Reading between the lines of Natalie Massenet’s move to Farfetch.

LONDON — News of Natalie Massenet’s move to Farfetch made its rounds in the media last week and caused a bit of a fervor. Below, a roundup of notable media coverage, plus our assessment of what’s actually going on here.

1. The FT: “A coup for Farfetch, a new rivalry for NAP.” A rather straightforward, by the book account of the news. Buried inside, however, was (brief) talk about the “frisson of excitement” the news sparked among the luxury e-commerce set, and how “securing Massenet’s exceptional contacts book” was a coup for Farfetch, which frankly struck us as an odd assessment for an entrenched company worth over $1.5B.

2. The NYT: A sappy love fest. Both Neves and Massanet batted eyes at each other (so to speak), Massenet talking up Farfetch’s inventory-free platform model (compared to NAP’s more traditional online department store approach), and Neves returning the favor, gushing about Massenet’s “visionary” stature and pedigree as an e-commerce trailblazer.

Best bits from this piece:

  • Massenet and Neves met through the British Fashion Council, where they’re both board members.
  • Contrary to December reports, serious talks only began weeks ago (so she says).
  • The FT openly suggested that her non-executive role “leaves open the possibility that…taking on another major role is not out of the question.”

3. The Telegraph: The (glamorous) Massenet backstory. If you didn’t know already, Massenet is more than just e founder of NAP, and the new co-chairman of Farfetch. She’s also a real life Dame, as awarded by the Queen. And there’s a picture to prove it.

Best bit from this piece:

  • A hint to what Massenet intends to bring to the table: “One of the things I want to do, through my links with all the designers and brands, is introduce more of them to Farfetch. It already has a incredible roster but there is always more talent.”

Our assessment of what’s actually going on here with the move: While heavy on the “this just happened” type of coverage, there was a noticeable lack of business analysis on the whys and hows behind the new partnership. So we’ve read between the lines and coaxed out as much as we could from those in the know bring you more context.

Keep these points in mind when thinking about Massenet’s new role at Farfetch:

  • The IPO. Adding Massenet to the roster looks good for the IPO, given her background and pedigree with Net-a-Porter. It shows bankers and analysts that Farfetch now has someone on board who can help with further branding and potential partnerships with luxury brands (which Farfetch could use some help with). This could affect the IPO positively.
  • Is she more than just a name? Will she really have influence beyond the “brand” name? The fact that this is a non-executive, co-chairwoman role, and that she won’t be involved in day to day, signals that this is more about shoring up the resume for the IPO later this year, than about affecting much on the operations side.
  • Protection against the Amazon threat. Amazon poses serious threat to Farfetch’s model. But Farfetch’s comparative advantage is that it’s got a head start (2008) on Bezos and already has far more trust with luxury retailers.
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