Unicorns 101/229 – Farfetch

Unicorns 101/229 – Farfetch


Founder/s: Jose Neves
Key people: Jose Neves (Founder & CEO), Luis Carvalho (Head of Development), Andrew Robb (COO), Susanne Tide-Frater (Brand and Strategy Director), Ephraim Luft (CPO) and Pedro Aa. Pereira (Head of Marketing Products)
Number of employees: 1k – 5k

Farfetch is a global community of over 400 visionary fashion boutiques offering an inspirational shopping experience to fashion-forward consumers.

The independent boutiques within their community have been carefully selected for their forward-thinking attitude, unique approach to merchandising and diversity of brands.

They are located everywhere from Paris, New York and Milan to Bucharest, Riyadh and Seattle, but united in one e-commerce website. When you order through Farfetch, your order is delivered directly from the boutique to your door.

Founded in 2008, with offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, São Paulo and Porto, Farfetch showcases over 1000 labels and is dedicated to supporting independent fashion and to the cultural diversity that comes from uniting the perspectives of hundreds of different buyers, each with their own unique style and vision.


Farfetch was founded in 2007 by José Neves, a Portuguese entrepreneur who has been involved in the world of fashion start-ups since the mid-1990s, when he launched the shoe design business SWEAR. In 2001 he created B Store, a fashion licensing and wholesale company selling a niche range of up-and-coming designer labels in a physical boutique store. During a trip to Paris Fashion Week in 2007, when Neves was wholesaling for his B Store brand, the idea for a virtual boutique market-place came into fruition. A 2013 interview in The Daily Telegraph details the moment when Neves realised the need to give independent fashion boutiques an online retail presence: “Dozens of boutique owners had been through our doors and what they were saying was really sobering. Business was bad, they couldn’t rely on local custom any more but they didn’t have the experience to do e-tailing either. They had amazing taste levels but they were having to play it increasingly safe.”

It was this reason that Neves decided to set up the Farfetch website, to enable small, independent boutiques to compete in the marketplace while retaining their ‘bricks and mortar’ stores and their own visual identity. A 2013 article in The Economist summarises this: “Farfetch emphasises its ‘bricks and mortar roots,” allowing independent retailers to “keep their identity, while boosting their position in the market.”

Initially, the business secured $4.5 million in growth equity from Advent Venture Partners in July 2010 to help it expand its presence into Brazilian, North American and European markets.

A key milestone for the business was then reached in March 2015, when Farfetch gained a further US$86 million from an additional investment group led by DST. Former investors also contributed to this Series E funding round, which took the total investment pot to over US$195 million. Such investors includ ed Advent Ventures Partners, Condé Nast International, Index Ventures, Novel TMT, eVentures and Vitruvian Partners.

Collectively, these additional investments resulted in the company being valued at US$1billion in March 2015. This led to the company being branded as a ‘Unicorn’ company by media commentators, which is a term used to denote highly promising start-up businesses.

Following on from this, Farfetch announced the acquisition of iconic London-based boutique retailer Browns in May 2015. This luxury boutique is run independently from Farfetch by a newly appointed CEO named Holli Rogers who joined the business in July 2015 to manage the newly acquire boutique brand. Holli Rogers, the forthcoming CEO of the Browns boutique, was the former Fashion Director of online luxury retailer Net-A-Porter.

Additionally, Farfetch developed the proprietary business units Farfetch Black & White and Store of the Future in 2015 to provide key technology and business solutions for brands and retailers to facilitate growth and champion innovation.

In May 2016 Farfetch secured a Series F round of investment of US $110 million, led by new investors Temasek, IDG Capital Partners and Eurazeo with existing investor Vitruvian Partners also participating in the round. The company is currently valued at over US $1 billion.

In August of that year, Farfetch served its millionth online customer.