Violet Grey has found a new home — and its founder Cassandra Grey has found a new mission.
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Grey will chair Violet Grey under the Farfetch umbrella and will also become a global adviser for beauty on the Farfetch marketplace and cofounder of NGG Beauty at the company. Violet Grey will remain a stand-alone operating including violetgrey.com and the brand’s Los Angeles store.
The move will have Grey stretching out beyond the beauty business she founded, working to incubate and accelerate new brands and helping steer Farfetch into the global beauty market, which a Bain Altagamma luxury study estimated at $69 billion last year.
Beauty is a big chunk of the total $300 billion personal luxury goods industry and — while it certainly has its own quirks — Farfetch is approaching the market in its own fashion, leaning on its a high-tech operating system that connects merchants and consumers.
“Similar to fashion, there is an opportunity for us to really play on our DNA,” said Stephanie Phair, Farfetch’s chief customer officer, in an interview.
“The idea is that the customer truly wants to be empowered to make their own choices and to really express their individuality,” Phair said. “That sort of multiple voices that, by definition, our business model can do is something that really plays into the customer and that beauty customer.”
While brands in general have been cautious when it comes to selling on larger platforms, Farfetch has presented itself as more of a conduit to shoppers than a competitor (although it does own some of its own brands, including Palm Angels, and will be building more in beauty).
“Brands are really moving away from wholesale or they’re really trying to really move their business model more into direct-to-consumer, so Farfetch offers that opportunity,” Phair said.
Similar to Browns, the boutique Farfetch acquired in 2015, the platform plans to inject its own technological savvy into Violet Grey and to learn as it moves to win over the category.
Niten Kapadia, who was previously Farfetch’s vice president of operations, will take on the role of managing director at Violet Grey once the deal closes.
It’s a combination that’s been a long time in the making.
“It’s really been on our mood board — we’re big manifesters at Violet Grey — and we’ve had our eye on Farfetch for quite some time,” Grey said. “The conversation kind of dates back to 2014.”
That’s when the companies started talking about a retail collaboration. Along the way, Grey connected with José Neves, Farfetch’s founder and CEO.
“We had a brief, yet very memorable conversation where I was just very taken with him and inspired by the way he was thinking about luxury and the consumer experience,” Grey said. “What made the biggest impact on me was the way he talked about how he didn’t really view anyone who was servicing the customer as competition, but rather as collaborators and that he was going to build a world that would connect collaborators, retailers, curators. I just really loved that.”
Since then, Neves has become one of the industry’s leading bridge builders, bringing brands on the platform, buying brand house New Guards Group and Browns and threading the needle to put together a partnership with Alibaba and Compagnie Financière Richemont (with backing from Kering chief executive officer François-Henri Pinault’s Artemis) in China. The CEO is also working with Richemont to build a broader luxury platform that would link Net-a-porter, Farfetch and perhaps other luxury groups.
“It’s been a long, very thoughtful process in choosing all of our partners at Violet Grey,” said Grey, who was rumored to be in talks with Amazon on a beauty partnership back in 2017. “The strategy has always been how to be the dumbest person in the room — how we get the people who are best at what they do to work with us.
“Farfetch has a really strong track record for acquiring really special, founder-led brands and celebrating and protecting that kind of brand equity,” she said.
Grey said the deal would take off the pressure of entrepreneurship — “a religion of pain and recovery” — and allow her to focus on building and nurturing brands.
“Beauty is so different than fashion or any real luxury category,” Grey said. “It is kind of synonymous with self care and wellness. It crosses over and it’s much more synergistic with food. It’s very exciting to have this playground and bring all of these ideas and thought leaders together to really kind of break stuff.”
Farfetch has been building up to beauty for sometime — so there’s a plan that is being kept pretty close to the vest — but Grey is now coming to the mix.
“I can’t reveal too much what’s to come only because I don’t know what’s to come,” she said.
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