Alison Loehnis, president of Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter, learned the power of fashion from an early age. “I wore a strict school uniform for 12 years, but at sports day I would go wild with leg warmers, my dad’s sweaters, and paint-splattered plastic bangles,” the New York-born dynamo says when we meet at her five-bedroom house in west London. “Fashion was a way to express myself—I loved it because it represented the opportunity for fun. The penny only dropped later that something I was so passionate about could also be my job.”
Today, immaculately dressed in a Proenza Schouler T-shirt and Mother jeans, Loehnis is celebrating her 10th anniversary on fashion’s front line, having joined the luxury e-commerce site in 2007 as vice president of sales and marketing. She played a pivotal role in the launch of both TheOutnet.com in 2009 and MrPorter.com in 2011, the year she was appointed president. “One thing that really stands out is when we celebrated our millionth order,” she says. “To realise we had reached that many women around the globe … it was pure elation.”
Loehnis studied art history at Brown University and spent her summers working on the shop floor at Ralph Lauren in East Hampton. “I was trained to within an inch of my life,” she says. “I learned about selling, how the clothes were made, visual merchandising, you name it. You’re not saving the world, but I just loved that you could make people feel better through clothes.” After graduating, she joined Saatchi & Saatchi on the General Mills cereals account. Later, she worked at the publishing company Hachette Filipacchi, then at Disney, and at the height of the Internet bubble, was sent to the London offices of a digital start-up called KPE.
It was here in London, having moved on to sales and marketing for the LVMH brand Thomas Pink, that she met her husband Alexander, a partner at PR consultancy Maitland. They got married in the Starrett-Lehigh Building, a striking 1930s industrial edifice in New York (the bride wore a cream Monique Lhuillier dress and a pair of gold Manolos). The couple now have two children, 10-year-old Milo, and Tilly, 9, and share a love of photography—their home is filled with works by artists such as Malick Sidibé, Edward Dimsdale, Saul Leiter, and Vivian Maier. Loehnis also has a penchant for mid-century and Danish furniture, which she sources from Philip Thomas and Lauritz; patterned wallpaper, including the Scala fabric in Tilly’s room, which is based on the one that adorned the iconic New York restaurant Gino’s; and bed sheets from Schweitzer Fine Linens.
Her wardrobe reveals a fondness for ATM T-shirts, knitwear from The Row, Olivia von Halle silk pyjamas, and feminine but structured pieces from Chloé, Miu Miu, Prada, and Stella McCartney. “I basically love Seventies style,” she says. “A culotte, a blouse, I’m a sucker for Victoriana collars … But I’m not a big platform wearer—I refuse to own shoes I can’t walk in.” She’s been browsing Net-a-Porter.com for her winter wardrobe and has her eye on a Saint Laurent tweed jacket, a Sonia Rykiel velvet dress, and Gianvito Rossi slouch boots. “I’ve always been on a quest to sell a product that I was genuinely, incredibly excited about, where I was also the customer,” she says. It seems that her wish has come true.