Business of fashion

On Farfetch, circularity and the business of positivity



Graduate Fashion Week 2019 Farfetch Conscious Design Hub

Heads up! There’s a trendy new buzzword in town. Forget diversity, authenticity and sustainability; ‘positivity’ neatly encapsulates all three and can be moulded at will to suit the subject. The British Fashion Council has a positive fashion initiative, there’s a great website dedicated to Positive Luxury and it’s the tagline I use on here for anything related to considered fashion or beauty.

On which note, there was a palpable positivity at London’s graduate showcase, Graduate Fashion Week (GFW) last week. Now in its 28th year, something felt different this time – it seemed buzzier, less scrappy and had the ego boost of support from industry heavyweights including LVMH and Farfetch. While it’s clearly an economically challenging time for fashion graduates, one area that’s seeing a surge of positivity is the communal effort to make fashion a more thoughtful industry.

Graduate Fashion Week 2019 Farfetch Conscious Design Hub

Our industry quite rightly gets a lot of stick for its unethical practices. But it’s finally owning its bad rep for encouraging over-consumption and profit at any cost and doing something to change it. From the small amount of lecturing I do, I see this change coming from the next generation of fashion leaders, who are extremely passionate about finding solutions to the industry’s past mistakes. After all, students are consumers too, which potentially makes these next-gen professionals the most influential consumers we have.

At Graduate Fashion Week (where I was a guest of Farfetch), sustainability solutions seemed to be at the core of everything – from creative concepts, to fabrications, to the stands themselves, which in many cases were built with zero-waste materials. At the Farfetch-sponsored Conscious Design Hub showcase, space was given to graduates who championed positive design and marketing methods, including a cyber survival kit by Linan Jiang and 3D printed shoes by Claudia Baum (below).

Farfetch Conscious Design Hub Linan Jiang
 Farfetch Conscious Design Hub 3D printed shoes Claudia Baum

GFW has ramped up its talks programme in recent years and the Conscious Design Hub played host to a programme of accompanying talks and panels. On Tuesday I got to hear Farfetch’s director of sustainable business Thomas Berry lay out some of the brand’s positive initiatives in its bid to ‘become a ‘platform for good’.

How to explain Farfetch? In essence it’s an online ‘marketplace’ that aggregates the product from 400 physical boutiques around the world. It presents the merchandise as one feed but depending what you buy, your item could come from a vintage store in Florence or a streetwear boutique in Brazil. Farfetch gives these independent businesses global visibility and also powers the back-end to make the shipping process as smooth as possible.

Over the years the Farfetch business has expanded to include a suite of digital tools, including the means to power e-commerce stores for some of the world’s best-known luxury brands. Yet it also realises that the business of e-commerce is notoriously eco-unfriendly. The challenge then, is to remedy the situation, something that Farfetch aims to do with its Positively Farfetch initiative. Key goals include minimising carbon footprint by reducing returns and creating efficient distribution methods.

It’s also making a point of promoting its more positive brands by working with a brand-rating app called Good On You and curating a ‘conscious edit’ of products made with kind-to-the-planet practices and materials. Reformation, Re/Done, Veja (below) and All Blues jewellery (to name a few) can all be found here.

Veja trainers at Farfetch

‘Positively Circular’ is one of Farfetch’s positive ‘pillars’ that I’m particularly interested in. As we experience fast fashion fatigue or just don’t want to store endless amounts of stuff in our homes, we’re undergoing a major consumer shift where we buy things, keep them for a time, then resell them to make space for more newness. The vintage economy continues to thrive and alongside this is a booming resale industry pioneered by the likes of Graild, Depop and Vestiare Collective.

“Resale markets are growing twenty times faster than the rest”, said Berry, explaining that this offers a win-win opportunity to prolong the life of a fashion item, while providing new revenue streams for Farfetch. As such, it’s trialling a standalone resale platform (UK only at the moment) called Second Life, where sellers can ‘trade in, trade up’ and get store credit on certain luxury accessory brands. The idea is to minimise the ‘pain points’, so Farfetch is implementing blockchain technology to verify authenticity. Unlike competitor resale sites, it will also offer sellers a price within two days, as opposed to relying on a less efficient peer-to-peer system.

And there you have the crux of the matter. Sustainability is still seen as a bit worthy, crunchy and not very sexy. Until it makes money. But brands are now starting to crack the nut of how to make sustainability profitable. Once they solve this little conundrum, the business of positivity will become very appealing indeed.

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WORDS AND IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
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Homme Girls Thakoon

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