The Future of Fashion is Made-to-Order, According to Farfetch CEO José Neves

December 15, 2018

On the heels of his company’s recent IPO, Farfetch CEO José Neves talks about personalizing fashion, the industry’s problem with waste, and the unexpected benefits of a global recession.

In September, a decade after he began knitting together an online marketplace for independent boutiques across the globe, Farfetchfounder and CEO José Neves took the company public. It’s now worth more than $7 billion and encompasses the original platform (which sells items from more than 980 stores and brands), white-label e-commerce services for designers such as Thom Browne and Derek Lam, and even physical retail.

Fast Company: You launched Farfetch two weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. What was it like to debut a company that championed luxury fashion at such a moment?

José Neves: Starting a company is already scary. Starting a company in the middle of a financial storm was terrifying. There was this fear of Armageddon in the [fashion] industry. And here we were trying to start a very ambitious project: to create a platform for boutiques and brands. But there was also collateral beauty in the financial crisis. I’d been a shoe designer since the age of 22, and I knew the industry moved very slowly. I had wondered how open people were going to be to the internet—to a new concept and to [Farfetch’s online] marketplace model. [During the crisis] people were very open to new [sales] channels, new opportunities. There was less to lose.

FC: There are growing concerns today that we may be heading into another financial crisis. Do you have any lessons from 2008 for navigating that?

JN: The luxury industry is not only very resilient, but the shift from offline to online is pretty much still [happening] today. Only 9% of sales are happening online. So even in the event of a crisis, we think Farfetch is very well prepared.

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