During the last Milan collections season, young designers, and the city’s need to cultivate its next generation of fashion talent, were the talk of the town. It’s a subject that is dear to Federico Marchetti, Yoox Group’s founder and chief executive officer.
“They talk about Milan Fashion Week and how there are not enough new designers,” he said, during an alfresco breakfast at the city’s chic Bulgari hotel. “They talk about supporting them. In a way, I was thinking — during the summer when there was this big debate about Milan fashion — that Yoox does a lot for young designers, probably more than we have communicated so far.”
So Marchetti called the meeting to make a point — that Yoox has been supporting young designers worldwide for some time by collaborating on several incubator programs and by giving these new talents a platform, mainly via Thecorner.com, its full-price Web portal.
“Yoox is a communication platform globally that currently receives almost 13 million monthly unique visitors,” Marchetti said. “Compared to a monthly magazine, it’s much more, and it’s globally balanced and dispersed from Japan to America. We put our platforms at the service of young designers, because I think we can help them a lot.”
Among the key initiatives is The Vogue Talents Corner, founded with Vogue Italia editor in chief Franca Sozzani, which is now in its third edition.
“It’s a great permanent partnership where Franca and we select young designers in Milan,” he said, noting, “It’s not only Italians, but Koreans, Americans….We showcase about 10 to 12 designers during Milan Fashion Week every year and permanently on Thecorner.com.”
The project, which takes place each February, has demonstrated an unusual sense of fraternity among Milan designers, and everyone from Diego Della Valle to Giorgio Armani and Donatella Versace have shown their support with little apparent animosity between these famously competitive Italian fashion players. “Franca is the leader, and we are like the Switzerland of fashion because we work with everybody,” Marchetti said.
He cited Chinese designer Uma Wang as an example of the program’s success. She was discovered by The Vogue Talents Corner three years ago and now shows on the official Milan calendar.
Another success story is Aquazzura, the shoe brand that is now one of names to watch in fashion.
The philosophy is not just one of hometown pride. At Yoox, it’s a global approach. It is also involved with The Vogue Talents Corner China, launched with Vogue China, which allows designers to promote and develop their brand through Thecorner.com.cn. In the U.S., Yoox is actively involved with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Thecorner.com serves as the fund’s exclusive online retail partner and in late October started offering a piece from each fund finalist’s spring collection in a special online retail shop. There are also special behind-the-scenes videos and a selection of pieces from each designer will be available on the site in February.
Marchetti, Lena Dunham, Diane von Furstenberg and Anna Wintour were hosts of a special fashion fund dinner in Los Angeles recently.
“L.A. is our second city in America,” Marchetti said. “In terms of customers, it’s not so distant from New York. For us, it’s important to do something on the West Coast for our customer base.”
Similarly, Yoox works with Italy’s Pitti Immagine and France’s Andam (Association Nationale pour le Développement des Arts de la Mode), which identify emerging talent.
Cultivating talent, in fact, goes back to 2002 when the site invested in another program with Vogue Italia called “The Wild Bunch,” which featured, in its inaugural initiative, Jeremy Scott and Bernhard Willhelm, among others. The name for it was conceived by the late Malcolm McLaren, who became a good friend of Marchetti’s and collaborated with him on a children’s knitwear line capsule called Fashion Beast.
“He wanted to do a comeback in fashion after Vivienne Westwood,” Marchetti recalled. “I was crazy enough to follow him and support him in this venture. He wanted to start from scratch and do knitwear, including the production, and Yoox is a retailer, and for that thing we went into production, which was really difficult for us.”
That’s not to say that Yoox won’t return to production.
“Any retailer’s dream is to launch a private label but right now, we are too busy to launch it,” he would only allow. “I cannot say that we won’t do it five years from now.”
A more immediate focus is developing new and innovative technology that allows for cross-channeling.
“We are working in investing in cross-channeling, which means helping our monobrand partners to give features to connect and integrate the customer experience between online and offline flagship stores,” he said. “We expect, towards the end of the year or beginning of next year, to launch the first one.”
It’s one of his current aspirations, though not his biggest one. Elsewhere, Amber Valletta recently succeeded Livia Firth as the curator of the site’s eco-friendly Yooxygen area, and he is hoping the model can inspire a very special shopper to come and spend at Yoox. “My dream is for the pope to buy something from Amber Valletta,” he said.