Outward bound: How Canadian talent has helped U.K.-based The Outnet succeed

canadian talent outnet
Photography by Tim Herbert
canadian talent outnet
Photography by Tim Herbert

When you move an ocean away for a new life and a new job in a new country, you might expect to be the odd accent out in a weekly status meeting, or take an occasional ribbing for your use of words like “sweater” and “tank top” instead of “jumper” and “vest.” Unless, of course, you’re a Canadian working at The Outnet.

While the British e-tailer’s staff is remarkably international, one can’t help but notice that Canadians occupy some key positions.

Mary Chaim is the New York-based head of merchandise planning, leading a team that works directly with designers to source end-of-season runs and create exclusive pieces for the site. Rebecca Tay is the editor responsible for all written communication, and social media writer Malwina Gudowska looks after The Outnet’s social media platforms. Tay and Gudowska are London residents and FASHION alumnae—Tay was FASHION’s western editor from 2007 to 2010, while Gudowska was FASHION’s first Alberta editor, from 2006 to 2009. Toronto-born art director Jane Gorley, who recently left The Outnet to join a London-based start-up, helped shape the original creative vision for the site, including its design and custom content. And if you question president Stephanie Phair about her nationality, she’ll whip out her Canadian passport. “I was born in Mexico and grew up in London, but my father is from Chatham, Ont.,” she says. Phair has been with the firm since it launched with two employees in 2009.

Originally conceived as an outlet for Net-A-Porter’s leftovers, The Outnet has blossomed into a self-sufficient business with its own voice and (most exciting) its own inventory stream. This month, the site will celebrate its fifth anniversary, with over 150 employees. “We haven’t consciously hired Canadians,” says Phair. “But I think we happen to have a disproportionately high number of Canadians here because the cultures just match.”

“We’re all very opinionated go-getters, but we’re also very, very nice,” laughs Gudowska. “I get made fun of for saying ‘Sorry’ all the time.”