Brief Encounters: José Neves, founder of Farfetch.com
London-based José Naves is the founder of Farfetch.com an online e-commerce platform that brings together some of the world's most cutting-edge boutiques. "I was born in Portugal, and I grew up there. I went to Universidade do Porto, where I studied economics. I started coding when I was eight years old. I was given a computer with 46KB memory - that's about half the size of an email these days - but I didn't have any games to use with it. I couldn't use it unless I started coding, so that's where my passion for IT began.
I started my first business while I was still at university, developing management software for the fashion industry. I then launched a footwear business and moved to London, where I opened my own boutique.
It was while holding appointments in Paris that I had the idea for Farfetch. Independent boutiques were struggling without an online presence. As the popularity of online shopping increased, larger retailers were taking most of the customers.
My idea was to offer independent fashion boutiques the chance to compete with the powerhouses by coming together as a community on one platform.
Farfetch.com acts as a kind of community where these boutiques are brought together and offered the expertise of more than 450 staff globally, who take care of everything from logistics and operations, to marketing and online merchandising.
The boutique owners are free to concentrate on their buying, enabling them to retain their individual brand identity.
The appeal of launching this platform online was that it enabled these boutiques to reach a global, fashion-forward audience, therefore giving them a bigger and more varied customer base.
Customers looking for those extra-special pieces have a much wider pool of retailers to shop from.
Independent retailers are at the heart of what keeps the fashion industry unique and diverse. Supporting independent boutiques and young designers goes hand in hand, and the boutique buyers are the ones who continue to take a risk by supporting these young brands, nurturing new design talent and allowing diversity to thrive.
I call it the fashion ecosystem. Giving new designers access to a digital platform, and therefore a global audience, helps them grow their brands and gives boutiques the confidence to continue to take a risk on them.
In the past, there has been a divide between e-commerce and bricks and mortar business. But we are an e-commerce brand that bridges the gap between the two, and that celebrates the independent retailer. Uniting boutiques internationally in one place is our selling proposition and the foundation of our business plan.
China, like Brazil, is moving away from logo-mania and developing an appetite for emerging labels and more subtle style. Chinese style no longer revolves around the mega-brands, but sophisticated, experimental styles which they can access easily online.
The power of social media means that everyone is seeing fashion at the same time, so the appetite for the same key pieces is global. They love brands like McQueen and Saint Laurent.
What I find fascinating is the fusion of commerce and social media that is becoming increasingly popular in China. Brands are adding shopping functionalities in places where people already have a dialogue, enabling them to fit shopping into their daily lives.
Shopping in WeChat, for example, is a great way of using platforms that people already communicate through, allowing them to shop instantly.
It will be interesting to see how brands use this to create one-to-one conversations between themselves and their customers. You can't get a much more personalised service than that."
As told to Divia Harilela