Multimedia publisher Condé Nast International has led a $20 million (£13m) investment in Farfetch, an e-commerce marketplace for independent fashion boutiques. Existing investors Advent Venture Partners, Index Ventures and e.ventures also participated in the fundraising.
Farfetch describes itself as “a curator of fashion curators,” bringing together independent fashion boutiques from around the world in one online destination. The platform was launched in 2008 by fashion entrepreneur José Neves, who together with a team of developers built the e-commerce platform from scratch.
The platform is built on Microsoft's .NET framework, and the database is Microsoft SQL Server. It integrates in real time with over 750 points of sale (POS) worldwide and currently has 150,000 customers in over 140 countries.
Speaking to Techworld from Paris Fashion Week, Neves said that Farfetch gives retailers an option of how to integrate with the platform.
“We have desktop software running in the retailers' points of sale, and we either integrate via an API with their own systems or they can run our POS system, (a bit like restaurants do with OpenTable), so they can use our inventory management system,” he said.
“It's one single checkout for multiple retailers – which themselves trade in multiple currencies, different VAT rates, different tax systems – and it's geo-priced, so we can define a price for Hong Kong and another price for Australia and for the UK on the same item.
“That's quite unique. There was no platform in the market that could do all these things, so that's why we went for a full proprietary platform.”
He added that, because the business model is so specific, it is very difficult to provide all the functionality and performance that retailers require without coding specifically for it.
“Farfetch is a hybrid animal between a pure retailer and a marketplace,” said Neves. “The platforms out there are either built for marketplaces or for pure retailers, and very rarely accommodate all the stuff we want to do.”
The new investment will fuel Farfetch's international expansion, enabling it to set up sites in different languages, localise payment systems, and enable multi-channel services. Neves also wants to improve the mobile and tablet user experience.
These projects will be carried out in-house by a team of 50 developers in Portugal and London, using native programming languages.
There is also a possibility of future synergies between Farfetch's platform and Condé Nast's online titles, allowing Farfetch to take advantage of the publisher's traffic.
Commenting on the news, James Bilefield, President of Condé Nast International Digital, said that the investment underlines Condé Nast's commitment to extend the scope its activities and back great entrepreneurs. As part of the investment, Bilefield will join the Farfetch board.
“It follows the recent news of our involvement with the e-commerce businesses Monoqi and Renesim in Germany, plus the investment activity of our parent company Advance Publications in the USA,” Bilefield said.