Back in 2009, a little-known etailer called Farfetch was shortlisted for the Best Etail Innovation award at the Drapers Etail Awards. This week, that same etailer has filed notice of its intention to float on the New York Stock Exchange.
Amid a slew of retail causalities, Farfetch is driving the business forward with big ambitions. In its most recent results for the six months to 30 June, Farfetch’s sales grew to $267.5m (£209.2m) – although losses after tax deepened to $68m (£53.3m) – and it now has over two million global customers.
Initially launched in 2008, Farfetch worked with premium independents to offer them an online proposition. Described as the “website for independent boutiques from around the world”, it secured $4.5m (£3m) investment from venture capital group Advent Venture Partners to back international growth in July 2010.
And it has not stopped evolving since. It now says its mission is to become “the global technology platform for luxury fashion, connecting creators, curators and consumers.”
In an impassioned comment from CEO José Neves this week, he said “I dreamt of Farfetch for the love of fashion.” Neves’s enthusiasm shines through the comment, where he discusses fashion’s ability to “empower” people and “manifest one’s individuality”.
Neves also highlights the impact of technology on the industry, describing it as “the clash between fashion, driven by creativity and emotion, and the internet, driven by speed and data, set the stage for a revolution in this industry.”
From day one, Farfetch embraced, rather than feared, technology. That attitude remains at the core of the business and can be seen in more recent initiatives such as its The Store of the Future project. Looking at one of the biggest challenges retailers face today – integrating the online and offline shopping experiences – The Store of the Future pioneered universal logins, RFID clothing rails, digital mirrors and mobile payments as innovations to help solve it.
The growth of Farfetch over the last 10 years has been nothing short of incredible. Neves’s ambition and enthusiasm to combine technology and fashion are never more apparent than when he says, “We protect what is sacrosanct in our beautiful industry and use technology to enhance the experience.”
Neves’s belief that “a single company will orchestrate this revolution in the conversion of offline and online luxury retail” seems a long way off, but is certainly not an impossibility – and his combination of tech knowledge and creativity could play a big part in it.