LONDON — Farfetch.com, a platform for independent high-end fashion boutiques worldwide, is gearing up to expand thanks to a $4.5 million investment from Advent Venture Partners. The site, founded by the London-based José Neves, launched at the end of 2008 and showcases men’s and women’s clothing, accessories and jewelry from 40 European and U.S. boutiques, including Traffic and American Rag in Los Angeles; Feathers in London, and Maria Luisa in Paris.
In an interview with WWD, Neves, the company’s chief executive officer, said he plans to build up the infrastructure and team, and to launch a sister site to serve the Brazilian market, which is growing rapidly and is subject to heavy import duties. Neves said his medium-term target is to increase the number of shops from 40 to 100.
The site has customers in over 100 countries. About 40 percent of orders come from the U.K. and Europe; 30 percent from North America; 15 percent from Asia and the Middle East; 5 percent from Australia, and 5 percent from Brazil and the rest of South America.
Neves has also hired London retail veteran Susanne Tide-Frater to take charge of business development and to build up the boutiques’ profiles and highlight the personalities behind them. Tide-Frater has worked for stores here including Harrods and Selfridges, and is a consultant for 19 Entertainment, working with designers Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham. “All of these stores have the potential to have a global customer, and we see the site as a real fashion community,” she said.
Neves founded the London independent retailer B Store and owns Six, a wholesale footwear company that manages a portfolio of licenses including Opening Ceremony and Ksubi. With Farfetch, he said his mission is to give an online boost to fashion’s smaller players. “All of these independent stores have such a great vision, but they were struggling to tap into the online channel and reach a global audience,” he said.
“What we have is a very scalable business model, and our plan is to expand into new markets as we see opportunities,” he added.
The stores pay a minimum charge to get onto Farfetch.com, which builds a page for them, and takes care of photographing the samples, marketing and customer service. There is one checkout process. Payments are processed by the site and then passed on to the boutique, which packages and ships them directly to the consumer. Customers can shop by boutique, designer, product category, trends or size, and the site takes a percentage of every sale.
Neves declined to give sales or projections, but said there are shops that are turning over $3 million annually on the site alone.
Frédéric Court, general partner at Advent, said his firm’s strategy is to invest in capital-efficient e-commerce businesses. “Farfetch.com hit all our investment criteria: A proven entrepreneurial team, fast-growing revenue, highly differentiated positioning, and a strong ability to scale with limited capital requirements. We are thrilled to be involved with a company which has already made significant impact within its market based on its unique business model,” he said.