We’re declaring that two’s a trend. First the Runthrough launched to directly connect magazine editors with fashion houses in order to streamline an archaic, disorganized process for requesting and delivering samples for photo shoots. Now a new site, Prêt-à-Portel, seeks to do away with the paper lookbook, albeit so stylists and buyers, rather than editors, can easily access designers and their current wares. And at the moment, though all parties must apply for access, it’s free to sign up.
Beyond helping organize an inherently disorganized process (requesting samples from designers can involve no end of physical images, tons of emails, and a general sense of too many cooks in the kitchen) Prêt-à-Portel also has the potential to be a distinctive tool for emerging designers. Marissa Kim, the site’s founder, would like that to be the case: “The fashion industry is increasingly fragmented and there are a lot of amazing new brands to discover out there. Prêt-à-Portel offers access to these labels even if they don’t have established relationships with stylists and aren’t represented by showrooms or at trade shows.” In this way, the site helps young designers increase their visibility , while also making it possible for them to get a real pulse on how buyers want to buy what, when — and to adjust their production accordingly.
For buyers and stylists, with one-stop-shopping access to a range of constantly-updated lookbooks, it’s simply easier to make informed decisions and work on a flexible schedule. And beyond simplifying the sample process for all parties involved, the site also reflects a changing retail climate. Typically, buyers look for and order new merchandise twice a year. Prêt-à-Portel, however, allows them to view and request samples and place orders all year round, in order to keep up with consumer demands for fresh product.
In another twist, while the site lets users look for products via the usual channels, like color, category, and brand, it also allows them to search any terms with which designers have tagged their items. Try “sequins” or “eco-certified.” Where this could get interesting is in tracking trends — what would it mean if, say, there was a sudden plethora of designer samples all tagged “feathers?”
To that end, once established, Prêt-à-Portel could yield a range of informative data. How cool could it be if the site aggregated some numbers on, say, the changing frequency of buyers’ sample requests and the subsequent effect, if any, on designers’ production schedules? We realize that’s not what this tool specifically sets out to do, but with access to such a range of statistics, we’d love to see the site, once it’s further established, show how the very tool it provides affects the fashion industry’s inner workings.