The Vogue Festival

Natalie Massenet

Natalie Massenet talks through her life via and Instagram feed

This weekend I spent some time at the Vogue festival on the Southbank. It promised to be an interesting two days with an impressive line up of speakers from the media and fashion industry.

The founder of Net-a-Porter Natalie Massenet was the first speaker I saw and started her talk by asking everyone to turn on their phones, as she would be talking through her life via an Instagram feed, nataporter_mystorysofar.

Full of wise words, emotional insights and inspiration Natalie is not only an amazing business woman, she’s clearly very engaging and extremely stylish. Here are a few of her insights.

– If you want success, be unique

– The harder you work, the luckier you get

– Sometimes it’s easier to get something big if you divide it into small amounts – I started by calling 30 people and asking them for £10,000 each

– Why be like everybody else? Try to be like yourself

– Follow your instincts:I was told by a very respected American buyer that my first idea – to launch a range of luxury scented candles – would never work because nobody would ever spend more than a dollar on a candle. My other idea was a coffee bar chain. Eventually I realised I had to go with my instincts

– Don’t be afraid of what’s on the other side of the mountain

– People ask me if it’s hard being an entrepreneur and a mother. it is.

– As long as you put  your consumer first there is no tension

– People think success looks like a direct line but actually it’s a very wiggly line

– Sometimes the plan you have for yourself doesn’t always turn out to be the plan

– There is no “i” in team

– When you visualise something with self-belief the universe conspires to help you – you still have to work hard but it can happen

– Plan the best you can and then jump in and go for it. Adapt as you go. That’s how progress happens

– Why walk when you can run

– Be nice to everyone because you will come across them again

– The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves

– Once you start a business you have to grow it and grow with it – starting a business is not just for Christmas.

She also recommended reading two books, the The Popcorn Report (which I read years ago, but plan to read again) and Creative Visualisation which looks at the art of using mental imagery and affirmation to produce positive changes in your life.


Vogue Festival

ADR in an understated YSL hat!

Next up was a discussion about street style with Susie BubbleGarance Doré and Anna Dello Russo, which was interesting but not ground breaking. As was the discussion with Christa D’Souza, Daisy Lowe, Patsy Kensit and David Gandy about weight.

ADR was amusing and didn’t take herself at all seriously, which was refreshing, Susie Bubble was intelligent and talked a lot of sense about the ethics of blogging, while Garance Doré came across as charming and creative. But the Too Fat, Too Thin conversation left me feeling frustrated and more than a little bit sad, as it felt like some of these women (Daisy Lowe excluded) were living in a time warp, where women essentially loathed themselves and spent far too much time focusing on what they look like.

I would have liked to hear a more honest, thought provoking conversation – but this was an event held by a big publishing company, who were were hardly likely to encourage a discussion about the huge part the mainstream media has to play in women’s attitudes to weight and self esteem.

Mainstream magazines increasingly feel like they are completely out of touch with what’s really happening in women’s lives and the feminist debate and online backlash doesn’t seem to have entered their radar. Reading about diets, how to achieve a “flawless” look and what celebrities are wearing on the beach, is not the way to make us feel good about ourselves internally – which is what all the panelists at the Too Fat, Too Thin talk, all agreed was important.

The Vogue Festival was a fun couple of days with some interesting speakers, but what was obviously an attempt to bring Vogue to the masses and extend the brand beyond just the magazine, felt like a missed opportunity to open up the conversation and enjoy some honest and game changing debates.

But maybe that’s what blogs are for?

Too fat too thin

Even the title of this talk annoyed me!


  • Amanda says:

    I think I may have to ask Natalie if she’ll adopt me. Inspiring stuff A

  • Dinah Hall says:

    So agree with you about magazines – and I speak as a life long print journalist. It’s kind of pointless of Vogue to “reach out” when its pages are so relentlessly exclusive and cliquey. They use it as a mirror to reflect their own lives – hence the stomach churning “social” pages and the interviews with celebrities which are more about the journalist than the subject. I notice in Vogue’s Talent Contest this year – which has in the past unearthed some brilliant writers – they asked for a photograph of the applicant. Just in case a talented double chin slips through the net presumably….. When I started on magazines in the late 70s (OK, so it was Cosmopolitan – but honestly compared to magazines today it reads like Spare Rib) the editor impressed on us how important it was to make the reader feel included. The word “I” was banned.

  • Marv says:

    Hmmm. I ‘read’ Elle for the first time in years this month and was APPALLED at the narcissistic, ‘be like this 16 year old’ ‘we used 20 pairs of sunglasses in the cover shoot and Stella McCartney sent over bags *personally*’. I mean. FFS. How banal can you get? Time was when Elle and Vogue et al were about the clothes, there were always odd ‘how to look good in your bikini’ and ‘do your eyeliner like this’ sections but nothing to the crap they peddle today.

    Stomach churning it is indeed. It went in the recycling.

  • Monix says:

    Timely post! Iin the last month I have not renewed my subscription to Vogue or Harpers, just finding it all so, well silly. Maybe I’m not their target market and I can find that sort of Journalism on the web (and often better written).
    New “girl crush” on Natalie Amanda?

  • Jane says:

    I think maybe the writers on these womens mags live in a fantasy world where everyone talks about diets, celebrities, men and themsleves all the time – not in our world – there are far more interesting things to discuss!!

  • amanda says:

    Def have a girl crush on Natalie, as well as Claire Aho, my world is filling up with inspiring older women, none of whom seem to feel the need to look like a twenty year old….Ax

  • Ceri says:

    Really interesting post. I wished I had gone to the Natalie Massenet talk which sounded really inspiring. I went to the ‘can fashion change the world?’ talk which was great but wished it could have been longer as it seemed like such a short amount of time for such an important subject.

  • Sue says:

    Well,it seems I’m the only person left who likes magazines.I subscribe to Vogue and Harpers and I still enjoy looking through them each month.I feel way, way too old for all the other fashion-y mags though – Elle, Marie Claire etc and don’t bother with them.At all. I like the photography in Vogue and the way stuff’s put together: I don’t really want to replicate it at home.Agree with you that the diet/cosmetic surgery/celebrity articles are not interesting.The best thing about blogs is how immediate the discussion is and more revealing.

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