Farfetch is a Portuguese international fashion website that stocks designer clothing from around the world. The website was founded in 2008 by the Portuguese entrepreneur José Neves with the headquarters based in London, and subsidiary offices based in New York City, Los Angeles, Guimarães, Porto, São Paulo, Shanghai and Tokyo. Farfetch works on a commission based model with its partner boutiques, which see an average of 30 per cent of their sales driven by the website.
The company operates bespoke, local-language websites for international markets in English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Korean, German, Russian and Spanish. As of May 2015, Farfetch has over 600 global employees.
Farfetch was founded in 2008 by José Neves, a Portuguese entrepreneur who has been involved in the world of fashion start-ups after the mid-1990s, when he launched the shoe design business SWEAR. In 2001 he created B Store, a fashion licencing and wholesale company selling a niche range of up-and-coming designer labels in a physical boutique store. During a trip to Paris Fashion Week in 2007, when Neves was wholesaling for his B Store brand, the idea for a virtual boutique market-place came into fruition. A 2013 interview in The Daily Telegraph details the moment when Neves realised the need to give independent fashion boutiques an online retail presence: “Dozens of boutique owners had been through our doors and what they were saying was really sobering. Business was bad, they couldn't rely on local custom any more but they didn't have the experience to do e-tailing either. They had amazing taste levels but they were having to play it increasingly safe."
It was this reason that Neves decided to set up the Farfetch website, to enable small, independent boutiques to compete in the marketplace while retaining their ‘bricks and mortar’ stores and their own visual identity. A 2013 article in The Economist summarises this: “Farfetch emphasises its ‘bricks and mortar roots,” allowing independent retailers to “keep their identity, while boosting their position in the market.”
Initially, the business secured $4.5 million in growth equity from Advent Venture Partners in July 2010 to help it expand its presence into Brazilian, North American and European markets. Following this, Farfetch raised a second round of $18 million in funding from Advent Venture Partners, Index Ventures and eVenture Capital Partners collectively.
In March 2013, a further $20 million investment was announced from global publishing house Conde Nast International, which was supported by subsequent funding in May 2014, totalling $66 million, from additional investment sources including Conde Nast International.
A key milestone for the business was then reached in March 2015, when Farfetch gained a further US$86 from a group of investors led by the software company DST Global. Former investors additionally contributed to this Series E funding round, which took the total investment pot to over US$195 million. Such investors included Advent Ventures Partners, Condé Nast International, Index Ventures, Novel TMT, eVentures and Vitruvian Partners. Following on from this, Farfetch announced the acquisition of iconic London-based boutique retailer Browns in May 2015.
Farfetch is currently led by José Neves, the founder of the business who operates as the Chief Executive Officer, directing the overall strategy and decision-making of the company. He is supported by Andrew Robb, the Chief Operating Officer who's responsible for overseeing and managing the day to day operating functions of Farfetch including online marketing, finance, HR and customer services. Andrew Robb was appointed in June 2010 following his time at Bauer Media, where he acted as Managing Director of the luxury flash-sales website Cocosa.
At the same time as Andrew’s appointment to the company, Farfetch made another key hire by employing Susanne-Tide Frater as Brand and Strategy Director. Susanne was the former Creative Director of Harrods and Selfridges, who balances the current Farfetch role with her position as Fashion Director at Victoria Beckham’s fashion label.
The next senior management hire was David Lindsay who was appointed as Senior Vice President of Technology to direct and manage developments in technological innovations and website user experience design. He joined in February 2013 after spending 2 years at an independent website design agency, as well as 5 years at Net-A-Porter as the Head of Technology.
He is supported in this role by Cipriano Sousa, the Chief Technology Officer, who has worked for Farfetch after its foundation, and now manages the daily operations of the technology team. Before this role, he helped to develop the technological infrastructure and website functions of small independent fashion boutiques, including the B Store brand for José Neves.
Following the Conde Nast investment round in March 2013, two more senior managers joined Farfetch to drive forward further business expansion. Farfetch first appointed Stephanie Horton as Chief Marketing Officer in August 2013 to oversee creative and promotional business functions such as marketing, PR, editorial and social media. Horton joined from Shopbop where she was Head of Global Communications. Prior to that, she worked as Executive Director of Creative Services at Vogue.
Farfetch later appointed Giorgio Belloli, who joined the business shortly after Stephanie in October 2013 to become the Chief Commercial Officer, in charge of commercial strategy and development. This followed his role as Business Development Director at Alexander McQueen.
Continued company expansion following the March 2015 investments promoted an additional round of management hiring in 2015, starting with the appointment of Taleeb Noormohamed as Chief Growth Officer. Taleeb was Vice President of Global Business Development at HomeAway Inc prior to his role at Farfetch, and was once Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Elliot Jordan was additionally hired as the Chief Financial Officer at Farfetch, making him responsible for the company’s financial operations. Elliot joined Farfetch with prior experience in financial management from several online retailers including ASOS and Sainsbury’s. Additionally, Ephraim Luft joined the company as Chief Product Officer to manage the development of product and UX team functions. Ephraim holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School and has fifteen years of experience in the digital technology industry, previously working at companies such as Microsoft, Massive Incorporated and POPSUGAR.
Farfetch currently ships fashion products to more than 170 countries from over 300 partner boutiques represented on the website. As of September 2014, “annual sales of merchandise through the Farfetch site…surpassed £167 million.” The business continues to grow, and in 2013, it retailed products from over 2000 global fashion brands, attracting 4.3 million weekly visitors to the site. The average spend of the Farfetch customer was stated as $680 per order in a New York Times article from March 2013.
The company divides its fashion brands into two shoppable categories: luxe brands that offer high-end luxury products, and lab brands that include emerging and experimental labels. A third department (contemporary) selling everyday casual wear was consolidated into the lab category in September 2014 to make shopping and website navigation easier for customers to understand.
Farfetch makes the majority of its revenue from the luxury brands that it sells such as Valentino, Saint Laurent, Givenchy and Comme des Garcons, but emerging and lesser known labels are said to be key to the Farfetch business. Stephanie Horton, the Chief Marketing Officer at Farfetch has explained how the Farfetch positioning is a “little left of center” because of the wide breadth of merchandise” on offer, which according to her, helps Farfetch appeal to “a wide range of consumer(s).”
Farfetch has supported emerging and alternative labels by sponsoring the British Fashion Council’s “London Showrooms” initiative to promote and support British designers internationally. It additionally promoted 15 brands from its Brazilian-based boutiques in a project named “Destination Brazil” to help lesser known local labels “appeal to a global audience.” Farfetch continues to support emerging designers and small boutique businesses by seeking out “new boutiques with a fresh edit in new regions.”
As of October 2014, Farfetch employed 502 people in the UK, US, Portugal and Brazil, with a further new office in Tokyo. Following the Conde Nast investments in 2013, Farfetch launched a programme of further expansion to improve brand awareness and market share in new territories, including the US, Germany, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Japan. As part of this, local language websites were launched in August 2014 for both Russia and Japan as well a Chinese website which was launched this fall. This is in addition to the English, French and Portuguese language websites for European, US and Brazilian territories that were already in operation. Farfetch therefore currently operates 5 local language websites in addition to its English speaking website.
The company additionally operates an iPhone app which allows users to shop boutique products as well as access editorial storeys on boutique locations. The App is called “Farfetch Discover” and was launched in October 2014. It features “shoppable travel guides to a few of the most fashionable cities in the world including New York, Paris, Milan, Rome, Los Angeles and more”. According to an August 2014 article in Women’s Wear Daily, the app mirrors “the site’s functionality by connecting users with merchandise from boutiques worldwide” and offers “editorial content targeted toward different cities.”
Awards and accolades
Farfetch and its representatives have received a number of industry and e-commerce awards:
- Winner: Best New E-tailer Awards – The Drapers E-tail Awards
- Winner: Best Fashion Start-up – The European Tech Start-up Awards
- Winner: Rising Star Advertiser – Golden Link Awards from Rakuten Affiliate Marketing
- Winner: Digital Direction Award – The Luxury Briefing Awards
- Winner: CEO of the Year (José Neves) – Digital Masters Awards
- Winner: Excellence in General Management (Andrew Robb) – Digital Masters Awards
- Winner: Best E-Store – WGSN Global Fashion Awards
- Winner: Best Organic Search Campaign – Performance Marketing Awards
- Winner: Grand Prix Award – Performance Marketing Awards