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Three ways Nick Robertson’s Asos disrupted fashion retail forever

Asos magazine

CEOs come and go, but when a fashion label founder exits it always prompts a big reaction in the industry.

Think of the wringing of hands when Jil Sander quit (for the first time), when Margiela moved out of the Maison or Helmut Lang hung up his hat.

That’s because their time at that business lived large in the imaginations of those who write and obsess about fashion.

This reaction is usually reserved for designers – a mere mass market fashion business leader is not generally judged by their creative kudos. They live and they die by the balance sheet.

But Asos’ announcement CEO and founder Nick Robertson is bowing out after 15 years at the helm has caused a stir.

Why? Because those whose memory stretches back far enough recognise him – and the business he built – as an original disruptive force within the industry, one that has shaped the way we all shop fashion today.

Nick-Robertson Asos

In the same way a great designer understands what we want to wear before we know it, Robertson and his team at Asos understood how we would want to shop.

 Here are three things that Nick Robertson’s Asos did first:

1)    Foresaw how selling fashion online would require great content, launching a magazine years before Net-A-Porter.

2)    Next day delivery.

3)    Videoing  models so we could see how the clothes moved with our bodies.

That all seems so old hat now, doesn’t it? But the business is still pushing boundaries, particularly on its mobile app where its addictive mix of instant payment, social content and curated offers remains fashion retail crack.  

Industry insiders know Robertson’s exit from Asos has been on the cards for a long while now – today it’s worth pausing to salute the extent of the legacy.

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