LONDON — In a meeting of tech — and entrepreneurial minds — Natalie Massenet is teaming with José Neves of Farfetch with the aim of creating a digital fashion retail platform for the decades ahead.
Six months after the end of her noncompete with Yoox Net-a-porter Group, Massenet is back in the digital game with plans to strategize, market and create new customer experiences at Farfetch, which was founded by Neves, whose title is chief executive officer and executive co-chairman.
Massenet posted Tuesday afternoon on Instagram that she was joining the board of Farfetch Group as non-executive co-chairman. Although it’s a part-time job, she said in a joint telephone interview with Neves that it’s “a full-time occupation in my mind.”
She said she would continue to pursue other projects, including her role as chairman of the British Fashion Council, and took the opportunity to reveal that the Fashion Awards in London will take place on Dec. 4.
Asked what, exactly, she’d be doing at Farfetch, which was founded in 2008 and has a valuation in excess of $1 billion, she said: thinking about the future. “It’s one thing to be here, in 2017, with the current set of rules, but José and I are both futurists, and we have a lot of exciting plans that need to be developed for the industry,” said Massenet, who started work this week.
Her plan, she added, is to shine a light on what Farfetch has been doing already. “They are in very good shape from a tech and ops perspective and they have excellent brand relationships. I’m a big believer in consumer marketing, and I’m going to be looking at how we can be even sleeker in our communications to the consumer, and I’ll be working with José directly on the next strategy.”
She and Neves “both care about the fashion industry deeply, we care about brands being able to succeed and to sell their products. We want to see brick-and-mortar stores thriving, we want to see anyone who is in the space thriving. We really are there to provide a platform for the industry — not to take a chunk of it,” Massenet added.
In her Instagram message, she already started recruiting. “If you like what Farfetch is striving for, JOIN US! We are looking for the best in class, so email us. Let’s do this!” she wrote.
Asked whether her move was attempt to needle her former colleagues over at Yoox Net-a-porter Group, Massenet said: “I really am focusing on the future, and Farfetch is the future. I’m not looking back.” She admitted, however, that she would bring a similar work ethic to Farfetch. “I can’t help what I do, which is think big and encourage people to achieve and to do their best. That’s what I’m going to do here.”
Massenet founded Net-a-porter in 2000, defying naysayers and carving a path for fashion and luxury to be sold online. In the year before she stepped down, Net-a-porter recorded net revenues of $1 billion. She made a high-profile departure after Net-a-porter’s majority owner Compagnie Financière Richemont merged the company with Yoox Group.
Yoox Net-a-porter is now a publicly quoted company on the Milan bourse, and will release full-year results later this week.
Massenet is the third high-profile Net-a-porter veteran to join Farfetch over the past two years. Holli Rogers, the former fashion director of Net-a-porter.com and one of the architects of Net-a-porter’s success, is ceo of Browns, the bricks-and-clicks retailer that’s part of the Farfetch portfolio. Rogers left Net-a-porter in 2014, and joined Browns the following year.
The company has also hired Stephanie Phair as chief strategy officer, a new role. Phair was formerly president of The Outnet, Net-a-porter’s off-season fashion site.
The Farfetch portfolio includes Farfetch.com, an international platform for fashion and luxury retailers; Browns; Black & White, which operates mono-brand websites, and Store of the Future, a long-term project that aims to fuse on- and off-line retail experiences.
Farfetch grew 70 percent in fiscal 2016, based on the value of goods traded. In the final quarter of 2016, which included the pre-Christmas trading period, the growth rate at Farfetch.com was 75 percent, and the site delivered a profit. The platform partners directly with more than 750 designers and fashion boutiques across 40 countries, selling women’s wear and men’s wear.
Neves, who launched his first tech business in 1993, aged 19, said he’d always admired Massenet, saying “she paved the way for the rest of us by demonstrating that not only could luxury be sold online, but also that the Internet would eventually become the primary way consumers engage with brands globally.”
In the interview, he called her a “brand builder with incredible instinct and a gut feeling for what consumers are going to want — before they know it.” The two got to know each other working at the British Fashion Council. Farfetch has long supported BFC initiatives such as London Showrooms and The Fashion Trust.
“They way we work together at the BFC made both of us comfortable,” said Neves. “Natalie loves Farfetch and the feel over here, our culture and values and we are all tremendously excited in welcoming her.” He added that Massenet would also be speaking at the inaugural FarfetchOS event in London on April 12.
Farfetch has been steaming ahead on a number of fronts this year. In February, it said that employees would be offered share options in the company through a new initiative called Farfetch for All.
Some 1,300 people, from junior staff to executives across 11 offices globally, are included in the scheme, which equates to an investment of $40 million based on the latest company valuation. Farfetch said it was the single largest investment the company has made to date.
Massenet said the world has certainly moved on since she started Net-a-porter in 2000. “The tech and logistics platforms that power the best e-commerce today have new, decentralized business models. If I were starting an e-commerce company today, I would do it very differently,” she said on Instagram.
She called Farfetch “an example of the ‘collaborative economy,’ when businesses historically seen as competitors work together to offer the best possible customer experience and support the world’s luxury fashion brands.”
She remains obsessed with consumer behavior, adding that the thrill of ordering online — and having the goods delivered quickly — is no longer enough. “Consumer behavior has changed, and I’ve always made decisions based on where the consumer is. I’m [pleased] to be right at the center of the company that is striving in that direction for the luxury fashion world.”
Massenet is understood to be developing a number of projects alongside her job at Farfetch. As reported, she has registered a company, Imaginary Ventures, with Companies House in the U.K., and is taking stakes in start-ups. One of her investments includes Flowerbx, a wholesale and retail flower delivery web site founded by Tom Ford veterans Adam Wilkie and Whitney Bromberg Hawkings.
According to industry sources, Massenet is also in the process of raising money for her own investment fund, with plans to take stakes in a variety of businesses. She has declined to comment on that.
In October, during a BFC event in Los Angeles, Massenet fielded questions about her future and said the following: “I have two start-ups under my belt already, but I can’t reveal what they are yet.”
She said she plans to make an announcement “soon” about the nature of Imaginary Ventures, which she formed last year. “I’m interested in technology, fashion, retail and emerging talent. So I hope to be able to tackle all of that in the next few years.”