CEO Talk | Federico Marchetti, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, YOOX Group

Federico Marchetti, Founder & CEO of YOOX Group, courtesy of Luca Cottinelli

Federico Marchetti Founder and CEO of YOOX Group, Photo:Luca Cottinelli

MILAN, Italy Federico Marchetti is one of fashion’s online pioneers. In 2000, when Marchetti established Yoox.com, online fashion retail was still in its infancy. in 2008, the Yoox Group, which includes the original YOOX site, as well as white-label sites for 18 fashion brands, including Emporio Armani, Marni and Pucci, and thecorner.com, shipped more than 1.7 million products to over 53 countries around the world, with €101 million in revenues, a 48 percent increase over the previous year.

Always looking to stay on the online fashion frontier, Marchetti’s latest move is to partner with another online visionary, Nick Knight, and Ruth Hogben (recently featured on BoF), to launch an online film, marking the launch of womenswear on thecorner.com. The film, which debuts today, features brands including Maison Martin Margiela, Haider Ackermann, Ann Demeulemeester, Viktor & Rolf, Proenza Schouler, Rick Owens, Hussein Chalayan, Raf Simons, Kris Van Assche and Sophia Kokosalaki.

2009 is also shaping up to be a big year for the YOOX Group in financing terms. Up until now, YOOX has been funded by a series of venture capital firms, including Benchmark Capital, and private investors. But later this year, YOOX is expected to conduct an initial public offering of its shares on the Milan Bourse.

Federico recently spoke to me about his new creative and business initiatives, which continue to set the pace for online fashion retail.

BoF: Back in 2000, when you first entered the online fashion space with Yoox.com, luxury e-commerce was still very much in question by the industry. Today, it is one of the fastest growing segments and many brands are finally paying attention to the online opportunity. What has changed the most since then and how do you see online retail changing in the years to come?

Compared to 2000 when Yoox.com was established, the Internet has completely changed, thanks to the fact that there are now more brands online and also a huge improvement in terms of technology and use of broadband. Nowadays, the Internet offers more quality in terms of offer and also in terms of service.  In addition, consumers are more used to the web and consequently also more able to shop online.

In the future, the combination of products with multimedia content will become more and more important to create a real online experience for customers. A brand’s online store will be like a “digital mirror” where it may express itself.

BoF: In spite of the financial crisis, you recently signed up Goldman Sachs and Mediobanca to take Yoox public later this year. How are your plans for this shaping up and why go public now?

Yes, we are planning to seek a public listing in the coming months. Despite the crisis, our business model has been very successful. We continue to grow both geographically and in terms of new openings of Online Stores. We currently do business in over 50 countries worldwide. We think that such strong results will be attractive to a new potential shareholder base.

BoF: Apart from the main Yoox.com site and your white label services for brands like Marni, Bally and Moschino, you have recently launched thecorner.com. Tell us the thinking behind this new business and what it offers to the online space that is not already on offer elsewhere?

Launched in 2008, thecorner.com is the virtual space showcasing a selection of artisans and cutting-edge brands for men and women through dedicated “mini-stores”. On thecorner.com each brand can customize its own “mini-store” where the value of its image and its DNA is heightened through its collections, editorials and exclusive video content. For example, Martin Margiela decided to present its mini-store with a video-lookbook.

BoF: A short film collaboration with legendary photographer Nick Knight is part of the launch of womenswear on thecorner.com. What inspired you to take this route?

The exclusive film directed by Nick Knight, launches today on thecorner.com to introduce the launch of women’s collections. The resulting film, Portent, is a sensual, delicate and poetic exploration of romantic Classicism through the male and female form, accentuated by exquisite clothing from a raft of the world’s finest designers – a portent, indeed, of the season’s fashion to come.

It is the first time that a fashion film has been created for an online retailer by a legendary photographer.

Nick Knight has realized this video giving his personal interpretation of thecorner.com’s brand selection and it’s very intriguing to watch the slow rhythm of the fashion film in opposition of the fast-moving world of web. It’s a really interesting oxymoron.

BoF: Do you believe there is a real return on investment in using online films to promote a new product or service?

Our project was not created with the aim of return on investment, but mainly our goal is to give our customers the possibility to experience thecorner.com’s women’s collections seen through the lens of a visionary.

BoF: Finally, what other plans for Yoox do you have to share with BoF readers?

Celebrating Made in Italy quality and craftsmanship, Yoox.com will dedicate a project to the Italian region Puglia and its artisans. A selection of three wedding gowns, completely sewn by hand, will be on sale on Yoox.com from next week, for a real wedding, Italian style!

Online Stores “Powered by YOOX Group”:  the next online store to launch will be dsquared2.com on 09/09/09.

thecorner.com: Starting from mid October, thecorner.com will present ART CONVENIENCE STORE. Under the concept of souvenirs from Tokyo, thecorner.com will present a series of exclusive items under the categories of fashion, toys, apparel, accessories – all designed by Japanese fashion designers and which will be on sale also at Dover Street Market, Colette, Isetan and others.

CEO Talk is BoF’s forum for in-depth discussions with the fashion industry’s global decision makers, conducted by founder and editor-in-chief Imran Amed.

This interview has been edited and condensed.