As the fashion industry grappled with shuttered stores, unsold inventories and how to survive it all, Farfetch experienced staggering growth: an 82 percent year-over-year increase in gross profit. But it wasn’t just a case of luck fueled by homebound shoppers on stimulus spending sprees. Even Farfetch’s digital competitors were forced to cancel orders and shut down fulfillment centers, inevitably leading to losses.
Farfetch’s point of differentiation is that it isn’t a retailer in the conventional sense. While it carries over 3,500 brands, from heavy hitters Gucci and Prada to niche labels such as Lardini and Girard-Perregaux, Farfetch doesn’t actually buy any inventory. Rather, the stock is supplied directly by manufacturers and by the sales floors of 750 retailers—from specialty boutiques to department stores across 50 countries, creating a lifeline for luwith getting their handful of warehouses up to speed, Farfetch’s extensive global network was able to adapt nimbly.
The pandemic created a perfect storm for proving the strength of Farfetch’s model, to the tune of a 475 percent surge in market capitalization in 2020, totaling more than $21 billion. To put that in context of 2020’s other breakout stars: Vaccine developer BioNTech’s value grew by 125 percent and Zoom’s by 408 percent.
All the while, fashion was part of the furniture of Neves’s early life. The region from which he hails is the mecca of Portugal’s centuries-old leather-goods heritage, and his grandfather ran a shoe factory. But like any angsty adolescent, he was repelled by his hometown industry.
Farfetch’s platform model is most often compared to Amazon, with Neves frequently deemed the Jeff Bezos of fashion. “I think it’s very flattering,” he says, adding he has nothing but admiration for the king of click-to-buy. Still, the comparison isn’t entirely analogous. “Amazon sees it as a zero-sum game. They come in to wipe out the off-line world,” says Neves, whereas his role is not to compete with off-line retailers but to be their “enabler.” “We’re only a platform. We can only sell what they sell. By making them successful, we are able to succeed.”
Reflecting on their early days, Sousa observes that Neves “remains as revolutionary as he was then, but with much more wisdom, more serenity, more focus.” Cool, calm and eagle-eyed, Neves may be grounded in the present, but his sights are firmly set on changing the future.