Last week Richemont, the company that owns brands like Cartier and Montblanc, bought the remaining 67 percent stake in Net-a-Porter, valuing the company at $533 million. Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet, who stays on as CEO, is thought to have made around $76 million from the deal. But who is Natalie Massenet? A woman with a very good idea, leading what seems like a charmed life. The daughter of a Chanel model, Massenet grew up in Paris and L.A. and now lives in Notting Hill, London with her French hedge-fund manager husband and their two daughters. They have homes in Somerset and Paris and vacation in Ibiza. Also, she believes in the self-help book The Secret.
Massenet worked on low-budget films after graduating from UCLA. She then styled for an Italian fashion magazine, and later worked in WWD's West Coast office. In 1993 she met the man she would marry in a Notting Hill carnival. A few months later she moved to London with 30 boxes and got a job at Tatler. Around 1998 she realized that if women were calling and asking where they could buy the items she was shooting, someone should sell clothes online, and that someone should be her.
At first she thought she'd sell pashmina scarves from India, then decided to go for finer things after a frustrating online search for Chloé jeans. In 2000, according to the Independent, she had difficulty getting funding from private-equity companies who told her "women would never shop online." But how wrong they were! Eventually she got the money. Though there aren't many details on how exactly she did that, the London Times offers:
One day she stopped at a branch of Barclays and picked up a pamphlet entitled “Are You an Entrepreneur?”. “I called Arnaud and said, ‘Honey, I’m starting a business.’ And I think he said something like, ‘Great. What’s for dinner?’ ”
As she watched dot-com after dot-com fold, and bought the furniture and equipment from their offices, she hoped she wouldn't be next. “I never thought it wouldn’t work. I never once thought it wouldn’t be huge, she said.
And why shouldn't she? From 2008 to 2010 Massenet's company had grown to employ 600 in New York and London, with sales jumping from about $84 million to $183 million. Currently Massenet is regarded as one of the most influential people in fashion, sits front-row at the shows, and appears as one of the glamorous ladies in Vogue. But with this fortune and success, there are sacrifices:
[S]uccess has not come without cost. Ms Massenet said: "I don't make home-made cupcakes for cupcake day. I pick them up at the store, and it's heartbreaking when I hear that some mom stayed up all night baking."
Well, maybe there's something to be said for not getting them delivered.
Profile: Net-a-Porter's Natalie Massenet [Times UK]
Two women, two fashion businesses, one £450m British success story [Independent UK]