Farfetch Dreams vs. Realities

Farfatch C.E.O. José Neves and president Stephanie Phair.
Farfatch C.E.O. José Neves and president Stephanie Phair. Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
Lauren Sherman
October 19, 2023

In September, by the time that Milan Fashion Week rolled around, it had been several months since the founders of New Guards Group, Davide De Giglio and Andrea Grilli, exited the business that they’d sold four years earlier to Farfetch, the luxury marketplace, for an enterprise value of $675 million. And yet, on some level, the reality of their departure was only just sinking in. 

Stephanie Phair, the president of Farfetch, based in London, was spending more time in Milan as NGG’s new chairman, and there had been layoffs at the company—a.k.a the brand “platform” that operates Off-White™. As one employee described it, “We would walk in and an entire section of floor would be gone.” 

Like many senior Farfetch executives, including those who came from rival Net-a-Porter, Phair has a good reputation—even if many in Milan openly resented that her remit seemed to include “cleaning house.” (A representative for Farfetch said that layoffs reduced headcount to 2021 levels, nothing more.) Regardless, there was no other choice for Phair and Farfetch: NGG generated $67 million in revenue (not including sales in the director-to-consumer channels) in the second quarter of 2023, down 42 percent from the year prior. NGG’s biggest revenue driver, Off-White™, is struggling two years after the death of its founder, Virgil Abloh. And while other brands in the portfolio have done well—including Palm Angels, in which it has a 60 percent ownership position—none have become a breakout hit, which Farfetch had banked on when it acquired NGG in 2019. (A deal with licensing firm Authentic Brands Group to serve as Reebok’s operating partner last year shows promise, but it’s still early.)