London just got a whole lot closer

First there was Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh; then there was Selfridges online. Now Mr. Porter (the menswear offshoot of online-shopping legend Net-a-Porter) has brought some of the latest menswear brands unavailable north of the border right to our doorstep. Built specifically to deal with male shopping needs – undeniably different to girls’ – the site caters to every taste, though not every budget. Some highlights include Lanvin buttonholes and Church’s shoes, though gifts are covered too with Charvet pocket-squares and accessories.

The list of brands on board is astounding for a site in its infancy; though during the preview period a few were still ‘Coming Soon’. Notably, all Burberry and Ralph Lauren brands are on offer as well as Rag & Bone and Jil Sander. With men in mind, all items are clearly sized – no abstract numbers here (S, M and L are still pervasive, but well explained). The size conversion chart appears with everything, and each product lists ‘true measurements’: the physical lengths in inches or centimetres of every relevant part of the garment. For example, a jacket’s ‘true measurements’ not only include chest size, but also back and front lengths and even armhole diameters. No more ordering a 38” chest only to find out the back length is too short and the sleeves are too narrow. Furthermore, each piece has a brief outline of the style of the garment and a couple lines about the designer for some simple talking points.

Most impressive is the appearance of video with most items. Video material on clothing sites is relatively new – and quite bandwidth heavy – so it has yet to replace the standard front-, back- and side photographs. However, its benefits far outweigh the brief loading time, making the fit of a shirt or the movement in a jacket or trousers instantly apparent.

Mr Porter is also a lifestyle site, but one that aggregates all lifestyles. There is the Stylepedia; an alphabetical list of everything to do with clothes in which “A” covers Acne and Alpaca wool (with an accompanying picture of a field of Alpacas in case you don’t know what they look like). There are Style Icons, with the likes of Steve McQueen and Mick Jagger pictured with helpful suggestions of how to ape their style. There is a questions page answering all that men usually don’t know about clothes. Lastly, there is the Style Council: designers, musicians, artists and businessmen of all kinds listing their favourite brands and restaurants. Sort of ‘Style Icons Lite’; Mr Hudson of Opening Ball fame is on there (Favoured Brand: Dior). This information overload is rounded off with short ‘video manuals’, including Paul Smith on ‘small details’; these are advice pieces from the current masters of their art; though they are clearly aware of the potential sales boost these advertorials can bring.

Mr. Porter takes that which makes online shopping hard and gets rid of it. Then it hands out everything you need to know about wearing clothes for free. London designers got a lot more accessible, and stylish pieces are unavoidable. No more excuses about not being able to find the right clothes.

Alastair Irvine

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/statelibraryqueensland/4541856823/