I feel like it’s a rarity for my generation to start the most exciting part of their career with a company and stick it out for a decade, but that’s just what Sam Kershaw has done. As we discuss below, Sam started with ” data-vars-ga-product-id=”cb201e30-1d4d-4447-9d9a-597acf4f1cdb” data-vars-ga-product-price=”0.00″ data-vars-ga-product-sem3-brand=”” data-vars-ga-product-sem3-category data-vars-ga-product-sem3-id data-affiliate-network data-vars-ga-media-type data-affiliate=”true”>Mr Porter in 2012, and did it the old fashioned way—he worked his way up and grew in his role as the company grew around him, too. Now, he’s the much-beloved retailer’s buying director. It’s impressive, but it’s also a simple testament to Sam’s detail-oriented eye and his extensive knowledge of the men’s fashion industry.
He might not be the street-style superstar that the menswear blogging set has traditionally been accustomed to, but he has as much personal style as any of those folks. Check out Sam’s incredible wardrobe below, and read about how he climbed the ranks at Mr Porter, what his role entails now, how he helped build out a luxury watch business, what he’s most recently purchased for himself, and plenty more.
Can you tell me a bit about your background, and about your career path leading up to your first job with Mr Porter? Can you also tell me a bit about your journey from your 2012 hiring to your appointment as Buying Director in 2020?
I guess everyone gets at least one lucky break in life, and I have been fortunate enough to have several. In 2007, I landed a job at Harvey Nichols, which at that time was considered one of the most pioneering fashion concept stores in the world, particularly in menswear. It was a formative experience for many reasons, but by far the most important was because of the people who helped shape and transform the business. Fiona Firth, now managing director here at Mr Porter, Toby Bateman, former managing director at Mr Porter, and Terry Betts, the original buyer for Mr Porter, were all Harvey Nichols alumni from this era. I’ve had the good fortune to learn from all of them during my career.
During my time there I worked in a number of different areas but I guess the seminal moment for me was becoming the international designer buyer in 2010. That role literally changed everything for me—a totally immersive experience that allowed me to travel the world and work directly with designers that previously I’d only read about in fashion books and magazines.
In 2012, I joined Mr Porter as a buyer and over the next decade worked my way up and across many different areas, ultimately, becoming buying director in 2020. This probably isn’t the space or time to do justice to everything I was fortunate to be a part of on that incredible journey, but suffice to say it’s been the experience of a lifetime.
You’ve been working at Mr Porter for almost a decade, and I feel like it’s rare that you hear someone in our generation has worked at the same company for that period of time. Why have you stayed at Mr Porter, and what makes the platform special?
Well, first off despite being 10 years in, I honestly feel like we are just getting started and 100 percent believe that there are so many opportunities and adventures ahead of us—that’s always been the mindset really, it’s a very entrepreneurial environment. Second (and even more important) is the team we work with, just an incredible bunch of people who absolutely make the brand everything it is today.
In terms of the platform itself, in my opinion Mr Porter remains unique in the sense that it is still the only global menswear destination that seamlessly blends content and commerce. Moreover, the product is at the forefront of absolutely everything we do—so everything starts with the buying and that’s an exciting thing to be a part of.
In 2021, we launched over 25 different major projects celebrating Mr Porter’s tenth anniversary, including the landmark Mr Porter Futures program and our Small World initiative. These are the things I would (respectfully) argue completely set us apart from our peers and help define who we are as a business.
What does the title “buying director” entail?
Part of what makes this job so special is how diverse it is, and, perhaps more importantly, the autonomy to influence the direction of the business. We buy and manage over 650 designers and artisans covering ready-to-wear, accessories, shoes, and lifestyle. In addition, we also have an authoritative luxury watches and fine jewelry business and our ever-expanding private label division—all of this in addition to our exclusive capsule launches, mentorship programs, and ” data-vars-ga-product-id=”b30631fd-e77d-409a-8eeb-50eea4926bd3″ data-vars-ga-product-price=”0.00″ data-vars-ga-product-sem3-brand=”” data-vars-ga-product-sem3-category data-vars-ga-product-sem3-id data-affiliate-network data-vars-ga-media-type data-affiliate=”true”>Health In Mind charity collaborations. As buying director, it is my role together with the buying team to lead and build a long-term and sustainable strategy for all of the above.
For those who don’t know, what is Mr P.?
Mr P. is our own contemporary men’s line created to complement our branded assortment. It’s designed in our studio in London and manufactured in the most sought-after craft regions in the world, such as Japan and Italy. The brand focuses on modern silhouettes and premium fabrics produced in accordance to our Craftsmanship Code and we are committed to every piece in the Mr P. collection being designed for sustainability and circularity by 2025.
We chatted a little bit about watches, and I included some detail shots of some cool ones you had on for our shoot. How did your initial interest in luxury watches begin?
Toby Bateman, former managing director at Mr Porter, had a genuine passion for watches and essentially opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed and which is also arguably the pinnacle of luxury craftsmanship. Over time it has become something of an obsession and/or a disappointingly expensive hobby! I love the history of watchmaking and the subtleties of design evolution. Watch choices are also extremely personal and unique to the wearer, which I find quite fascinating against the broader backdrop of fashion.
How did you go about building out this business for Mr Porter?
We knew from the very beginning of Mr Porter that we had a customer who was interested in luxury watches but at that time retailing watches online was essentially unheard of. In the early days, it took a lot of convincing for brands to boldly go where none of their peers had ventured before.
We launched a very modest luxury watch business to begin with back in 2013. Fast-forward to today and we have over 30 brands including Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Hermès Timepieces, as well as a selection of pre-owned watches sourced from Watchfinder including Rolex and Patek Philippe.
Can you remember the first “fashion” item you purchased for yourself? What’s the most recent purchase you’ve made? Do you see a big disconnect in your style from whenever you were first interested in fashion to now?
The first major “fashion” item I can recall was a Rick Owens asymmetric blister-leather biker jacket from one of the runway shows—which I still own to this day even though it’s now genuinely about three sizes too small for me. I’d never sell it on general principle; it was an important part of the journey.
The most recent “fashion” purchase I made was a black suede Visvim 101 Jacket. I am slightly embarrassed to say this is now the fourth iteration of this iconic silhouette that I own.
I am not sure if disconnect is the right word, but I guess over time I’ve had to become something of a chameleon learning to adapt my style depending on the circumstance, as these Five Fits go some way to qualifying.
As buying director, you travel a good deal. Do you have a favorite location to travel to?
I have been extremely fortunate to travel to so many places over the years but number one for me is Tokyo. It always feels like I am visiting for the first time—it constantly reinvents itself.
What brands or trends are you currently into? What’s next for Mr Porter in 2022?
It is a really exciting time for menswear in general right now with so many great designers doing really interesting and innovative things. I’m always drawn to brands that either consciously or unconsciously appear to set their own agenda. I wear a lot of Our Legacy, Auralee, Dries Van Noten, The Elder Stateman, Visvim, and of course Prada—all of whom tick this box one way or another.
In terms of what’s next for us, a lot of what we are doing for 2022 is still firmly under wraps right now, but I am really excited that we will be launching the Mr Porter Futures first collection this year. The final designers—Kat Tua, Saif Ud Deen, Messrs Ryan Edmonds and Julian Canda—are working on truly phenomenal collections and I can’t wait for the world to see them.
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