre-ordering experience by opening a new Moda Operandi boutique in London – the first outpost is branded as Salon Moda and is in New York, where Santo Domingo is based. By hosting trunk shows and bespoke events throughout the season, their shops bring a physical shopping experience back into play.

Set in a gated mews behind Knightsbridge, the MO boutique feels like the chicest store in London. From scalloped Venus chairs in peach velvet to racy Guy Bourdin prints on the walls and horsey leather-topped dressing tables, every detail is carefully chosen. Even better, the interior furnishings can be bought.

In the MO office, they call their service style ‘high-tech, high-touch,’ and rightly so, especially when you learn Apple consulted on their app’s design and now top fashion editors use it to track which looks they want to feature. Combining this tech knowhow and VIP fashion access with an intimate shopping experience gives MO its truly unique position in the fashion industry. And, despite her experience, Santo Domingo’s heart still flutters before she swipes right: “I ordered this one Rodarte military jacket with embellished pockets. It will arrive for spring. I’m looking forward to that!”

                                   

WHAT Moda Operandi
FOUNDER Lauren Santo Domingo
WHERE Online and now in-shop, in New York and London
WHY This online luxury fashion retailer enables shoppers to pre-order directly from the runway via online trunkshows, months before they are available anywhere else. Now, their new London boutique also offers an expertly curated selection of clothing.

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