Shopping With Justin and Claude

A day in the life of the MyTheresa.com team

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A day in the life of MyTheresa.com’s Justin O’Shea and Claude-Alain Descamps

Read an extract from the interview below then buy a copy of ELLE Collections autumn/winter 2014 for more.

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On a hot and sticky afternoon during men’s 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 Valentino’s meticulously crafted clothes. It’s reassuring to note that the label’s industry-only engine rooms are just as immaculate as its retail shops.

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To even be allowed in is a great honour: it’s the first time a journalist has been to a Valentino buying appointment since the label’s inception in 1960. Serious business is done here – and, really, it’s 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 I’m shadowing Justin O’Shea, Buying Director of luxury online store MyTheresa.com – one of Valentino’s best customers and champion of Valentino Garavani’s successors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli – might have something to do with the exception they’re making. Escorting me is Anthony Kendal, the lofty and jovial Global Communications Director at MyTheresa.com.com and, upon arrival, we’re greeted by a slim young woman wearing a plain black dress who leads us into the buying battleground.

To set the scene: it’s a network of large bright spaces made colourful by racks of clothes covering the walls; accessories are dotted around on stands and shelves. Each rail contains a different design vignette from the 2015 Resort collection: there’s a whole room of pieces using a graphic rainbow print that Chiuri and Piccioli borrowed from a 1973 Valentino show, from long mink coats to miniskirts; a green parka has been given a couture makeover with embroidered butterflies, and small satchels in deep burgundy leather and
easy-wearing playsuits in pastels are all around. Models waft in and out wearing key looks for buyers to see, and waistcoated waiters silently scoot about, serving chilled water, strong coffee and plates of pale, buttery biscuits to everyone as they hammer out deals.
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As we approach the MyTheresa.com table, Justin O’Shea is examining dozens of leather samples in an array of colours and skins, holding them up to the shoe or bag they relate to – he’s 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 don’t 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 he’s 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 Justin’s job, but it’s 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. ‘It’s 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 it’s all expensive. You can’t get this stuff at a low price.’

Read an extract from the ELLE Collections interview with Vanessa Friedman

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