José Neves, Founder, Farfetch, Walpole Member

In 2008 José Neves launched Farfetch, bringing together his interest and experience in fashion and technology, to create a business that would celebrate and support the diversity of the global fashion industry. His vision was to create a single portal, offering independent boutiques the opportunity to compete with the leaders of fashion eCommerce.

Farfetch has since evolved into a platform for the luxury industry, with the Farfetch Group now consisting of Farfetch.com, Farfetch Black & White, Store of The Future and Browns (including Brownsfashion.com).

José has been involved in the fashion start-up world since the mid-1990s when he launched footwear business SWEAR. José later founded SIX London, a fashion licensing and wholesale company, and opened the renowned bstore.

José has received numerous accolades, including Business of Fashion’s 500 People Shaping the Fashion Industry (2016 & 2015). In July, 2016 José joined the British Fashion Council’s board as a Non-Executive Director.

In order to be a successful luxury entrepreneur what are three pieces of advice you would give?

Be revolutionary – You need to have an innovative idea that fills a genuine gap in the market. You also need to bear in mind that when you have an idea that is completely new it sometimes takes time for external industry validation – they need to understand it, see the value in it and how it contributes to their business. It’s a process.

Take risks – In a world that’s constantly changing, the biggest risk is to stand still and not take risks. You have to keep innovating, changing and looking for what’s next. I launched Farfetch in 2008 around 2 weeks before Lehman Brothers went bust; we were trying to grab a share of a shrinking wallet. I really believed Farfetch could be successful, so we funded the business ourselves for three years – it was an all or nothing bet; if we hadn’t have been successful my other two business would have gone bankrupt too. In 2010, investors saw the value of our company too and we received our first round of investment. Since then, we’ve had a further five rounds of funding and the growth of the business has been exponential.

Think globally – Globalisation is sometimes considered a problem; as a company how do you tackle it? By having a very diverse team. Diversity in the office makes for a great working environment and if you have a diverse team from various nationalities and backgrounds, you will be able to actually embrace globalisation in the right way.

What are the most important lessons you have learned along your journey?

A company is only as strong as the people you hire. You need to be surrounded by dreamers, ideas people and diversity – they need to have a voice and you need to listen to their voices. The whole organisation, from investors, board members, executives, through to customer service – they need to absolutely buy into the culture and the values of the company. The values themselves also need to really epitomise the overall company vision – your people have to be able to relate and be driven by these values.

What are the watch outs along the way?

As both a tech and fashion business, now more than ever, it’s important that we continue to evolve and be disruptive. I always tell my team that our business model may be great today and growing very fast; however, in five years it may well be irrelevant. That is an exciting opportunity for us all to look forward 5-10 years and evaluate how we can grow and develop in line with this change. I’ve never seen a tech business stay the same for five years and survive.