A day in the life of MyTheresa.coms Justin OShea and Claude-Alain Descamps
Read an extract from the interview below then buy a copy of ELLE Collections autumn/winter 2014 for more.
On a hot and sticky afternoon during mens fashion week in Milan, I walk into a large, anonymous building on Via Turati, across a rather plain lobby, and take the lift up to the third floor. The doors open to reveal a better-designed, more beautiful world, aka the Valentino showrooms. Inexpertly, I would describe the look of the place as a luxe, 1970s James Bond set. Discreet, modernist architect extraordinaire David Chipperfield has created an airy firmament of smooth, grey, marble corridors and broad white rooms with twinkling chandeliers in which to show off Valentinos meticulously crafted clothes. Its reassuring to note that the labels industry-only engine rooms are just as immaculate as its retail shops.
To even be allowed in is a great honour: its the first time a journalist has been to a Valentino buying appointment since the labels inception in 1960. Serious business is done here and, really, its what the catwalk shows and the media carousel around fashion weeks actually come down to: which stores are buying what, how many, and in which colours. The fact that Im shadowing Justin OShea, Buying Director of luxury online store MyTheresa.com one of Valentinos best customers and champion of Valentino Garavanis successors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli might have something to do with the exception theyre making. Escorting me is Anthony Kendal, the lofty and jovial Global Communications Director at MyTheresa.com.com and, upon arrival, were greeted by a slim young woman wearing a plain black dress who leads us into the buying battleground.
As we approach the MyTheresa.com table, Justin OShea is examining dozens of leather samples in an array of colours and skins, holding them up to the shoe or bag they relate to hes in the midst of his accessories buy. Justin, who is 35 and Australian, is lean, handsome and famously well-turned-out in his signature look of a closely cut suit, longish beard and numerous tattoos on his forearms think a younger, fairer Nick Cave. Today, his three-piece bespoke number is by NYC-based tailor Doyle + Mueser. He visits them three or four times a year to get measured and choose fabrics, and generously donates old suits to friends Justin is no fashion hoarder. I dont like to accumulate too much stuff, he later muses. On his feet he wears black Prada lace-ups with a thick sole, and carries a Prada briefcase in black Saffiano leather: Other than the tailoring, the brands I wear personally are Prada, Vuitton and Acne. I like what they represent.
The Valentino showrooms may resemble a candy store for grown-ups, but this is no frivolous shopping trip. Justin has to buy hundreds of items for a global audience of women from the Far East to the UK, US, Russia, Germany, the African continent and beyond. The budget he has to spend is vast and hes been at this for hours. I almost freaked when I came in. There are at least twice as many looks here as there were in the show! When he first joined MyTheresa.com, he got together with their computer techies and came up with a system of breaking down sales into region, sizes sold, and how many. The information collected is of profound importance to Justins job, but its not an exact science and from the array of clothes before us, he has to create an aesthetic narrative that is particular to MyTheresa.com. Its not as formulaic as buying one or two strong looks and then a high volume of T-shirts, he says, especially at Valentino where the quality means that its all expensive. You cant get this stuff at a low price.