and at the year-old Browns east in the
city’s Shoreditch neighborhood. What
does the store of the future mean to
you? What Amazon is doing is fantastic with
[its automated] Amazon Go [stores]. Alibaba
is even further ahead, with its Hema stores
in China. But what is being developed for
convenience stores and grocers will not work
in luxury: This is not about someone walking
out with 10 Chanel bags without speaking to
anyone. That’s not what Chanel wants, and
that’s not what the customer wants. They
desire an elevated experience where the human interaction is allowed to happen in a
much more seamless way, enabled by invisible technology.
The frst fundamental is removing the
friction from the shopping experience so
that [stores] can focus on [customers], on
storytelling and experience. The second pillar is personalization. In the digital world,
experiences are personalized. When I log
on to Netfix, they know which series I’m
watching, which episode I was on. They are
able to recommend other things coming up.
Retailers know nothing about you coming
in—and learn nothing about you when you
go out. It can’t continue like this.
Do you think customers are wary of how
their data is being used to enhance their
experiences in ways that they want
and ways that maybe they don’t? All of
this needs to be opt-in. [Shoppers have to
be aware that] there is a trade-off between
making yourself known when checking into
the store and allowing your data to be used.
But the thing is, no one’s selling advertising
here. The luxury brands are not selling advertising. The reason to collect data is to improve the
[user experience]. We are talking about brands that
started in the atelier business and only gradually moved
to ready-to-wear. Very gradually, they’re moving to technology. The need to protect the privacy of their customers and [deliver] very discreet service is paramount.
as you create more direct relationships with fashion
brands and start selling them on the Farfetch mar-
ketplace, are you introducing competition among
the boutiques that have long been your partners?
Farfetch is an enabler for the entire industry. We see
The fashion industry should never forget that people can buy
[fashion] as an ecosystem where every creature needs
the other. The big brands need the small ones, because
that’s where they go to hire the amazing creative minds,
the Virgil Ablohs, to be their creative directors. The small
[designers] need the boutiques, because these stores will be the frst
to pick up their collections when they come out of Parsons. And the
consumer benefts because fashion becomes more culturally relevant
other things, like [apartments] and experiences. By keeping this
ecosystem alive and creating an industry that is full of creativity,
new voices, and new talent, everyone wins.
You relaunched your shoe brand, Swear, last year to create
hyper-personalized sneakers. Is customization going to be a
big part of fashion in the future? The biggest problem in fashion
is overproduction. The way fashion works—where merchandisers
and buyers take guesses on what people are going to buy and where
[they’ll buy it]—is extremely ineffcient. The supply never meets the
demand in a perfect way. That has made fashion among the most
polluting industries in the world. The most powerful way to tackle
this problem is to move from a system of ready-to-wear to a system
of made-to-order. And if you’re going to do it made-to-order, you may
as well personalize it, because fashion’s all about the manifestation of
individuality. But the industry will have to adapt because obviously
factories are not used to [this].
At Swear, we’re working with factories to shorten [manufacturing]
times. It’s now two weeks, but it should be two days, then overnight.
The manufacturing challenge is very much an organizational problem; it’s not technological. It takes literally two hours to cut the leather
and the pattern, and then stitch a pair of shoes. But the factories are
organized to receive an order in bulk, and plan the production a
month, two months out. Production at scale is cheaper, yes. But you
have to offer discounts of 30% to 40% for what you [over]produce, and
all that money goes away, and you’re damaging the planet. [Made-to-order] is about doing something that is right for the industry, but
[also] makes the whole proposition compelling for the consumer.
How do you plan to foster innovation now that the company
has gone public? We’re now 3,000 people, and as we become a global
business there is a natural tension between investing an extra dollar in optimizing the core business, or investing that extra dollar in
an idea that may—or may not—work. That tension is the innovator’s
dilemma. [In September] we launched the Dream Assembly accelerator, which
[supports] 10 startups. We had 150 applications from more than 20 countries.
This just began, and we’ll have a second, third, and fourth cohort. Google is a huge
source of inspiration. They’ve optimized the core business, which is advertising,
but they do not give up on funding constant moonshots.
Having been a sofware developer since age 19 and a shoe designer almost
as long, you have a unique perspective on technology and fashion. I think
it’s clear that fashion can learn a lot from technology. What can the tech
world learn from fashion? Most people don’t think programming computers
is a creative endeavor, but software [development] is inherently creative. You sit
in front of a computer and there’s a blank canvas and you are solving problems.
And fashion is not just creative. It has elements of functionality and industrial
design: Clothes are meant to be worn. Our team is a big melting pot of people
coming together from the luxury and fashion worlds and the tech world. We
learn from each other.
brand, Swear, anticipated the rise of
streetwear. The company recently pivoted
to selling unisex shoes
that can be completely customized
via Neves’s Platforme
sofware (see below).
In 2001, he launched
the Savile Row boutique B Store, which
known for selling and
championing emerging designers. The
store closed in 2012.
Neves created this
customization platform in 2015, which
enables brands, including Fendi and
Sergio Rossi, to create
personalized products for customers.
FOR HIS SUCCESS