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.