The Outnet’s Stephanie Phair on Summer 2012’s Must-Have Buys and Online Shopping Secrets

Stephanie Phair the outnet
Photo courtesy of
Stephanie Phair of The Outnet.

If you're a firm believer that full-price is for suckers, you're no doubt familiar with, the Net-a-Porter offshoot that's currently celebrating its third year of slashing prices on luxury designer wares. And if you're not, we've recruited the site's 33-year-old managing director Stephanie Phair to offer up a primer of sorts with her expert tips on scoring the best deals before everyone else, removing the guesswork of online shopping, and scooping up this season's too-good-to-pass-up trends. Take it away, Stephanie ...

What are your top three rules for shopping online?

Aggregator sites run searches on numerous websites simultaneously so they are a great place to start. Filter results by size and that way you avoid falling in love with an item that won’t fit. Make sure you register to be emailed about new arrivals. Follow brands or labels you love on Twitter or Facebook. Subscribers and fans are usually notified first and given previews.

How does your shopping process vary when you’re browsing online versus in a store?

Browsing online is so efficient that I find I devote more time to it than when I am in an actual store. My shopping impulses are the same though. If I see something I love, I don't hesitate to buy it.

Who are some the best “unknown” designers you’ve discovered online?

A few seasons ago, our buying team snapped up a label called Clemens en August which, before being available on The Outnet, was sold exclusively sold at art galleries in New York, London, Tokyo, Berlin, and Zurich for a limited time. The pieces are very cool but wearable. Kate Moss is a fan! 

Sizing is a big issue—a 4 in one label could be a 6 in another. How can an online shopper guarantee the most accurate fit?

Look out for size and fit information when you click to view an item in more detail. At The Outnet we have size conversion charts and fit specialists who will recommend the appropriate size for you if something is cut generously or quite small. I always look at how items appear on the mannequin or model. For example, I’m quite tall so I’ll know that a hemline will be shorter on me.

What’s the biggest mistake people make when shopping online?

Not everyone is aware that there are amazing sales assistants working online—just like you would find in a physical store. Websites like The Outnet have a dedicated customer care team who will speak with you directly via live chat or phone and answer any questions you have. They are even able to recommend an alternative if something you love has sold out.

Is it better to buy basics or more daring pieces online?

The key to successful shopping in general is to cover your bases first with essentials like a little black dress, a trench coat, and a great pair of pants. These are investment pieces which you will wear over and over again so you can spend more money on them. Once you have those in place, you can buy more daring pieces to match and wear with them.

You say that wearing discounted designer items to your interview with Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet helped you land your job. Any tips for putting together a killer job interview outfit?

Classic pieces like a tailored blazer and a fitted pencil skirt are hard to beat. Stick to conservative or neutral colors and, if appropriate, you can demonstrate a bit more flair with a color-pop shoe or statement necklace.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever purchased online?

A Dolce & Gabbana cocktail dress at The Outnet, reduced by 70 percent. The Outnet staff has to wait before they are allowed to shop so that our customers have the best choice, so I was surprised it was still available.

What are five things a woman should own for Summer 2012?

The peplum is the shape to channel this season. If you prefer something more body-con and sporty, invest in scuba-inspired pieces like this Hervé Léger dress. The Spring collections are awash with soft pastel hues, so snap up anything in blue, pink, lilac, or mint green. In terms of footwear, a pair of mules is the way to go. Choose tribal-inspired accessories like this bracelet by Yves Saint Laurent.

How important is having a good tailor?

A good tailor is a must. Your clothes look better and custom made in terms of the fit. I also use mine for repairs so that I get the most mileage out of my clothes.

What sort of items offer the best value and longevity?

Stretch your budget as far as it will go on tailored pieces in good quality fabric and they will offer the best value in terms of cost per wear. Classic silhouettes are always in style.