LPA: You’ve been involved in fashion start ups since the 1990’s, how different do you feel it is to launch a fashion brand now than it was, say, ten years ago? Do you think that the rise of digital media and online retail has made it harder or easier to get a new business off the ground?
JN: Launching a fashion brand now is very different to ten years ago. Any new start-up has the potential to tap a global audience straight away, due to the rise of online retail. Local businesses are no longer restricted to local trading and can be braver and bolder. This makes it ever more important for brands to establish their own DNA, decide what it is they are trying to achieve and define and stay true to their brand values in order to enable them to standout in a highly competitive market.
LPA: When you launched farfetch in 2008 it was a unique concept in that it didn’t just offer multiple brands a platform from which to retail online, but also multiple independent boutiques. Many of these boutiques also have their own e-commerce platforms too so what advantages do feel being part of FarFetch.com offers them that perhaps their own sites don’t?
JN: In addition to instant access to a ready-made e-commerce infrastructure, and support from experienced and multi-lingual staff in four offices (London, Porto, Los Angeles and São Paulo), farfetch allows global exposure for boutiques allowing instant online presence worldwide to our established customer base; in essence, more ‘eyes on the prize’, the prize being their boutique and their collections. The concept creates a truly exciting proposition for a fashion hungry global audience who are able to shop an unrivalled collection of the world’s best brands in one easy to navigate space. I learnt first-hand the huge challenges facing a bricks and mortar retailer wanting to expand into the hugely competitive online environment. farfetch acts as a single portal offering independent fashion boutiques and designers an opportunity to compete in the online arena with the leaders of fashion e-tail.
LPA: To what extent do you feel that the landscape of luxury fashion e-tail is dominated by sites like Net-a-Porter and MATCHESFASHION.com? Could you ever see this balance changing in the future?
JN: Since farfetch launched in 2008 e-commerce has developed rapidly as a hugely competitive environment, with key players naturally emerging. Whilst the e-commerce market has increased with expansions and new ventures, farfetch has maintained an advantageous position through its unique business model, by uniting the very best boutiques and giving them an online platform on which to grow and flourish. farfetch is naturally at an advantage with an unrivalled product offer in excess of 82, 000 units of stock. We have an extensive fashion view point due to our portfolio of boutiques buying in such a varied manner.
LPA: How are the boutiques farfetch takes on board selected? And how much involvement do you have in the process?
JN: Each one of the boutiques in our community has been carefully selected for their unique approach, forward-thinking attitude and diversity. I have a personal interest, and take an active role in selecting new boutiques, especially internationally. In addition to boutiques proactively applying to join our network, we have a fantastic business development team who are responsible for finding the best boutiques in each territory we work within. Keeping in mind our mantra of quality over quantity they work tirelessly to ensure we are continually working with the best boutiques around the world.
LPA: Having been heavily involved in the success of SWEAR, bStore, SIX London and countless other fashion businesses besides, I imagine that you really know clothes. How would you describe your personal style? Are there any brands you particularly love at the moment?
JN: I shop on farfetch all the time, I don’t think you can beat having a highly curated edit of the best brands’ collections each season, as selected by some of the best boutiques’ buyers out there. I find it easy to shop specifically for brands I know I love; some of my go-to brands are Balmain, Kenzo and Qasimi, but I also like that while browsing I can discover up-and-coming talent alongside world renowned brands.
LPA: This summer farfetch has teamed up Paper Mâché Tiger to create BEACH IN THE EAST, a showcase for independent designers in Shoreditch. How did this project, and farfetch’s involvement in it, come about?
JN: Yasmin (Sewell) approached farfetch with the concept of a pop-up summer boutique she was creating, and expressed that she was really keen for it to be a part of the farfetch community. For the first time on the farfetch platform we created a virtual boutique showcasing the truly unique and creative visions of the designers; allowing a global audience of 150,000 customers from over 200 countries the chance to discover BEACH IN THE EAST. This project demonstrates quite tangibly how farfetch can enable a local project to become global.
LPA; How important is it to you to support up-and-coming design talent through initiatives like this? In what ways do you feel that BEACH IN THE EAST will help the designers whose work is featured develop their businesses?
JN: farfetch prides itself on connecting the global fashion community with the most exciting and unique products and new designers out there. The Beach in the East partnership unites Yasmin’s impeccable eye with farfetch’s global fashion hunters. The collaboration enables up-and-coming designers to access a customer base all over the world, alongside established brands.
LPA: What advice would you give to someone hoping or planning to launch an independent fashion business within the next few years?
JN: It’s important to acknowledge that start-ups involve a huge degree of risk, so once you have your idea don’t be afraid to go all-in!
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