Farfetch is turning to an old-school retail strategy: the private label brand.
On Wednesday, the luxury marketplace and platform launched There Was One, a womenswear label of wardrobe staples that will be exclusively sold on Farfetch.com. To develop the line, Farfetch tapped the design and production capabilities of the New Guards Group, the firm behind hype-defining brands like Off-White and Palm Angels. But There Was One takes a decidedly anti-hype approach. The range offers minimalist closet staples for women priced under $2,000 with a sustainable angle, including a $95 organic cotton T-shirt and a $1,400 leather biker jacket made in a tannery certified by non-profit Leather Working Group for environmental best practices.
Farfetch’s chief brand officer Holli Rogers said the line was informed by consumer shopping data that showed that since the start of the pandemic, customers have been “investing in pieces that would last them possibly a lifetime” and preferring items made with some kind of sustainable element.
Farfetch enlisted Penny Martin, editor of the revered independent magazine The Gentlewoman, to develop the brand launch campaign for There Was One, and she brought in stylists Karen Binns, Ellie Grace Cumming and Emilie Kareh to dress three women of their choice: musician Honey Dijon, composer Lucinda Chua and designer Rym Beydoun, respectively. The images, which will be shared on There Was One’s Instagram account, were shot by Katja Rahlwes.
The label won’t have its own website, however, as the rest of New Guards Group’s brands have. It will be discoverable on Farfetch.com alongside the marketplace’s luxury offering and within its “Conscious Edit” of sustainable fashion. (Rogers said sales of Farfetch’s “conscious” pieces grew more than three times faster than the average item in 2020.) The mix extends to the product imagery, where the aforementioned T-shirt, for example, is styled with a Chopova Lowena skirt, while the jacket is worn with Bottega Veneta combat boots. New products will be released every couple of months and will be additions to the current lineup, which will continue to be available.
Retailers have long used private label brands to generate higher profit margins and appeal to customers looking for classic basics at less than designer prices. For Farfetch, this launch comes amid a boom for the brand, which emerged as one of the biggest winners of the accelerated online shopping brought on by the pandemic. In 2020, the company sold more than $3 billion worth of goods, up 49 percent year-over-year, and got closer to its goal of profitability by the end of 2021 (to which Farfetch said it is still on track to reach). Farfetch also inked a joint venture in China with tech giant Alibaba and brought on new investment from some of luxury’s most influential players, Richemont and the Pinault family’s Artémis fund. In the most recent quarter ending Jun. 20, Farfetch’s revenue was up 43 percent year-over-year to $523 million.
While the pandemic also helped Farfetch cut back on the discounting and customer acquisition costs that have dogged its bottom line, it is still searching for ways to increase its margins and help convince investors that buying New Guards Group in August 2019 made strategic sense in a competitive luxury retail market.
On the most recent call with analysts in August 2021, Farfetch chief executive José Neves billed the acquisition as a success, explaining the goal was to “create a pipeline of original content and exclusive collabs that will drive brand and a significant halo effect to increase the engagement of our global customers around the Farfetch brands, and ultimately, drive more organic traffic.”
He also emphasised the success of Palm Angels, the most well-known brand in the group after Off-White, announcing Farfetch had acquired ownership of both Palm Angels’ operating company and brand trademark. The investment is notable given Farfetch’s more complicated relationship with Off-White: New Guards Group operates the brand through a licensing agreement, but in July, LVMH acquired the trademark to Off-White from founder Virgil Abloh.
When asked about the implications of the LVMH acquisition by analysts in August, Neves said it validated New Guards Group’s capabilities and said more brands are in development.