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Farfetch to Sell Violet Grey

The luxury marketplace acquired the cult beauty retailer less than two years ago, but is now exiting the category.
Violet Grey founder Cassandra Grey.
Violet Grey founder Cassandra Grey. (Violet Grey)

Violet Grey is for sale, The Business of Beauty has learned.

Nearly two months after Farfetch announced it was shuttering its beauty division and closing the beauty arm of Browns, the company has put the Los Angeles-based business on the market, said a person familiar with the matter.

Violet Grey was once seen as a key component of Farfetch’s larger ambitions in beauty; it purchased the cult retailer in January 2022 for over $50 million in cash and stock.

Founded in 2012, Violet Grey quickly became a destination for top luxury brands, curating hero products from established lines like Chanel, Tom Ford and Diptyque and putting new brands like Augustinus Bader and Eighth Day on the map. Though it could not compete with Sephora or Ulta Beauty on volume, it often carried new launches before bigger rivals. Still, founder Cassandra Grey saw the value in a bigger partner.

The Farfetch deal seemed to give Violet Grey the scale Grey was hoping for and provide the luxury marketplace a better understanding of the beauty ecosystem. Grey joined Farfetch as an advisor to its beauty marketplace, which launched in 2022, and to NGG Beauty, the beauty brand incubator akin to the New Guards Group, the fashion accelerator Farfetch acquired in 2019.

But the partnership failed to make Farfetch a significant player in beauty. According to previous BoF reporting, Violet Grey generated approximately $20 million in 2022 sales; it previously raised more than $30 million from several investors, including Japanese conglomerate Shisedo. Meanwhile, Ulta Beauty’s fiscal 2022 revenue was $10.2 billion.

Farfetch did not respond to requests for comment.

In the last year, many fashion retailers, from Amazon-owned Shopbop to Moda Operandi, have tried to crack the $430 billion global beauty market. But oftentimes, these same retailers continue to treat cosmetics, skin care and hair care like apparel. At Shopbop, for example, most products like Monica Blunder’s Liquid Flush Cheek Tint are shown on a white background instead of on models’ faces.

Though small, Violet Grey has the editorial content and ratings and reviews to support its curation, potentially making it an attractive asset.

Whether a buyer will materialise remains to be seen. Beauty deal flow has slowed this year. While Kering and L’Oréal made big bids for proven assets like Creed and Aesop, respectively, strategics continue to prioritise profitability in uncertain times.

According to a person familiar with the matter, Grey, who has been acting as a part-time advisor to the business, will stay on with Farfetch through the Violet Grey sale process.

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