LONDON, United Kingdom — Natalie Massenet is joining Farfetch, putting her in direct competition with Net-a-Porter, the fashion e-tailer she founded in 2000. In an announcement first made on Instagram on Tuesday, Massenet announced that she would be taking up the position of non executive co-chairman at the fashion e-commerce platform, effective immediately. The news comes nearly a year and a half after Massenet’s surprise exit from Net-a-Porter ahead of its merger with Italian rival Yoox.
In her new role, Massenet will help Farfetch to develop its brand, a weakness for the platform player and one of the areas in which Net-a-Porter excels. Farfetch connects consumers with a curated global network of luxury boutiques and brands. The company is what founder José Neves describes as “omnichannel out-of-the-box,” meaning that partners can leverage the platform to link online inventory with inventory in their physical stores and deliver services like click-and-collect and in-store returns.
"First of all, I’m so excited to be jumping back in. This is the space I know and love. For me it is about — and it always have been — celebrating fashion, serving the consumers and following the consumers," Massenet told BoF in a telephone interview. "When I started working in the internet space, I was excited because the consumer was about to start shopping on a desktop. And I am just as excited today about what the consumer is going to do next. To me, it is a continuation, but it is a continuation with a brilliant new partner."
“The landscape has changed so much in e-commerce over the last 20 years. In order to succeed in e-commerce today you have to be more of a platform. And rather than starting something from scratch, it’s much better to join the expert in the area,” she added. "It’s always about teamwork, and I cannot wait to work with Jose on this. I took a long way to decide what I want to do, and I have looked at a lot of opportunities. And this is the one."
"I have always been a huge huge fan of Natalie," said Neves. "She was a pioneer that started this whole thing for the rest of us. I’ve always had huge admirations. I actually found that the thought was actually mutual. She loved the Farfetch model and the brand DNA. She got more and more excited about the business."
Massenet’s appointment comes at a critical time for Farfetch, which is reported to be preparing for an IPO. The company has been on a hiring spree in recent months, appointing former Net-a-Porter executive Stephanie Phair to the newly created role of chief strategy officer in November and Jeffery Fowler as president of Farfetch North America in September.
In May, Farfetch closed a $110 million Series F round, at a valuation of around $1.5 billion. To date, the company has raised over $300 million from a group of investors including Condé Nast International, IDG Capital Partners, Index Ventures, Novel TMT and Vitruvian Partners.
Though Farfetch is not yet profitable, the company reached gross sales of more than $800 million in 2016, up 60 percent from 2015, with estimated annual revenues in the region of $200 million. (Farfetch is said to take a 25 percent commission from partners.)
Farfetch is now the world’s top luxury online shopping destination measured by traffic, outperforming competitors including Yoox Net-a Porter and Neiman Marcus, according to data from web analytics firm Alexa. To date, the platform has attracted about 1,500 boutiques and over 200 brands, including Roksanda, Paul Smith, JW Anderson and Proenza Schouler. It also offers agency and white-label solutions for brands, dubbed Black & White, which counts Christopher Kane, Manolo Blahnik and AMI as clients.
On the biggest challenges facing fashion e-commerce today, Massenet said: "I think the most important thing is that we are talking to consumers who have been trained by Uber, Deliveroo and Amazon. When they want something, they want something now."
Neves added the importance of integrating e-commerce with brick-and-mortar retail in a world where online sales may top out at 20 percent of the total fashion market: "How can we reach the world of physical stores and digital platforms? The physical stores is where the action takes place but how do we breach those two worlds?"
Today’s news follows reports at the end of last year that Massenet was in talks with Farfetch. Massenet is also chairman of the British Fashion Council and has set up her own advisory firm Imaginary Ventures.
Here is her statement from Instagram in full: