Farfetch, the groundbreaking e-commerce site that allows customers all over the world to shop the inventories of 250 independent boutiques across 19 countries, is growing.
When we asked Farfetch founder José Neves back in April what he planned to do with the $20 million they'd just raised from Condé Nast, he said a big focus was international growth--particularly in the U.S. And the company has just made two pretty major U.S. appointments who have been tasked with helping to make that U.S. growth happen: Gabrielle de Papp, former VP of Corporate Public Relations at Neiman Marcus, has joined as company as the SVP of US Brand Development and Roopal Patel, who left her fashion director position at Moda Operandi about a year ago (before that she was also at Neiman's) and has since started her own consulting firm (she's also working with the W Hotels/CFDA Incubator program and JOOR, a b2b platform), joins their US Advisory Board.
Intrigued by Patel's involvement and how she'd be bringing her retail expertise to this innovative company, we called her up and asked her a few questions. Read on for our interview.
Fashionista: How did you initially hear about Farfetch? Roopal Patel: I actually first learned of them through being a customer. I was trying to track a MSGM dress that I was really fond of and really keen on getting before fashion week last September, and I couldn’t find it anywhere in the States, so I put the name of it through a search and Farfetch came up and I was like, 'What’s this?' And it located the dress for me in a boutique somewhere in the English countryside of all places, and it said it could have the dress to me in 48 hours. Lo and behold, 48 hours later, the dress showed up in a great Farfetch box and I pulled it out and wore it out the door. I thought the idea of being able to shop specialty stores around the globe was genius. Coming from retail but also being a shopper, it really made me feel like I had much more access to the fashion out there.
How did you end up getting involved with the company on a professional level? A mutual friend of mine connected me to José and thought it would be really nice for us to meet. I was so excited to tell him my story. It almost felt like it was meant to happen. When I met with him, I was very impressed first by him--José’s very innovative, he’s very passionate and a forward-thinker. I really wanted to be able to partner with him and see how we could work together. He immediately saw an opportunity for us to collaborate and he’s been a great partner since and I’m very excited to work with him and the Farfetch team.
Can you talk a little bit about what your role will entail? I’m joining Farfetch as part of the U.S. advisory board--as José and his team start to focus more on their U.S. expansion, I get to work alongside them within the creative component, and think about what the best partnerships would be, where are areas of opportunity for them to grow, and ways of working with their current specialty stores and their designer roster. And looking at: How is this going to help allow people access to global fashion?
It sounds pretty different from your previous roles--what was intriguing to you about it? In my past roles, I’ve been a fashion director, and I’ve really been focused on trends and scouting for new designers and new talent and it's really been more centric to one specific retailer. What I find so intriguing and so attractive about this partnership with Farfetch is that it’s really allowing the consumer to experience fashion through multiple lenses and multiple windows--and that’s important in today's world and in e-commerce. Specialty stores for ages have been known as the ones able to introduce young designers and be able to take risks with certain fashion you see on the runways but don’t see anywhere else.
I know this sounds like a job interview question, but what would you say are some things you've learned in your past roles that you can apply to this one? I think one of the things that I’ve learned is that you have to be ahead of your own game. Retail is changing on a daily basis. I think it’s important to constantly be challenging yourself, constantly looking at what’s going on out there and thinking far ahead. What’s going to happen six months from now, a year from now, five years from now? Especially with online incentives, new technology is being developed daily. Before, you could wait; you could; see you could test. I think it’s more important to be more of a maverick now. Test things immediately.
Do you prefer the environment of a startup to a larger company? As I evolve and grow my career, I think the idea of small business and startups is definitely appealing and I don't think I prefer one or the other. I’m much more attracted to innovative and creative ideas. Wherever that takes place, you hopefully will find me.