Moda Operandi lets fashion lovers buy items before they hit the stores

Lauren Santo Domingo is the visionary behind the pioneering e-commerce platform

Like many game-changing ideas, Lauren Santo Domingo’s decision to co-found Moda Operandi was partly inspired by a dilemma that took far too much time and effort to resolve. “I attended the Prada show in the resort town – it must have been in 2009 – and this gorgeous geometric print chiffon dress walked the runway,” recalls Santo Domingo, who at the time was working as an editor at vogue. “We called the dress to photograph it, someone wore it on a red carpet: it was quite memorable. Fast forward to the month the dress was supposed to hit stores – remember that at At that time, the stores were much less connected. I called the Prada store on Madison Avenue, I called their Bal Harbor store and a whole series of department stores, and no one had it. Finally, I found a dress, not my size, and grabbed it. I still wear it.

But it was undeniably a revealing moment, adds Santo Domingo: “If I, who through my work have had access to some of the most beautiful things in the world, could not get my hands on this dress, then what luck a woman who hasn’t worked in fashion?” A front-row regular who also worked in-house at J. Mendel and Carolina Herrera, Santo Domingo expanded access to high-end fashion to all women in 2010 when she and co-founder Áslaug Magnúsdóttir created Mo-da Operandi, which allows consumers to pre-order designer collections. Santo Domingo and her team travel to fashion shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan – this process kicks off this month with New York Fashion Week from September 9-14 – photographing collections from major and emerging brands and posting designs to the site soon after they debut.

For consumers who have fallen in love with the latest luxury looks from, say, the inventive work of Brandon Maxwell or Julien Dossena for Paco Rabanne, you can order through Moda Operandi right away, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping to find a treasured piece when it hits the stores. Twelve years after the site’s launch, Moda Operandi remains a visionary e-commerce destination, its success also being defined by its lack of competition in the marketplace. “Nobody else does what we do, because it’s difficult,” says Santo Domingo. “You have to have incredibly deep connections within the design community. It also takes a level of taste and confidence that others simply don’t have.

Among the benefits of Moda Operandi’s business model: Because data and trends about a collection can be collected once it’s live on the site, Santo Domingo says details ranging from sizes to customers passing through locations where a brand is popular (or not) offer valuable insight to a designer. “Within seven minutes of posting a collection to the site, we know which pieces will be top sellers,” she says. Meanwhile, the model also offers an element of durability, “within minutes of posting a collection to the site, we know which pieces are going to be top sellers.” with designers creating pieces guaranteed to travel to an end consumer, rather than ending up in landfills or, as is often the case with some high-end labels, destroyed rather than heavily discounted. “The goal is less waste, less markdowns, and the designer can ultimately be smarter in their production,” notes Santo Domingo.

A curated section of the site, dubbed Lauren’s Closet, highlights Santo Domingo favorites. Although she admits the job requires a lot of travel, you’ll never see her connecting to Wi-Fi on a plane. “I turn off my phone, I don’t do emails, I don’t do social media,” she says. “Instead, I read magazines, watch a movie, or sometimes edit photos on my phone. The second time in-flight Wi-Fi became popular I was miserable and realized that what I loved most about traveling was that time to relax and unwind on my own, even though I am surrounded by hundreds of other people.

Lately, Santo Domingo has redesigned its travel program. “Before the pandemic, it was completely normal for me to fly to London in the morning, have a day of meetings, and then fly home in the evening,” she says. “After the pandemic, my schedule became a lot more thoughtful, but the fashion industry helped with that too, because a lot of what we do moved online out of necessity. Still, we’re an industry that’s all about touch and feel and seeing in person how clothes move, so that aspect of my work will never go away. I also like that there is always something new in fashion. I never get bored.

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